AskDefine | Define zombie

Word Net



1 a dead body that has been brought back to life by a supernatural force [syn: zombi, the living dead]
2 (voodooism) a spirit or supernatural force that reanimates a dead body [syn: zombi, zombi spirit, zombie spirit]
3 a god of voodoo cults of African origin worshipped especially in West Indies [syn: zombi, snake god]
4 someone who acts or responds in a mechanical or apathetic way; "only an automaton wouldn't have noticed" [syn: automaton, zombi]
5 several kinds of rum with fruit juice and usually apricot liqueur [syn: zombi]

Moby Thesaurus

Masan, apparition, appearance, astral, astral spirit, banshee, boob, case, character, chump, clod, control, departed spirit, disembodied spirit, dolt, duck, dullard, duppy, dybbuk, eidolon, form, ghost, goon, grateful dead, guide, hant, haunt, idolum, immateriality, incorporeal, incorporeal being, incorporeity, larva, lemures, manes, materialization, moron, nitwit, oaf, oddball, oddity, oni, original, phantasm, phantasma, phantom, poltergeist, presence, quiz, revenant, shade, shadow, shape, shrouded spirit, specter, spectral ghost, spirit, spook, sprite, theophany, unsubstantiality, vision, walking dead man, wandering soul, wraith
see Zombie



From Bantu; compare jumby.


Hyphenation: zom·bie


  1. A snake god in religions of West Africa and elsewhere
  2. In the context of "voodoo|superstition": A person who is undead; a corpse reanimated by a supernatural force or a spell, with no soul and no will of its own.
  3. A person who is apathetic.
  4. A human being in a state of extreme mental exhaustion.
    After working for 18 hours on the computer, I was a zombie.
  5. An information worker who has signed a nondisclosure agreement.
  6. A process or task which has terminated but was not removed from the list of processes, typically because it has child processes that have not yet terminated.
  7. A computer affected by malware which causes it to do whatever the attacker wants it to do without the user's knowledge.
  8. A drink of rum and fruit juices

Derived terms


the undead
  • Finnish: zombi, zombie
  • German: Zombie
  • Greek: ζόμπι (zómpi)
  • Icelandic: uppvakningur
  • Lithuanian: zombis
  • Russian: зомби (zombi)
  • Spanish: zombi


A zombie is a reanimated corpse. Stories of zombies originated in the Afro-Caribbean spiritual belief system of Vodou, which told of the dead being raised as workers by a powerful sorcerer. Zombies became a popular device in modern horror fiction, largely because of the success of George A. Romero's 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead.
There are several possible etymologies of the word zombie. One possible origin is jumbie, the West Indian term for "ghost". Another is nzambi, the Kongo word meaning "spirit of a dead person." According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the etymology is from the Louisiana Creole or Haitian Creole zonbi, of Bantu origin. A zonbi is a person who is believed to have died and been brought back to life without speech or free will. It is akin to the Kimbundu nzúmbe ghost. These words are approximately from 1871.


