Printable Version
Pronunciation: gul Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Muslim folklore) An evil demon that robs graves and often eats corpses. 2. Someone who is fascinated with death, the morbid, the loathsome.

Notes: Ghoul comes with a substantial family of derivations. The adjective is ghoulish, adverb ghoulishly, and noun, ghoulishness. A ghoulie is small ghoul. The behavior of a ghoul is encapsulated in the word ghoulism.

In Play: Since ghouls are creatures of our fancy, we mostly encounter them as humans in fanciful dress: "All Hallows Eve, with its children dressed as ghosts, ghouls, and goblins with gargoyle grins plying the streets at night, is fast upon us." In the metaphorical sense this word may be used in expressions like: "The elderly ghouls sat around the dinner table jovially talking all evening about their ailments, accidents, and friends and relatives who had recently passed away."

Word History: English took today's Good Word from French goule, which borrowed it from Arabic ghul "desert demon, monster". This word is based on ghala "to snatch, seize, grab" in reference to the demon seizing human bodies. The English spelling with the initial gh- is unrelated to the traditional Arabic transliteration. It was probably influenced by the spelling of ghost. Ghul came from Semitic ghwl "to snatch, grab, destroy". It is also visible in Algol, based on Arabic al-ghul "the ghoul", a variable star in the Perseus constellation. Its name was based on the fact that the star was considered to resemble the head of Medusa held by Perseus. (Now, let's thank wordmaster Albert Skiles and Susan Maynard for recommending today's appropriately scary Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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