Now chiefly, an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image and attempting to right a wrong done in life; this sense of the word is recorded from late Middle English.
The word is recorded from Old English (in form gāst) in the sense ‘spirit, soul’, and is of Germanic origin; the gh- spelling occurs first in Caxton, and was probably influenced by Flemish gheest.
Ghost Dance an American Indian religious cult of the second half of the 19th century, based on the performance of a ritual dance, lasting sometimes for several days, which, it was believed, would drive away white people, bring the dead back to life, and restore the traditional lands and way of life. Advocated by the Sioux chief Sitting Bull, the cult was central to the uprising that was crushed at the Battle of Wounded Knee.
ghost in the machine the mind viewed as distinct from the body, a term coined in 1949 by the philosopher Gilbert Ryle for a viewpoint which he regarded as completely misleading.
ghost town a deserted town with few or no remaining inhabitants; typically one which was previously at the centre of a gold-mining site where the vein is now exhausted.
the ghost walks money is available and salaries will paid. The phrase has been explained by the story that an actor playing the ghost of Hamlet's father refused to ‘walk again’ until the cast's overdue salaries had been paid.
ghost word a word recorded in a dictionary or other reference work which is not actually used. The term is first recorded in a paper entitled ‘Report upon ‘.Ghost-words’. ’ by the philologist W. W. Skeat (1835–1912), in which he warned against such inclusions.
give up the ghost die; the literal meaning here is ‘give up the soul or spirit’.
See also Holy Ghost at holy.
Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.