Word for Wednesday: Ghoul

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for October is Halloween.

The word Halloween likely dates to the seventeenth century but was popularised in the Burns poem ‘Halloween’ which was written in 1785. It is a Scottish abbreviation of ‘Allhallow-even’ which means ‘Eve of the All Saints’.  ‘Hallow’ means ‘holy person’ or ‘saint’. 

Over October, we’ve looked at the words witch, banshee, and zombie. Our final word for the month is ghoul.

A figure of Arabic folklore, the ghoul is a demonic being or evil spirit that robs graves and feasts on human flesh. In some stories, ghouls are shapeshifters who take on the guise of an animal and lure people into deserted spaces in order to kill and eat them. In other stories, ghouls prey on young children, drink blood, and steal money. In English, the word is also sometimes used to refer evil spirts or ghosts in general. 

The word first appeared in English as 'goul'’ in the 1786 translation of William Beckford's Orientalist French-language novel ‘Vathek’. It comes from the Arabic word for this creature ‘ghul’, which comes from the word ‘ghula’ meaning ‘he seized’. 

26 Oct 2022
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