AskDefine | Define ghost

Dictionary Definition



1 a mental representation of some haunting experience; "he looked like he had seen a ghost"; "it aroused specters from his past" [syn: shade, spook, wraith, specter, spectre]
2 a writer who gives the credit of authorship to someone else [syn: ghostwriter]
3 the visible disembodied soul of a dead person
4 a suggestion of some quality; "there was a touch of sarcasm in his tone"; "he detected a ghost of a smile on her face" [syn: touch, trace]


1 move like a ghost; "The masked men ghosted across the moonlit yard"
2 haunt like a ghost; pursue; "Fear of illness haunts her" [syn: haunt, obsess]
3 write for someone else; "How many books have you ghostwritten so far?" [syn: ghostwrite]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The spirit; the soul of man.
    Then gives her grieved ghost thus to lament. — Spenser
  2. The disembodied soul; the soul or spirit of a deceased person; a spirit appearing after death; an apparition; a specter.
    The mighty ghosts of our great Harrys rose. — Shakespeare.
    I thought that I had died in sleep/And was a blessed ghost. — Coleridge
  3. Any faint shadowy semblance; an unsubstantial image; a phantom; a glimmering.
    not a ghost of a chance
    the ghost of an idea
    Each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. — Poe
  4. A false image formed in a telescope, camera, or other optical device by reflection from the surfaces of one or more lenses.
  5. An unwanted image similar to and overlapping or adjacent to the main one on a television screen, caused by the transmitted image being received both directly and via reflection.
  6. A ghostwriter.
  7. In the context of "paganism": A nature spirit, ancestor or house spirit (see brownie ) revered in Heathenry.
    Before all else, we speak to the land to the ghosts and spirits of this place known to many as pixies, fairies, brownies, or elfs. (Math Jones)



soul See soul
spirit appearing after death
faint shadowy semblance
false image in an optical device
false image on a television screen
ghostwriter See ghostwriter


Extensive Definition

A ghost is said to be the apparition of a dead person. They are usually seen to be similar in appearance to that person, and are often encountered in places he or she frequented, or in association with the person's former belongings. The word "ghost" may also refer to the spirit or soul of a deceased person, or any spirit or demon. Ghosts are often associated with hauntings, which is, according to the Parapsychological Association, "the more or less regular occurrence of paranormal phenomena associated with a particular locality (especially a building) and usually attributed to the activities of a discarnate entity; the phenomena may include apparitions, poltergeist disturbances, cold drafts, sounds of footsteps and voices, and various odors." The term ghost has been replaced by apparition in parapsychology, because the word ghost is deemed insufficiently precise.

Historical background

The belief in ghosts as souls of the departed is closely related to the ancient concept of animism, which attributed souls to everything in nature, including human beings, animals, plants, rocks, etc. As the nineteenth-century anthropologist James Frazer explained in his classic work, The Golden Bough, souls were seen as the creature within that animated the body:
"If a man lives and moves, it can only be because he has a little man or animal inside, who moves him. The animal inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the soul. And as the activity of an animal or man is explained by the presence of the soul, so the repose of sleep or death is explained by its absence; sleep or trance being the temporary, death being the permanent absence of the soul... "
Although the human soul was sometimes symbolically or literally depicted in ancient cultures as a bird or other animal, it was widely held that the soul was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, even down to clothing the person wore. This is depicted in artwork from various ancient cultures, including such works as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which shows deceased people in the afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style of dress.
Another widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they were composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists speculate that this may also stem from early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person, most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of "breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin spiritus and the Greek pneuma, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible, God is depicted as animating Adam with a breath.
Ghosts are prominent in the popular cultures of various nations. The ghost story is ubiquitous across all cultures from oral folktales to works of literature.
Perhaps the most recognizable ghost in English literature is the shade of Hamlet's father in the play The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In Hamlet, it is the ghost that encourages the title character to investigate his "murder most foul" and seek revenge upon King Claudius, the suspected murderer of Hamlet's father.
Possibly the next most famous apparitions are the ghosts of A Christmas Carol, where the ghost of Jacob Marley, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come help Ebenezer Scrooge see the error of his ways.
Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost has been adapted for film and television on several occasions. Henry James's The Turn of the Screw has also appeared in a number of adaptations, notably the film The Innocents and Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw. Noel Coward's play Blithe Spirit, later made into a film, places a more humorous slant on the phenomenon of haunting of individuals and specific locations.
Films including or centering on ghosts are common, and span a variety of genres. Ghosts can also be found in various television programs.
The ghost hunting theme has also become prevalent in reality television series particularly Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International, but also Most Haunted, and A Haunting. It is also represented in children's television by such programmes as The Ghost Hunter.
The Grateful Dead adopted their name and iconography from a series of traditional ghost stories known as Grateful Dead (folktale).


