pol·​ter·​geist | \ ˈpōl-tər-ˌgīst How to pronounce poltergeist (audio) \

Definition of poltergeist

: a noisy usually mischievous ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises (such as rappings)

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Synonyms for poltergeist


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Did You Know?

One of the tricks a poltergeist is known for is making "knocking" noises, so it will come as no surprise to learn that the word poltergeist translates literally from German as knocking spirit. The German verb poltern means "to knock, and "Geist" is the German word for "spirit." Another "Geist" descendant in English is "zeitgeist" ("the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era"). The English word ghost is also related; it descends from the same ancient root that led to "Geist." Although "ghost" has been used in English since before the 12th century, "poltergeist" is a relative newcomer, first appearing as an English word in the middle of the 19th century.

Examples of poltergeist in a Sentence

we thought a poltergeist was knocking dishes off the shelves, but it turned out to just be vibrations from passing trains
Recent Examples on the Web Their books wised me up to an invisible poltergeist in world events: the feverish infatuation of one straight man for another. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "Steely Eyes, Tragic Ends: The Bromantic Theory of History," 26 Aug. 2020 The officer’s roommate experienced what can only be described as poltergeist phenomena—mostly books flying off shelves—serious enough that the police were called. Matt Farwell, The New Republic, "Tom DeLonge’s Warped UFO Tour," 10 Aug. 2020 In the first episode, a traveling salesman documents a poltergeist using his cell phone during his motel stay, but he is soon possessed by the spirit of a murderer – and finds himself in need of an exorcism. Katey Clifford, oregonlive, "Dan Aykroyd narrates ‘Hotel Paranormal’ | How to watch, live stream, TV channel, time," 12 July 2020 In Shippy’s field, those experts can be psychic mediums, demonologists or a member of the clergy, depending on whether the entity of concern is a human spirit, a poltergeist or something demonic, Shippy said. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Travel Channel explores Michigan haunting in new series," 25 Jan. 2020 The stage musical, written by Scott Brown, Anthony King and Eddie Perfect and directed by Alex Timbers, is adapted from the 1988 Warner Bros. release, directed by Tim Burton, about a Goth girl and a pushy poltergeist warring within a haunted house. Michael Paulson, New York Times, "Despite Turnaround, ‘Beetlejuice’ Being Forced Out of Theater," 9 Dec. 2019 Nothing he’s done has risen above playful poltergeist. Scott Craven, azcentral, "Arizona's most notable ghosts, from a jilted lover to a rampaging camel," 24 Oct. 2019 An American Indian helps a broke and homeless family, once again prey to a poltergeist. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 15, 2019: ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and more," 13 Sep. 2019 By catching her poltergeist, Harriet performs an exorcism on her own fear. Nora Caplan-bricker, The New Yorker, "An Overlooked Novel from 1935 by the Godmother of Feminist Detective Fiction," 13 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'poltergeist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of poltergeist

1848, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for poltergeist

German, from poltern to knock + Geist spirit

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Time Traveler for poltergeist

Time Traveler

The first known use of poltergeist was in 1848

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Last Updated

8 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Poltergeist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poltergeist. Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

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How to pronounce poltergeist (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of poltergeist

: a ghost that makes strange noises and causes objects to move

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