The latest update to Dictionary.com includes several new definitions at the entries for ghost and ghosting. The noun ghost has been around a very long time, since before 900, when Old English was spoken. Originally it referred to the soul of a dead person or a disembodied spirit, and this meaning is still in use. In the recent past, ghost and ghosting have expanded in meaning, and today this term is often evoked in relation to dating.


You are a victim of ghosting if you one day realize that the person you’ve been seeing for two months is no longer replying to your texts. The verb form is also widely used; you can date someone for a few months and then ghost. Dictionary.com defines ghosting as “the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship.”

With ghosting there is no break-up conversation, perhaps because the relationship was not serious enough to warrant a formal break-up or because confrontation was seen as too difficult or not worth the trouble. Whatever the reason, the act of ghosting effectively ends a relationship. This sense of ghosting is a logical metaphorical extension of the original sense since exes can have the quality of lingering long after they’ve exited a person’s life.

The “ending a relationship” sense of ghosting is relatively new to English, but how new? On November 23, 2007, an Urban Dictionary entry for this sense of ghost appeared: “To ghost: Cutting all ties with a girl. I’m totally ghosting Ania as of right now.” Before 2007, a few similar senses of ghosting and ghost pop up in Urban Dictionary, however, they aren’t in this specific context of breaking up without actually breaking up.

It’s likely that the spread of this particular sense of ghosting is linked to the increasing use of online dating apps. Though online dating has been around for over twenty years, Tinder entered the scene in late 2012, and became ubiquitous in 2013. Around that time the term ghosting really took off in mainstream media. By 2014 and 2015 major publications like New York Times, Huffington Post, and the Independent were writing about it.

This sense of ghosting might find its roots in the idiom get ghost, meaning “to leave immediately; to disappear,” which gained popularity in ‘90s hip-hop. The Right Rhymes shows examples of this expression referring to sexual encounters from as early as 1994. However, these lyrics seem to be specifically about one-night stands. Going even further back, the Oxford English Dictionary lists the phrases to ghost it and to ghost away meaning “to steal away like a ghost,” as dating from the 1800s. In this update, Dictionary.com also added a related sense of ghosting: “the act of leaving a social event or engagement suddenly without saying goodbye.”

These links seem viable, but the exact origins of the “ending a relationship” sense of ghosting remain unknown. This all adds to the mystery of the term, which any victim of ghosting can agree is appropriate.


  1. Sassarella -  August 9, 2016 - 10:09 am

    Similar to the dating usage, ghosting can also mean quietly leaving a party or social event without telling anyone. For example, if you are in a hurry and don’t have time to say goodbye to each person individually, announcing your departure would be disruptive, or you prefer to avoid an emotional situation. Sometimes referred to as an “Irish Goodbye”.

    • Sassarella -  August 9, 2016 - 10:16 am

      Oops, just kidding! I missed the last few lines of this article that mentioned the same usage as my comment. Please disregard!

  2. Zippstar -  August 9, 2016 - 2:29 am

    Ghosting is also a term used in recording of music. It may not happen so often, if at all, these days, because of programmes like Autotune and Melodyne (pitch correction software). Some pop singers were, shall we say, approximate with their tuning so, session singers would be employed to “ghost,” or record a “ghost vocal” on the track. Often, these singers were people who could manipulate their voices to sound like those of the singers whom they were ghosting. The ghost vocal was not prominent, hence “ghost” but would have enough presence to give the impression of sound tuning. From what I understand, the practice was pretty widespread and covered some big names.
    Until I read article, this was the only definition that I knew. The use of ghosting to describe inappropriate, cowardly behaviour is new to me.

  3. James -  August 7, 2016 - 1:47 am

    Ghosting is also a term used to describe an act of dishonesty by police. The police can catch a speeding driver on their Radar in car, then save this reading, to book/charge other drivers with the same speed, even if they aren’t speeding

  4. David R -  August 6, 2016 - 2:57 pm

    This is a bit obscure, but it’s also used by staff of fan conventions. If someone attends without paying for a badge (for various reasons) and just sneaks into events, they’re “ghosting”. Unless you can afford a completely-enclosed space and paid security who are very strict about badge-checking, you’ll probably always have some “ghosts”.

    “Did you hear about ***-con going under? I don’t get it, the attendance was great this year!”
    “Yeah, but their small staff and lax attitude toward ghosting caught up to them. They almost filled the hotel, but less than a hundred people paid for badges.”

  5. Mike -  August 6, 2016 - 8:39 am

    “Ghosting” is also the name for a tactic employed by corrupt labor unions where certain union officers and members are listed on company payrolls, and therefore receive a weekly paycheck, but never report to work.

  6. DracheHexe -  August 6, 2016 - 7:42 am

    Ghosting (along with ghost and ghosted) is also a gameplay style in stealth games where you complete a level without any of the opposition knowing you were there.

    “I’m ghosting this level.”
    “He totally ghosted that level.”
    “Are you gonna ghost that level?”