  • The Face in the Window and Other Alabama Ghostlore, Alan Brown, University of Alabama Press (1997), ISBN 978-0817308131
  • The Vermont Ghost Guide, Joseph A. Citro, University Press of New England (2000), ISBN 978-1584650096


External links

ghost in Afrikaans: Spook
ghost in Arabic: شبح
ghost in Bengali: ভুত
ghost in Bulgarian: Дух (призрак)
ghost in Catalan: Fantasma
ghost in Czech: Duch
ghost in Danish: Spøgelse
ghost in German: Gespenst
ghost in Modern Greek (1453-): Φάντασμα
ghost in Spanish: Fantasma
ghost in Esperanto: Fantomo
ghost in French: Fantôme
ghost in Indonesian: Hantu
ghost in Italian: Fantasma
ghost in Hebrew: רוח רפאים
ghost in Latin: Larva
ghost in Lithuanian: Vaiduoklis
ghost in Hungarian: Kísértet
ghost in Malay (macrolanguage): Hantu
ghost in Dutch: Spook
ghost in Dutch Low Saxon: Spoek
ghost in Japanese: 亡霊
ghost in Norwegian: Spøkelse
ghost in Occitan (post 1500): Fantauma
ghost in Polish: Duch (spirytyzm)
ghost in Portuguese: Fantasma
ghost in Russian: Привидения
ghost in Simple English: Ghost
ghost in Slovak: Duch (prízrak)
ghost in Slovenian: Duh
ghost in Finnish: Kummitus
ghost in Swedish: Spöke
ghost in Tatar: Öräk
ghost in Thai: ผี
ghost in Vietnamese: Ma
ghost in Cherokee: ᎠᏂᏣᏍᎩᎵ
ghost in Chinese: 鬼

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Doppelganger, Dracula, Frankenstein, Masan, Wolf-man, act for, advertising writer, agent, alternate, alternative, analogy, annalist, apparition, appearance, art critic, astral, astral spirit, author, authoress, backup, banshee, belletrist, bibliographer, black spot, bloom, blooping, bogey, bogeyman, boggart, bugaboo, bugbear, change, change places with, changeling, coauthor, collaborate, collaborator, columnist, comparison, compiler, compose, composer, control, copy, copywriter, counterfeit, creative writer, critic, crowd out, cut out, dance critic, dash off, definition, demon, departed spirit, deputy, devil, diarist, disembodied spirit, displace, double, double for, drama critic, dramatist, drift, dummy, duppy, dybbuk, editorialize, eidolon, encyclopedist, equal, equivalent, ersatz, essayist, exchange, fake, fee-faw-fum, fill in for, fill-in, flare, float, foot, form, formulate, free lance, free-lance, free-lance writer, frightener, fringe area, ghostwrite, ghostwriter, ghoul, glide, glimmer, granulation, grateful dead, grid, guide, hallucination, hant, hard shadow, haunt, hint, hobgoblin, holy terror, horror, humorist, idolum, illusion, image, imitation, immateriality, incorporeal, incorporeal being, incorporeity, incubus, indite, inditer, knock off, knock out, larva, lemures, literary artist, literary craftsman, literary critic, literary man, litterateur, locum tenens, logographer, magazine writer, makeshift, man of letters, manes, materialization, metaphor, metonymy, monographer, monster, multiple image, music critic, newspaperman, next best thing, nightmare, noise, novelettist, novelist, novelize, ogre, ogress, oni, pamphleteer, penwoman, personnel, phantasm, phantasma, phantom, phony, picture, picture noise, picture shifts, pinch hitter, pinch-hit, plow the deep, poet, poltergeist, prepare, presence, produce, prose writer, proxy, rain, relief, relieve, replace, replacement, represent, representative, reserves, revenant, reviewer, ride, ride the sea, ringer, rolling, run, sail, scanning pattern, scarebabe, scarecrow, scarer, scenario writer, scenarist, scenarize, scintilla, scintillation, scribe, scriptwriter, scud, second string, secondary, shade, shading, shadow, shape, shoot, short-story writer, shrouded spirit, sign, skim, slip, snow, snowstorm, spares, specter, spectral ghost, spell, spell off, spirit, spook, sprite, stand in for, stand-in, storyteller, sub, subrogate, substituent, substitute, substitute for, substitution, succedaneum, succeed, succubus, suggestion, supersede, superseder, supplant, supplanter, surrogate, swap places with, symbol, synecdoche, technical writer, terror, theophany, third string, throw on paper, token, trace, understudy, understudy for, unsubstantiality, utility player, vampire, vicar, vice-president, vice-regent, vision, walk the waters, walking dead man, wandering soul, werewolf, word painter, wordsmith, wraith, write, writer, zombie
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