We all know the most commonly-used meaning of the noun ‘ghost’. According to Oxford Dictionaries, a ghost is ‘an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image’.
But are you as familiar with the verb, used in a relationship sense? To ‘ghost’ someone is to end a personal relationship by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. That time you texted your new boyfriend several times and received no reply, ever? Or left numerous voicemail messages? You were ghosted.
When someone mentions a witch, most people think of the image of a woman with magic powers, wearing a black cloak and pointed hat, flying on a broomstick.
However, the word ‘witch’ can also be used as a verb. To ‘witch’ someone is to enchant them, often referring to a woman’s beauty ‘witching’ an admirer.
Used as a noun, ‘witch’ also refers to an edible North Atlantic flatfish, sometimes referred to as Torbay sole to broaden their culinary appeal. Apparently it is off-putting to order a grilled witch at the fish and chip shop.
The zombies of movies are usually white-faced and vacant-eyed, described in Oxford Dictionaries as, “a corpse said to be revived by witchcraft, especially in certain African and Caribbean religions”.
But zombies do not only appear in horror movies, and later in the viewer’s nightmares. They are also present in philosophy, described as, “a hypothetical being that responds to stimulus as a person would but that does not experience consciousness”.
An example of the usage of ‘zombie’ in philosophy is: “So if the zombie hypothesis is correct, physicalism is false”, or “Nothing in the zombie theory explains why they act the way they do, unless we hypothesise the existence of unseen causes, demonic puppet masters, or the like.”
Other more recent meanings for zombie include:
- a slow-witted person;
- a cocktail, made with rum, liqueur, and fruit juice;
- a computer controlled by another person without the owner’s knowledge; and
- a zombie bank, which is insolvent but still able to operate due to government support.
Have you ever been described as a ‘ghoul’? Perhaps you should be. While a ghoul is most commonly considered to be, “an evil spirit or phantom, especially one supposed to rob graves and feed on dead bodies”, there is another category of ghoul that is more familiar in everyday life.
The term ‘ghoul’ can also be used to describe, “a person morbidly interested in death or disaster”.
If you routinely watch RPA (showing medical emergencies treated at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) or CSI, and count Wolf Creek and Saw as some of your favourite movies, you might be displaying some ghoulish tendencies.
More creepy word facts are available at Oxford Dictionaries, including:
- Five alternative words for ‘scary’
- The origins of Halloween
- On the radar: spoopy
- British and American Halloween words