What are some words that refer to ghosts?

Famous "brown lady" ghost photoGhosts, spirits, apparitions… those words are related but they don’t mean the same things. 

Below, you’ll see some other, related words. Many refer to ghosts, but others describe different paranormal entities.

Some people are happy to use the word “ghost” for any spirit of the dead. Others aren’t.

When people are sure who their ghost is, notice the words they use. Some people happily talk about their granny’s benevolent “spirit.” Describing her as a “ghost” could sound harsh.

She’s not haunting them, she’s visiting. The difference can be very important.

Fiona's adviceTip: Looking for fresh places to find ghosts? Search online and in books for the following words and phrases. You may turn up a haunted site you didn’t know about.

Here are some words that refer to ghosts. Some really do mean the same thing as ghosts. Others are related, more or less, but definitely aren’t ghosts.

– Ancestral spirit.
– Angel (or guardian angel), cherubim, seraphim.
– Angiris.
– Anomaly.
– Apparition.
– Banshee (Bean Sidhe).
– Being (or glorified being, celestial being, etc.).
– Changeling.
– Coiste bodhar (coach of the dead).
– Corpse.
– Cuirp dhaondachbach (Celtic spirit in physical-appearing form).
– Daemon. (Different than a demon.)
– Deceased (usually “the deceased”).
– Demon.
– Departed (or departed person).
– Djin, djinn, genie, genii, or jinnee.
– Entity.
– Fairy, faerie, or one of the good people.
– Familiar.
– Fiend.
– Form.
– Genius.
– Ghoul, ghoule, ghowl, ghul, ghuli. (Definitely not just a ghost.)
– Goblin (or hobgoblin).
– Green Lady.
– Gremlin.
– Guardian.
– Heavenly visitor.
– Incorporeal being (or immaterial being).
– Intelligence.
– Lamassu.
– Lar.
– Manes. (Note: That’s the singular.)
– Messenger.
– Penates.
– Phantom.
– Pitris.
– Semblance.
– Shade.
– Shadow person.
– Soul (or beatified soul).
– Specter or spectre.
– Spirit (or earthbound spirit, or vital spirit).
– Supernatural being.
– The unseen.
– Vestige.

What are ghosts?

When people use the word “ghost,” they usually mean something that seems ghostly, like an apparition, or an object moving by itself.

They may mean something as simple as a “creepy feeling,” or something as frightening as a ghostly voice, or a chilling touch by an invisible hand.

Dictionaries say a ghost is the spirit of a dead person. That may be true.

Or… that might be groundless, popular opinion. No two ghost hunters are likely to agree.

Ghosts: A general definition

When paranormal investigators use the word “ghosts,” we’re usually talking about ghostly phenomena.  

You know… things like apparitions, strange noises, orbs in photos, and weird EMF spikes.

Some ghost hunters insist that all ghostly phenomena are disembodied spirits.

Skeptics explain “hauntings” in very normal terms that doesn’t involve dead people. Some religions insist that everything ghostly is demonic and dangerous.

Most ghost hunters are between those extremes.

We say that ghostly phenomena are real but unexplained.

So, when we use the word “ghost,” we’re talking about phenomena usually associated with that word. We can’t be 100% sure it’s the spirit of someone who died.

Think you’ve an encountered a ghost? Start with what’s normal

First, we look for normal things that explain what’s going on.

About 80% of the time, we can find a reasonable, normal explanation. The other 20% — and perhaps some of the 80%, as well — may be ghostly.

This is important: Even though some “ghostly” phenomena can be blamed on something normal, the site may still be haunted.

(To draw a sports parallel: During a football game, most people on the field are football players. That doesn’t mean the occasional streaker is also a football player. Maybe most ghostly phenomena at a location can be explained. That doesn’t mean it’s not caused by a ghost.)

Also, few investigators agree on all paranormal issues. For every person who insists that all orbs are ghosts, you’ll find one who says all orbs are dust or insects. The truth may be somewhere in-between.

In fact, the “ghosts” label is too simplistic. We don’t know what most ghostly phenomena are.

101 Ghost Hunting Questions, AnsweredLet’s pool our information and compare notes.  Then, we might find better answers.

For more answers about what ghosts are – and aren’t – read my book. 101 Ghost Hunting Questions, Answered.



You may also like: