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"Amine Discovered with the Goule", from the story of Sidi Nouman, of the One Thousand and One Nights

A ghoul is a demon or monster originating in pre-Islamic Arabian religion associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh. It also appears in Islamic mythology.[1] In modern fiction, the term has often been used for a certain kind of undead monster.

By extension, the word ghoul is also used in a derogatory sense to refer to a person who delights in the macabre, or whose profession is linked directly to death, such as a gravedigger or graverobber.


Early etymologyEdit

Ghoul is from the Arabic غُول ghūl, from غَالَ ghāla, "to seize".[2]


Ghouls gathering for combat in a Persian poem

The ghūl is said to dwell in cemeteries and other uninhabited places. The ghūl subsequently was understood as a fiendish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis in Islam.[3]

Some state that a ghoule is also a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, and eats the dead,[4] then taking the form of the person most recently eaten.

Ghouls (Persian: غول‎) also exist in Persian mythology.

In Arabic, the term is sometimes used to describe a greedy or gluttonous individual.

It was not until Antoine Galland translated One Thousand and One Nights into French that the western idea of ghoul was introduced into European society. Galland depicted the ghoule as a monstrous creature that dwelled in cemeteries, feasting upon corpses. The term was first used in English literature in 1786, in William Beckford's Orientalist novel Vathek,[5] which describes the ghūl of Arabic folklore. This definition of the ghoule has persisted until modern times, with ghouls appearing in popular culture.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Story of Sidi-Nouman". Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  2. ^ Robert Lebling (30 July 2010). Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar. I.B.Tauris. pp. 96–. ISBN 978-0-85773-063-3. 
  3. ^ "ghoul". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 22, 2006. 
  4. ^ "ghoul". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved January 22, 2006. 
  5. ^ "Ghoul Facts, information, pictures | articles about Ghoul". Retrieved 2011-03-23. 
  6. ^ Al-Rawi, Ahmed K. (11 November 2009). "The Arabic Ghoul and its Western Transformation". Folklore. 120 (3): 291–306. doi:10.1080/00155870903219730. Retrieved 14 August 2014.