In this adventure we’re uncovering the origins of the word ghost.
A ghost is:
- The disembodied soul; the soul or spirit of a deceased person; a spirit appearing after death
- Any faint shadowy semblance; an unsubstantial image.
It comes from Middle English gost (angel, devil, spirit, the Holy Ghost), from Old English gāst [ɡɑːst] (spirit, ghost, breath, demon), from Proto-West-Germanic *gaist (ghost, spirit), from Proto-Germanic *gaistaz (terror, fear, spirit, ghost, mind), from PIE *ǵʰéysd-os, from *ǵʰeysd- (anger, agitation) [source].
Words from the same roots include geisa (to rage, storm) in Icelandic, gast (ghost) in Swedish, geest (ghost spirit, mind) in Dutch and ghastly and poltergeist in English, [source].
Incidentally, the h in ghost mysteriously materialised, a bit like a ghost, in the Prologue to William Caxton’s Royal Book, printed in 1484, in a reference to the ‘Holy Ghoost’. It was probably his assistant, Wynkyn de Worde, who was responsible, and who was influenced by Flemish word gheest (ghost) [source].
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