poltergeist

noun
pol·​ter·​geist | \ˈpōl-tər-ˌgīst \

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

Synonyms

apparition, bogey (also bogie), familiar spirit, ghost, hant [dialect], haunt [chiefly dialect], materialization, phantasm (also fantasm), phantom, shade, shadow, specter (or spectre), spirit, spook, sprite, vision, visitant, wraith

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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

The third installment in the series about Mario’s not-so-heroic brother vacuuming up poltergeists in a quest to find his brother is coming sometime next year. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Nintendo reveals Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the Switch is coming in 2019," 13 Sep. 2018 Both films focus on a different poltergeist case from the files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "19 of the Best Horror Movies to Stream RN," 2 Oct. 2017 Both films focus on a different poltergeist case from the files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "19 of the Best Horror Movies to Stream RN," 2 Oct. 2017 Both films focus on a different poltergeist case from the files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "19 of the Best Horror Movies to Stream RN," 2 Oct. 2017 Both films focus on a different poltergeist case from the files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "19 of the Best Horror Movies to Stream RN," 2 Oct. 2017 For about 20 years, the ultrasounds that were part of prenatal care showed a scratchy black-and-white image that looked like an old TV when the rabbit ears fell over and the poltergeist was trying to talk to you. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, "For a mother-to-be (and the dad, too), the ultimate gender-reveal party," 13 May 2018 Like a poltergeist, a Boggart is not and never has been truly alive. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "J.K. Rowling Trolls Donald Trump With a "Harry Potter" Reference," 21 Apr. 2018 Like some kind of Newtonian poltergeist, gravity spilled nails, tipped boards over the edge and tugged my power cord to the ground, forcing me down and up my ladder over and over. Logan Ward, Popular Mechanics, "How to Build a Treehouse in the Backyard," 20 Mar. 2017

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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Dictionary Entries near poltergeist

polster

polt

Poltava

poltergeist

poltfoot

poltina

poltroon

Statistics for poltergeist

Last Updated

24 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for poltergeist

The first known use of poltergeist was in 1848

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More Definitions for poltergeist

poltergeist

noun

English Language Learners Definition of poltergeist

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

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