see also History of Haiti According to the tenets of Voodoo, a dead person can be revived by a bokor or Voodoo sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also another name of the Voodoo snake god Damballah Wedo, of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Kongo word nzambi, which means "god". There also exists within the voudon tradition the zombi astral which is a human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power.
In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of Felicia Felix-Mentor, who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of 29. Hurston pursued rumors that the affected persons were given powerful drugs, but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information. She wrote:
Several decades later, Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being entered into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: 'powder strike'), induced a 'death-like' state because of tetrodotoxin (TTX), its key ingredient. Tetrodotoxin is the same lethal toxin found in the Japanese delicacy fugu, or pufferfish. At near-lethal doses (LD50= 5-8µg/kg), it can leave a person in a state of near-death for several days. The second powder, composed of dissociatives like datura, put the person in a zombie-like state where they seem to have no will of their own. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have succumbed to this practice. There is wide belief among the Haitian people of the existence of the "zombie drug". The Voodoon religion being somewhat secretive in its practices and codes, it can be very difficult for a foreign scientist to validate or invalidate such claims.
The scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state. Terence Hines, writing in the May/June 2008 Skeptical Inquirer, points out that TTX poisoning can be classified by four levels, or grades, with grade one characterized by numbness and nausea, grade two marked by greater numbness and motor difficulty, grade three signified by severe flaccid paralysis, respiratory failure, and aphonia, and grade four characterized by serious respiratory problems, hypotension, cardiac difficulties, brain hypoxia, unconsciousness and death. Hines points out that these symptoms are not consistent with the descriptions of voodoo zombies by Davis, which include the ability to walk and lurch forward with stiff limbs, rather than flaccid ones that render one completely immobile, and it is for this reason that Davis' claims were dismissed by the scientific community in the 1980's. Hines believes that Davis was too credulous in his acceptance of information provided to him by Haitians, whom Hines believes took advantage of Davis, much as Margaret Mead's Samoan subjects had with her in the 1920's.
Others have discussed the contribution of the victim's own belief system, possibly leading to compliance with the attacker's will, causing psychogenic ("quasi-hysterical") amnesia, catatonia, or other psychological disorders, which are later misinterpreted as a return from the dead. Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing further highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification.


In the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that the souls of the dead could return to earth and haunt the living. The belief in revenants (someone who has returned from the dead) is well documented by contemporary European writers of the time, such as William of Newburgh and Walter Map. According to the Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were, particularly in France during the Middle Ages, the revenant rises from the dead usually to avenge some crime committed against the entity, most likely a murder. The revenant usually took on the form of an emaciated corpse or skeletal human figure, and wandered around graveyards at night. The "draugr" of medieval Norse mythology were also believed to be the corpses of warriors returned from the dead to attack the living. The zombie appears in several other cultures worldwide, including China, Japan, the Pacific, India, and the Native Americans.
The Epic of Gilgamesh of ancient Sumer includes a mention of zombies. Ishtar, in the fury of vengeance says:
Father give me the Bull of Heaven, So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling. If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven, I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld, I will smash the doorposts, and leave the doors flat down, and will let the dead go up to eat the living! And the dead will outnumber the living!

Popular culture

Some zombie fans continue the George A. Romero tradition of using zombies as a social commentary. Organized zombie walks, which are primarily promoted through word of mouth, are regularly staged in some countries. Usually they are arranged as a sort of surrealist performance art but they are occasionally put on as part of a unique political protest.
The world's largest zombie walk was held on October 29, 2006 in Monroeville Mall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the setting of Romero's original Dawn of the Dead film. The walk consisted of 894 attendees who all were instructed to bring canned food for a local food drive.
Other organizations such as Zombie Squad use the genre as a way to promote disaster preparedness and to encourage horror fans to become involved in their community, through volunteering or hosting zombie themed charity fundraisers.


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zombie in Bulgarian: Зомби
zombie in Catalan: Zombi
zombie in Czech: Zombie
zombie in Danish: Zombie
zombie in German: Zombie
zombie in Estonian: Zombie
zombie in Spanish: Zombi
zombie in Esperanto: Zombio
zombie in Persian: زامبی
zombie in French: Zombi
zombie in Irish: Zombaí
zombie in Korean: 좀비
zombie in Indonesian: Zombie
zombie in Icelandic: Uppvakningur
zombie in Italian: Zombi
zombie in Hebrew: זומבי
zombie in Latin: Cadaver animatum
zombie in Lithuanian: Zombis
zombie in Hungarian: Zombi
zombie in Dutch: Zombie
zombie in Japanese: ゾンビ
zombie in Norwegian: Zombie
zombie in Uzbek: Zombi
zombie in Polish: Zombie
zombie in Portuguese: Zumbi
zombie in Russian: Зомби
zombie in Simple English: Zombie
zombie in Serbian: Зомби
zombie in Finnish: Zombi
zombie in Swedish: Zombie
zombie in Thai: ซอมบี้
zombie in Turkish: Zombi
zombie in Chinese: 喪屍
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