As I said above, where did the term "Zombie" originate from? Why can't we just call them the "reanimated"?

  • 1
    Have you tried googling "zombie" etymology? – Legion600 Nov 22 '14 at 20:25
  • 2
    Etymology is the study of the history and origin of words. Some dictionaries, such as the (unabridged) Oxford English Dictionary give etymologies, including language of origin and dates of recorded use for different meanings. – Lexible Nov 22 '14 at 20:37
  • 2
    Tagging this "the walking dead" seems odd since they make a specific point to not ever use that word in the show or comics. – phantom42 Nov 22 '14 at 20:48
  • 6
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the etymology (origin) of a real-world word. – Valorum Nov 22 '14 at 21:50
  • 1
    @Richard The use of the term "zombie" in the real world differs in important ways from the way it is used in SFF. See for example, my answer. – Lexible Nov 22 '14 at 22:34

In Haitian folklore, a zombie (Haitian Creole: zonbi, Haitian French: zombi) is an animated corpse raised by magical means, such as witchcraft. [Wikipedia]

But this historical meaning has a factual basis in social relationships and ritual within a specific religious context. (For an easy read on the topic, try Zora Neal Hurston's Tell My Horse.) The 20th century popular media variations (i.e. genesis magical, divine, or pathogenic?, fast zombies versus slow zombies, etc.) are more a construction of Hollywood (a la the 1932 Bella Lugosi film White Zombie, and especially the Romero zombie cycle, including adaptations), comic books (e.g. Tales of the Zombie, etc.), and other popular media and cultural phenomena (e.g. zombie flash mobs, and video games) that borrows a very rough approximation to the Haitian phenomenon, but mostly builds off iterations of its own cultural reinterpretion.

  • 1
    I add a tongue in cheek comment on my own answer to say that fast zombies are clearly not zombies at all, but ghasts (in D&D terms ;). – Lexible Nov 22 '14 at 20:34
  • lol ok. sorry too young to be playing D&D tho...im more into the last of us – Neffer_23 Nov 22 '14 at 20:39
  • Too young?!? Young'un, I started playing D&D when I was 9. ;) – Lexible Nov 22 '14 at 20:40
  • I mean it is an old game and I'm a younger guy...not saying you're old or anything...:3 – Neffer_23 Nov 22 '14 at 20:41
  • I think The Last of Us is the only video game I watched a full walk through of. (I don't really play video games much). The cordicepes-zombie world of the game is interesting. – Lexible Nov 22 '14 at 20:43

From Merriam-Websster

Origin of ZOMBIE

Louisiana Creole or Haitian Creole zonbi, of Bantu origin; akin to Kimbundu nzĂșmbe ghost First Known Use: circa 1871

and From Wikipedia


The English word "zombie" is first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey, in the form of "zombi".[2] The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of the word as West African, and compares it to the Kongo words "nzambi" (god) and "zumbi" (fetish).

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.