20 Synonyms for “Ghost”

By Mark Nichol

Ghost conjures an image of a visual but incorporeal representation of a person, but not all ghosts are alike, and like ghost, most of its synonyms also have connotations that apply to the everyday, substantial world. Here are twenty of those terms, with references to their natural connotations as well as supernatural ones:

1. apparition: a ghostly figure, or a sight that is unexpected or unusual
2. bogey (or bogie or bogy): synonymous with phantom and spirit, but also something that prompts fear or dread; by extension, an unidentified aircraft, especially an enemy warplane (also the source of the term bogeyman — often spelled boogeyman — referring to a monster whose name is invoked by parents or other adults to frighten children into obedience
3. banshee: a female spirit whose appearance or wailing cry presages death
4. bogle: synonymous with specter (the word from which bogey and its variants were derived)
5. eidolon: synonymous with phantom, but also refers to an exemplar or ideal
6. familiar (or familiar spirit): a spirit that takes animal form and protects or serves a person, especially a witch (also refers to flesh-and-blood figures, including a companion or other well-known person or a person seen frequently in a specific place or in general, a household attendant for a important official, or somebody who knows a subject well
7. haunt (or hant): synonymous with ghost; also, a frequented location, or, as a verb, to visit or reappear or recur frequently, or to trouble, or to inhabit or visit (said of a ghost)
8. materialization: synonymous with apparition
9. phantasm (or fantasm): synonymous with specter; also, an illusion or product of the imagination, or a mental image of a physical object
10. phantom: synonymous with apparition, but other figurative senses include something that is elusive or that has no physical form, including a representation, or something that evokes dread
11. poltergeist: a noisy, mischievous ghost
12. shade: a spirit, or a fleeting or unreal appearance, in addition to the standard meanings associated with the obscuring of light
13. shadow: synonymous with apparition, in addition to literal and figurative senses regarding partial darkness
14. specter (or spectre): a visible ghost; also refers figuratively to some threat or imminent disturbance, such as the threat of famine or war
15. spirit: a ghost that may or may not be visible, or a being capable of possessing a person; also, an animating force, a supernatural being, or a characteristic quality or temper
16. spook: synonymous with specter, but also slang referring to a spy
17. sprite: synonymous with ghost, though more often synonymous with elf or fairy or used to refer to an elflike person
18. vision: a supernatural appearance, not necessary of a lifelike figure, that reveals something to the viewer, in addition to connotations associated with sight as well as imagination
19. visitant: a visitor from a spirit realm; also, a real-life visitor
20. wraith: synonymous with specter, but also has the sense of a representation of a living person that appears to another just before that person’s death; also, like shadow, refers to a remnant, either of a person or a thing

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2 Responses to “20 Synonyms for “Ghost””

  • Sal R. Perricone

    Hey Marc, got your email and thanks. Here’s a word that has some evocative impact. It is “revenant”. Many writing experts exhort writers to use words with Anglo-Saxon derivations–revenant has French, but I find it compliments a certain meme when applied correctly. In novel I am working on now, the denouement occurs partly in a New Orleans cemetery, hence the use of a word with French overtones. This is just my opinion. Marc, you have a great website and I am sure writers of all types find it indispensable.
    srp

  • Ed Buckner

    Interesting article. Perhaps it would have been more timely one week ago, prior to All Hallows Eve and Dia de los Muertos?

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