A ghoul is a folkloric monster associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh, often classified as but not necessarily undead. The oldest surviving literature that mention ghouls is likely One Thousand and One Nights. The term is first attested in English in 1786, in William Beckford's Orientalist novel Vathek,[1] which describes the ghūl of Arabian folklore.

By extension, the word ghoul is also used derogatorily to refer to a person who delights in the macabre, or whose professions are linked directly to death, such as gravediggers.


[hide] *1 Early etymology

[edit] Early etymology[]

Ghoul is from the Arabic ghul, from ghala 'to seize'.[2] Marc Cramer and others believe the term to be etymologically related to Gallu, a Mesopotamian demon.[3][4]

[edit] In Arabian folklore[]

In ancient Arabian folklore, the ghūl (Arabic: literally demon)[5] dwells in burial grounds and other uninhabited places. The ghul is a devilish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis.[6]

The Arabian ghoul is a desert-dwelling, shape shifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary travellers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, robs graves, drinks blood, steals coins and eats the dead,[5] taking on the form of the one they previously ate.

In the Arabic language, the female form is given as ghouleh[7] and the plural is ghilan. In colloquial Arabic, the term is sometimes used to describe a greedy and/or gluttonous individual.

[edit] Other influences[]

The star Algol takes its name from the definite Arabic term "al-ghūl", "the demon".[8]