It’s October! So I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the words you’re going to be encountering in this season. Whether you celebrate Halloween or just the harvest (or nothing at all), I think you’ll agree that the etymologies this month are interesting!
Ghost…Our modern English word comes from Old English gast, which meant “breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being.” Though the origins are a bit murky, it’s thought that gast, along with similar words in other Germanic languages, is from the ancient root gheis, which is used to form all sorts of words that convey excitement, fear, or amazement.
Early English translations of the Bible chose to use the word Ghost to render spiritus, the Latin word used to describe not only the soul but the Holy Spirit. So Holy Ghost is one of the few surviving phrases that use ghost in that particular way. Otherwise, the notion of “the disembodied spirit of a deceased person” is the more original sense of the word and has been its primary meaning since the 14th century. It’s certainly interesting to note in that Old English gast, though, that it could be used to describe so many things that go beyond the corporeal.
It’s also interesting to note that in most Indo-European languages, the same words are used to describe both the human spirit and supernatural elements. So whether or not you believe in ghosts that haunt a place, the word is actually linked firmly to the human soul or spirit…and I daresay you DO believe in that! Which I will be considering more fully the next time someone asks if I believe in ghosts. 😉 How about you? Where do you come down on the question?