I would like to know how to say "Ghost" properly, as in I am a ghost. All I have been able to find is "Mares";"Marium";"Spectare"...etc. I would prefer if possible, the medieval version, please? However I am able to receive help is appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help.


3 Answers 3


Latin has quite a lot of words that can refer to a ghost or similar apparition. Like the English word "vision", some of them are vague or ambiguous and don't clearly mean "ghost" outside of the context provided by a longer passage of text than "I am a ghost."

Maybe "phantasma sum" or "spectrum sum"

In this context, I might recommend phantasma (borrowed from Greek) as probably one of the less ambiguous words for "ghost", at least to modern eyes, although it can refer more generally to an image or appearance.

spectrum has been used postclassically to refer to ghosts (it is the source of the English spectre/specter), but it has also acquired an unrelated scientific sense that you may want to avoid evoking.

The word lārva is another option, but it tends to refer specifically to evil spirits or monsters.

Some of the more vague terms include imāgō ("ghost" but also "image", "likeness", "copy"), īdōlum ("ghost" but also "image, form" or "idol"), simulācrum ("ghost" but also "image, likeness", "semblance"). These will not necessarily convey "ghost" clearly if you present the word by itself out of context.

There are also words that don't exactly mean "ghost" in the modern sense, but were used in Roman religion or myth to refer to similar concepts. The words mānēs and lemurēs, generally plural only, refer to particular kinds of spirits of the dead in ancient Roman thought.

The word spīritus, source of the English word "spirit", literally means something like 'breath' but came to be used by Christians with a similar range of senses as the English word that we borrowed from Latin.


In addition to Asteroidis answer, it is perhaps worth mentioning that Plinius Ep. 4, 27, 4–11 – arguably the most famous ghost story in Latin literature – uses the word effigies for the ghost that haunts a house in Athens:

Respicit, videt agnoscitque narratam sibi effigiem.
He looks around, he sees and recognizes the ghost that had been described to him.

However, effigies, like imago or simulacrum essentially only means “image” or “likeness,” so some context is necessary if it is to be recognized by the reader as “ghost.” No one could complain about a lack of context in this particular example, with the protagonist spending the first night in a haunted house and following portentious sounds.


Another common term, frequently translated as "shade," is umbra, -ae. L&S notes in I.B.2 that it can mean "a shade, ghost of a dead person," though this occurs mostly in poetry and post-Augustinian prose. Vergil uses the word profusely, particularly in the visit to the underworld in Aeneid VI, e.g.:

Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes
et Chaos et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,
sit mihi fas audita loqui, sit numine uestro
pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas. (VI.264-67)

My translation:

O Gods, who hold power over souls, and unspeaking shades,
and Chaos and Phlegethon, silent places completely in night,
let it be permitted for me to speak the things I have heard, let it be permitted by your authority
for me to reveal things that are submerged in the deep ground and in the darkness.

Homer uses σκιά (skia = "shadow") in the exact same way.


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