Amine Discovered with the Goule

"Amine Discovered with the Goule", from the story of Sidi Nouman, of the Arabian Nights.

A ghoul is a jinn associated with graveyards and consuming

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A scene depicting ‘The battle of Said ‘Ali with Ra’s al-Ghul (the demon’s head, al-ghul being the source of the English word ghoul, incidentally)

human flesh.. The oldest surviving literature that mention ghouls is likely One Thousand and One Nights. The term was first attested to in English in 1786, in William Beckford's Orientalist novel Vathek, which describes the ghūl of Arabian folklore.

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.

In Persian lore the ghoul has the legs of a donkey and the horns of a goat.


Ghoul is also the name for a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary travelers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, robs graves, and eats the dead. Because of the latter habit, the word ghoul is sometimes used to refer to an ordinary human such as a grave robbers, or to anyone who enjoys the macabre. The term has also been used to describe cannibals such as Jeffrey Dahmer.

Early etymology[]

Ghoul is from the Arabic الغولghul, from ghala "to seize". Marc Cramer and others believe the term to be etymologically related to Gallu, a Mesopotamian demon.

In Arabian folklore[]

In ancient Arabian folklore, the ghūl (Arabic: literally demon) dwells in burial grounds and other uninhabited places. The ghul is a fiendish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis.

A ghoul is 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, taking the form of the person most recently eaten.

In the Arabic language, the female form is given as ghouleh and the plural is ghilan. In colloquial Arabic, the term is sometimes used to describe a greedy or gluttonous individual.

Other influences[]

The star Algol takes its name from the definite Arabic term "al-ghūl", "the demon".