General English


  • noun a menu item displayed in grey and not currently available
  • noun an effect on a television image in which a weaker copy of the picture is displayed to one side of the main image, caused by signal reflections


  • The fainter of the two overlapping images in ghosting. Also called ghost image.
  • On a computer screen, to display the letters or the icon representing a function, operation, or option in a lighter, grayed, or fuzzy manner, to indicate that it is unavailable. For example, the cut function should be grayed out when no content is selected.
  • A non-existing person which is created so as to have unauthorized access to confidential and/or valuable information, with the objective of thwarting detection.

Information & Library Science

  • verb to be the ghostwriter of a work


  • adjective absent, missing, unseen. A key term from the lexicon of street gangs and aficionados of rap and hip hop since the 1990s. Used in this way the word has evoked disappearance and invisibility in black speech for two decades or more.
  • verb to depart, leave. This item of black street slang, adopted also by white adolescents in the 1990s, is probably related to the phrase git ghost.

Origin & History of “ghost”

In Old English times, ghost was simply a synonym for ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ (a sense preserved in Holy Ghost); it did not acquire its modern connotations of the ‘disembodied spirit of a dead person appearing among the living’ until the 14th century. However, since it has been traced back to Indo-European *ghois- or *gheis-, which also produced Old Norse geisa ‘rage’, Sanskrit hédas ‘anger’, and Gothic usgaisjan ‘terrify’, it could well be that its distant ancestor denoted as frightening concept as the modern English word does. The Old English form of the word was gāst, which in middle English became gost; the gh- spelling, probably inspired by Flemish gheest, first appeared at the end of the 15th century, and gradually established itself over the next hundred years.