ghoul

/goohl/, n.
1. an evil demon, originally of Oriental legend, supposed to feed on human beings, and especially to rob graves, prey on corpses, etc.
2. a grave robber.
3. a person who revels in what is revolting.
[1780-90; < Ar ghul]

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▪ Arabian mythology
Arabic  Ghūl,  

      in popular legend, demonic being believed to inhabit burial grounds and other deserted places. In ancient Arabic folklore, ghūls belonged to a diabolic class of jinn (spirits) and were said to be the offspring of Iblīs, the Muslim prince of darkness. They were capable of constantly changing form, but their presence was always recognizable by their unalterable sign: ass's hooves.

      Considered female by the ancients, the ghūl was often confused with the sílā, also female; the sílā, however, was a witchlike species of jinn, immutable in shape. A ghūl stalked the desert, often in the guise of an attractive woman, trying to distract travelers, and, when successful, killed and ate them. The sole defense that one had against a ghūl was to strike it dead in one blow; a second blow would only bring it back to life again.

      The ghūl, as a vivid figure in the Bedouin imagination, appeared in pre-Islāmic Arabic poetry, notably that of Taʿabbata Sharran. In North Africa, it was easily assimilated into an ancient Berber folklore already rich in demons and fantastic creatures. Modern Arabs use ghūl to designate a human or demonic cannibal and frequently employ the word to frighten disobedient children.

      Anglicized as “ghoul,” the word entered English tradition and was further identified as a grave-robbing creature that feeds on dead bodies and on children. In the West ghouls have no specific image and have been described (by Edgar Allan Poe) as “neither man nor woman . . . neither brute nor human.” They are thought to assume disguises, to ride on dogs and hares, and to set fires at night to lure travelers away from the main roads.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Ghoul — (g[=oo]l), n. [Per. gh[=o]l an imaginary sylvan demon, supposed to devour men and animals: cf. Ar. gh[=u]l, F. goule.] An imaginary evil being among Eastern nations, which was supposed to feed upon human bodies. [Written also {ghole} .] Moore.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ghoul — n. m. (Maghreb) Monstre anthropophage dans la mythologie arabe; ogre …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • ghoul — [gu:l] n [Date: 1700 1800; : Arabic; Origin: ghul, from ghala to seize ] 1.) an evil spirit in stories that takes bodies from ↑graves (=place in the ground where dead people are buried) and eats them 2.) someone who gets pleasure from unpleasant… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • ghoul — [ gul ] noun count 1. ) an imaginary creature that eats dead people 2. ) someone who is interested in or enjoys unpleasant situations involving death or injury …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • ghoul — 1786, in the English translation of Beckford s Vathek, from Arabic ghul, an evil spirit that robs graves and feeds on corpses, from ghala he seized …   Etymology dictionary

  • ghoul — meaning (1) ‘an evil spirit’ and (2) ‘a person morbidly interested in death’, is pronounced gool …   Modern English usage

  • ghoul — [n] evil demon bogeyman, devil, evil spirit, fiend, grave robber, monster; concepts 370,412 …   New thesaurus

  • ghoul — ► NOUN 1) an evil spirit or phantom, especially one supposed to rob graves and feed on dead bodies. 2) a person morbidly interested in death or disaster. DERIVATIVES ghoulish adjective ghoulishly adverb ghoulishness noun. ORIGIN Arabic, denoting… …   English terms dictionary

  • ghoul — [go͞ol] n. [Ar ghūl, demon of the desert < ghāla, to seize] 1. Muslim Folklore an evil spirit that robs graves and feeds on the flesh of the dead 2. a person who robs graves 3. a person who derives pleasure from loathsome acts or things… …   English World dictionary

  • Ghoul — A ghoul is a monster from ancient Arabian folklore that dwells in burial grounds and other uninhabited places. The English word comes from the Arabic name for the creature: الغول ghūl , which literally means demon . [cite web|title= ghoul… …   Wikipedia

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