  7. TYF -  August 4, 2016 - 10:29 am

    ghosting also refers to tattoo shading

    • a pig -  August 5, 2016 - 9:32 am

      Ghostbusters – call 999 to get them

      • me -  August 5, 2016 - 9:32 am

        another emergency service one can get on 999 is Dominos pizza – i wish

        • meee -  August 6, 2016 - 6:35 am


  8. GHOST -  August 4, 2016 - 7:57 am

    Early TV had an artifact called ghosting. This is directly related to the location of the antennae. Most TV’s had what was called Rabbit Ears antennae. One of them would be getting a good clear signal and possibly the other was partially obstructed.

    • Robert -  August 4, 2016 - 2:35 pm

      Ghosts on TV are produced by multiple paths of signal transmission. This produces different path lenghts and since radio waves travel at the speed of light (always) the different copies of the signal are recieved at slightly different times and are laterally shifted from each other. Differing paths are produced by signal reflection off of buildings, mountains, airplanes, and other oblects.

  9. MSCBq -  August 3, 2016 - 5:51 pm

    Two more uses of ghosting:

    In reference to video screens, ghosting can be used to describe the after image that a fast moving picture leaves on a screen with slow pixel refresh rate. Slow screens that experience ghosting may be undesirable for applications like gaming.

    Ghosting can also be seen as a term in relation to keyboards. Originally it referred to the occurrence of an addition key press being registered despite that key not being pressed. Since this is an almost extinct problem in modern keyboards, it has been adopted by keyboard marketing departments to refer to the loss of an input when pressing multiple keys at once, generally advertising keyboards with anti-ghosting technology meaning that they can register many combinations of three or more inputs at once. Tech savvy users, however, tend to prefer using the term key-rollover in honor of the original meaning of ghosting, and will consider the newer one an incorrect usage and a fabrication of corporate marketing.

    • nik -  August 7, 2016 - 5:16 am

      Ghosting as in LCD screen issues is the first time that I heard this.

  10. Christopher Benson -  August 3, 2016 - 5:17 pm

    There is a slight overlap between the original Old English (Anglo-Saxon) meaning from 900 AD and the most modern interpretation described in this article. They are perhaps closer than the intervention of 1,100 years might at first suggest. At least, I fully expect my own social dating scene to come to an abrupt and silent end when one or other of us dies. You can call me old-fashioned if you like, but i wouldn’t have it any other way.

  11. 2spoopy4me -  August 3, 2016 - 6:19 am

    Ghosting (in League of Legends) also means to spectate the other team and tell the allied team on what the plans of the enemy are.

  12. Kintore Kid -  August 3, 2016 - 3:32 am

    In the nineties, ghosting was an expression used by our IT people when you wanted your new laptop to be an exact replica of your old one. They used the process described as ghosting, or copying an exact copy of your hard drive to your new laptop. But later it couldn’t be done as any new computor was either a different brand or a newer model with different devices etc. with the rapid rate of change in technology. But ghosting still occurs today if you need to change out your computor’s hard drive because of upcoming failure. But they may call it mirroring now?

    • Liss -  August 9, 2016 - 6:55 am

      Usually called mirroring only if you have two hard drives in one machine, one a constantly updated copy of the other. The ultimate back-up that I wish I’d had before my own hard drive unexpectedly clicked-out spectacularly.

      Ghosting I have heard when a client needs a straight copy of everything on their failing hard drive onto a new one.

  13. Dusan Dmitrovic -  August 1, 2016 - 6:06 pm

    Term ghosting is used in offset printing when image from the back of one sheet of paper in the stack appears in a solid print on the other side of the paper it is touching. This is caused by the solvents from the ink affecting the image on the sheet that is being in touch with that print. Very common occurrence and the expression has been in use for over 50 years.

  14. Steven -  August 1, 2016 - 5:20 pm

    Ghosting was a widely used term on financial markets in the late 80′s and 90′s when stock trading went from face to face to via the telephone. Dealers would “ghost” the last market maker on a price to try and get them to move the stock price without having to actually trade with them. You would call the desk and hope they moved their price before picking up the phone. If they did pick up you just slammed the phone down – no caller id back then lol

  15. Jeremy -  August 1, 2016 - 11:50 am

    I’ve also heard that ghosting someone also means killing someone. Can someone confirm this?

  16. Julie Parenti -  August 1, 2016 - 5:11 am

    Don’t forget about, “Dr. Who” in the Library of Silence, when River uses the term, “Ghosting”.

    • LJ -  August 3, 2016 - 1:27 pm

      HAHA – that was my first thought ;)

    • StormyKnight -  August 4, 2016 - 10:55 am

      THAT’S where I heard it before! Thank you!!!!!

    • Liss -  August 9, 2016 - 7:00 am

      Yes, this was my first thought, too. I’m trying to work out how sad that makes me.

      For a moment I thought it might be a term for when people have online stuff that updates automatically…regardless of whether they’ve recently passed away or not.

      Can you imagine how creepy self-updating stuff’s gonna start to be when people do start kicking the bucket without having previously shut it down? The Internet’ll actually be filled up with weird ghost accounts that just keep going, and considering how hard it can be to get an account unlocked if you’ve forgotten the password, I can only imagine how difficult it is to get a site to unlock the account of someone who’s died.

