Definition of ghost in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɡəʊst/


1An apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image: the building is haunted by the ghost of a monk [as modifier]: a ghost ship
More example sentences
  • Everything about this place suggested that it was not a place for the living, only the ghosts of the dead who had once lived there.
  • His viewpoint can be illustrated by myths such as those of ancient Egypt, where the living believe that ghosts live the same lives as themselves.
  • She had stopped believing in ghosts and demons years ago.
1.1A slight trace or vestige of something: she gave the ghost of a smile
More example sentences
  • Her fingers silently moved over the patterns on the fret-board, bringing her a slight ghost of what she had felt earlier.
  • She ran a hand through her hair carefully, a slight ghost of a smile fluttering across her lips.
  • His worn face held the slightest ghost of a smile as he stared down at her with twinkling eyes.
1.2A faint secondary image caused by a fault in an optical system, duplicate signal transmission, etc.
Example sentences
  • What we saw were clearly ghosts from the static image we'd left on the screen.


1 [with object] Act as ghostwriter of (a work): his memoirs were smoothly ghosted by a journalist
More example sentences
  • A range of sports people, and writers who've ghosted these ‘autobiographies’, discuss the process and the pitfalls.
  • There remain recurring rumours his blockbuster novels must have been ghosted by a craftsman with the wit that eludes the public man of affairs.
  • She ghosted numerous novels for someone we all knew as a famous London publisher, and I just want to see in the flesh a woman who could be that happy to stay in the shadows.
2 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Glide smoothly and effortlessly: they ghosted up the river
More example sentences
  • We passed one another on the beach, sometimes quite closely, with no sign of recognition, like sleepwalkers ghosting through a dreamscape in which each was alone.
  • And there were; dark sleek shapes ghosting through the weeds.
  • His close control is marginally functional, unimpeachable, without being flashy and he has the ability to almost collide with an opponent before ghosting past him.
3 [with object] End a personal relationship with (someone) by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication: I didn't want to ghost her, so we ended up having ‘the talk’ and it was horrible being ghosted is one of the toughest ways to be dumped [no object]: people who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort



the ghost in the machine

Philosophy The mind viewed as distinct from the body (usually used in a derogatory fashion by critics of dualism).
coined by the philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1949)
Example sentences
  • I had expected something of the ghost in the machine philosopher rather than a sober minded cleric.
  • It challenges three deeply held beliefs: the blank slate (the mind has no innate structure), the noble savage (people are naturally good), and the ghost in the machine (behavior is not caused by physical events).
  • And neuroscience has most decisively exorcised the ghost in the machine by showing that our thoughts, feelings, urges, and consciousness depend completely on the physiological activity of the brain.

give up the ghost

Example sentences
  • The tulips almost got to flowering but then seemed to give up the ghost, go pale and slowly fall over.
  • The tree lasted until March and then suddenly, inexplicably, gave up the ghost (and the majority of its needles) and expired.
2.1(Of a machine) stop working.
Example sentences
  • If your washing machine gives up the ghost after two years and has been subject to normal use, you're entitled to a free repair.
  • As if all of this weren't enough, my coffee machine gave up the ghost yesterday.
  • For example, they can look after you when an unexpected car repair bill crops up or when your washing machine finally decides to give up the ghost after fifteen years of loyal and faithful service.

look as if one has seen a ghost

Look very pale and shocked.

not stand the ghost of a chance

Have no chance at all.



Pronunciation: /ˈɡəʊstlʌɪk/
Example sentences
  • The end result was strangely beautiful and ghostlike, suggesting a lifeless but beautifully frozen world.
  • The fog totally disappeared as ghostlike shadows of people began to reappear.
  • It coated the world in a pale flurry, casting a ghostlike pallor and creating moon shadows among the skeletons of trees.


Old English gāst (in the sense 'spirit, soul'), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch geest and German Geist. The gh- spelling occurs first in Caxton, probably influenced by Flemish gheest.

  • [OE]

    In Old English ghost meant ‘a person's spirit or soul’. This sense is preserved in to give up the ghost, which originally meant ‘to die’, the original idea being of soul as the source of life, although it now often refers to equipment that has broken down beyond repair. The ghost in the machine refers to the mind viewed as distinct from the body. It was coined by the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900–76) in The Concept of the Mind (1949), and was also the title of a book in 1967 by polymath Arthur Koestler (1905–83). See also aghast

Words that rhyme with ghost

boast, coast, host, most, oast, post, roast, toast

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ghost

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