1. The spirit of a dead person, especially one that is believed to appear to the living in bodily form or to haunt specific locations.
2. A person's spirit or soul: was sick for months and finally gave up the ghost.
3. A returning or haunting memory or image.
a. A slight or faint trace: just a ghost of a smile.
b. The tiniest bit: not a ghost of a chance.
5. A faint, unwanted image, as:
a. An unwanted image on a television or radar screen caused by reflected waves.
b. A displaced image in a photograph caused by the optical system of the camera.
c. An unwanted spectral line caused by imperfections in a diffraction grating.
d. A displaced image in a mirror caused by reflection from the front of the glass.
6. Informal A ghostwriter.
a. A nonexistent publication listed in bibliographies.
b. A fictitious employee or business.
8. Physiology A red blood cell having no hemoglobin.
v. ghost·ed, ghost·ing, ghosts
1. Informal To engage in ghostwriting.
2. To move noiselessly like a ghost: “Two young deer ghosted out of the woods” (Nancy M. Debevoise).
3. Informal To cut off all communication with someone, especially a romantic or sexual partner, without providing an explanation: ghosted on him after two dates.
1. To haunt.
2. Informal To ghostwrite: was hired to ghost the memoirs of a famous executive.
3. Informal To cut off all communication with (someone), especially a romantic or sexual partner, without providing an explanation: “In some point in nearly every young millennial's life, they will be ghosted. And not by sad dead bodies from the graveyard, but by idiot living ones from the Internet” (Heather Dockray).
[Middle English gost, from Old English gāst, breath, spirit.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.