  17. peg -  July 31, 2016 - 8:26 pm

    Without substance, non-tangible..

  18. dan ekeson -  July 31, 2016 - 5:32 pm

    ghost is the spirit of the dead

  19. david o donoghue -  July 31, 2016 - 10:43 am

    The term “To do a ghoster”.Is one that was, and maybe still is,a term used in shopfitting meaning to work all night to get the job finished by morning.

  20. Thomas Dreiling -  July 29, 2016 - 1:04 pm

    Ghosting can also mean being in the process of “ghost writing” writing an article, book etc. that will not have the name of the actual author, but the name of someone else who is being credited as the author.

    • 12345 -  July 30, 2016 - 4:14 am

      yes i also agree

      • Jacquelyn Hyde -  August 3, 2016 - 5:44 am

        12345 30 July

        “yes i also agree”

        So do I.
        It was also used in the early days of TV to describe the slightly ‘out-of-tune’ picture that had a visual echo to either side of the intended picture.


        • GHOST -  August 4, 2016 - 7:56 am

          Early TV had an artifact called ghosting. This is directly related to the location of the antennae. Most TV’s had what was called Rabbit Ears antennae. One of them would be getting a good clear signal and possibly the other was partially obstructed.

        • Bradley Ross -  August 4, 2016 - 11:37 am

          The ghosting was actually caused by the signal bouncing off other objects so that the signal came from multiple directions at slightly shifted times. Since the signals were offset by short periods of time, the reflected, and slightly weaker signal was shifted on the image. This only occurred with the analog signals and not with the new digital signals. A difference in path length of about 300 feet would move the signal five percent across the screen. Moving the rabbit ears or aiming a yagi antenna would decrease the weaker signal, reducing the ghost.

  21. GreatNorthernTroll -  July 29, 2016 - 12:05 pm

    Ghost is also a verb, meaning to move silently and/or unseen.

  22. Karen -  July 28, 2016 - 10:50 pm

    Ghosting is a term used in hoopdance.

  23. David Hinton -  July 28, 2016 - 7:09 pm

    Ghosting, again in reference to video games takes on this meaning as well.

    Ghosting: In online video-games, when a player deliberately disables, then re-enables his or her Internet connection in order to benefit strategically. This action often teleports the player in game, from one location to another (relative to observing players) in an instant.

    Ex: My rocket would have definitely hit her if she wasn’t ghosting.

    • Jonathan Cook -  August 1, 2016 - 1:05 pm

      It can also mean when someone who is spectating gives a team information that they would otherwise not have known.

  24. Imran Meco -  July 27, 2016 - 5:55 am

    Ghosting is also a term in video games, where a dead player chats with one or multiple living players by telling them i.e. where is the objective, who should they kill, or if there’s danger unknown to the living player, etc.

    • Greg -  July 28, 2016 - 12:33 pm

      With reference to video games, “ghosting” is also the term used by the character “Zero” in Borderlands 2 when he projects an image of himself that enemy characters continue to attack while he steps aside invisibly to attack from a different angle, or simply flee to safety.

      The Halo series of video games has a similar feature, though I don’t know if it’s referred to as, “ghosting” in that game. I’m sure there are others that use this feature.

      But I think in both these instances, this feature constitutes a slightly different definition of ghosting than what has been mentioned.

  25. Frank Dmuchowski -  July 26, 2016 - 8:10 am

    “Ghost”-v;”Ghostiing” adj. is also used in technology, meaning: to put an image of a hard drive or partition of one, from one that was previously copied and stored on media elsewhere. Origin is from a software package named “Ghost.” It is now used generically much the same way brand names are used to describe things or actions such as “frigidaire” or “hoovering.”

    • Frank Dmuchowski -  July 26, 2016 - 8:12 am

      Sorry, meant “ghosting”- adv

  26. KSingh -  July 22, 2016 - 4:49 pm

    Ghosting maybe a convenient mode but i think it is ungentlemanly .It is downright unacceptable.Lacks basic etiquette. The repercussions can be soul-searing.The damage irreparable .Amongst other explanations a personality-split may also be a explanatory factor

    • jim -  July 28, 2016 - 4:25 pm

      Isn’t it interesting how the valid word “maybe” is inserted inappropriately when the writer means “may be” and this is just accepted in the same manner that “your” for “you’re” has become de facto acceptable..

    • JERRY -  August 5, 2016 - 3:28 pm


  27. Kate -  July 22, 2016 - 7:32 am

    Please take me OFF of your mailing list

    • Alexander Patton -  July 24, 2016 - 7:11 am

      There’s an option at the bottom of the emai to unsubscribe.

  28. Anna -  July 21, 2016 - 4:06 pm

    One myth once explained that ghost or spooks or spirits were unharmable but this myth as many others seems to be unproven. However in the near future there may be a chance to test the theory and I’m praying for the souls that get defeated!

    • wordlover69 -  July 22, 2016 - 5:43 pm

      untrue, I saw a facebook post about a spook getting harmed by the police today

      • krunbelle1 -  July 25, 2016 - 11:54 pm

        So Not Funny!


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