Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to ghost: Ghost stories
Little or no chance at all; a completely hopeless prospect. This derogatory phrase originated in the 1800s and referred to Chinese immigrants who worked for extremely low wages, faced racism and higher taxation, and were prohibited from testifying in court for violence committed against them. Primarily heard in US, South Africa.
A town that has become permanently devoid of inhabitants, typically due to the disappearance of business or economic opportunities. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. The town rose up fast and furiously as prospectors flooded the area in search of gold, but when the last of the precious minerals was gone, those same people were as fast to depart, leaving a creaking old ghost town in their wake.
yield the ghost
To die. Based on the idea that one's spirit leaves the body when one dies. More commonly expressed in the phrase "give up the ghost." Susie called me in tears when grandma yielded the ghost after her long illness. Well, if the mechanic can't work his magic this time, it looks like Marshall's car will finally yield the ghost.
A writer (usually a professional) who assists in the writing of something (such as a book or speech) without taking credit for it. A: "I'm so impressed with the celebrity memoir I'm reading. I didn't expect this singer to be able to write so well!" B: "Yeah, she probably had a ghost writer!" Being the ghostwriter of some of the president's speeches is the greatest achievement of my life.
ghost of a chance
A slight but unlikely possibility. After I heard that a Harvard graduate applied for the same job I did, I knew that I didn't have a ghost of a chance of getting hired. Even though he knows he only has a ghost of a chance of winning the lottery, he still buys tickets every week.
the ghost walks
An expression used in theater to explain that actors will perform because they have been assured of payment. The phrase possibly originated when an actor playing Hamlet's father (who appears in Hamlet as a ghost) refused to act unless he was paid. The ghost walks today because we all just got paid!
slang To ignore someone until they go away, rather than directly expressing one's disinterest, especially in virtual communications. This phrase is often applied to failed love connections. That guy I went out with last week kept texting me, but I just wasn't interested, so I had to ghost him.
lay the ghost of (something) to rest
To do something that finally eliminates one's long-held fears, worries, or distress about something that happened in the past. New DNA evidence in the decades-old investigation finally laid the ghost of these accusations to rest for Mr. Masden. It wasn't until I got my new job that I could finally lay to rest the ghost of my departure from N-Com.
the ghost at the feast
Someone or something that acts as a reminder of something negative and thus ruins the enjoyment of something. Primarily heard in UK. I think I'll stay home. I'm afraid that since everyone knows about my recent diagnosis, I will be the ghost at the feast.
give up the ghost
1. Of a person, to die. Based on how the nurses are talking, it sounds like Great-Uncle Edmund is going to give up the ghost sooner than later.
2. Of a machine, to stop working. Can you get a new coffee pot while you’re at the mall? Ours has finally given up the ghost.
3. To abandon some task because it seems doomed. I don't think anyone is coming to the lecture today, so we might as well give up the ghost.
ghost of a chance
even the slightest chance. (Usually negative.) She can't do it. She doesn't have a ghost of a chance. There is just a ghost of a chance that I'll be there on time.
give up the ghost
Euph. to die. (Fixed order. Often used to describe machines breaking down.) The old man gave up the ghost. My poor old car finally gave up the ghost.
*pale as a ghostand *pale as death
very pale. (*Also: as ~.) Laura came into the room, as pale as a ghost. "What happened?" her friends gasped. What's the matter? You're pale as death!
*white as a sheetand *white as a ghost; *white as snow; *white as the driven snow
[of someone] extremely pale, as if frightened. (*Also: as ~.) Marilyn turned as white as a sheet when the policeman told her that her son had been in a car wreck. Did something scare you? You're white as a sheet! Jane made up the bed with her best linen sheets, which are always as white as snow. We have a new kitten whose fur is white as the driven snow.
Also, ghost of a chance. An extremely slim chance, a hopeless undertaking. Both versions are most often put negatively, as in He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of finishing the work in time, or They haven't a ghost of a chance to get as far as the playoffs. The first term, now considered offensive, dates from the late 1800s when many Chinese immigrants came to work in California and were resented because they worked for lower wages. Its precise allusion is unclear. The variant, which relies on the meaning of ghost as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms fat chance; not an earthly chance.
A once thriving town that has been completely abandoned, as in Many of the old mining communities are ghost towns now. This idiom implies that there are no living people left in town. [First half of 1900s]
give up the ghost
Die, as in At ten o'clock he gave up the ghost. This expression, which employs ghost in the sense of "the soul or spirit," may itself be dying out. [Late 1300s]
not a Chinaman's chance
Also, not a ghost of a chance. See under Chinaman's chance.
white as a sheet
Very pale in the face, as in She was white as a sheet after that near encounter. This simile, dating from about 1600, survives despite the fact that bedsheets now come in all colors.
the spectre at the feastor
the ghost at the feastBRITISH
If someone or something is the spectre at the feast or the ghost at the feast, they make people feel uncomfortable because they remind them of an unhappy event or situation. At the funeral, Lindsay had stood apart, the ultimate spectre at the feast. That question was the ghost at the feast and cast a shadow over the celebrations. Note: According to the Greek writer Plutarch, the Ancient Egyptians used to place a skeleton at the table during a feast, to remind them that they would die one day.
give up the ghost
1. If you give up the ghost, you stop trying to do something, because you no longer believe that you can succeed. In Manhattan there was no Memorial Day parade this year. The organizers said they've given up the ghost after so few people came to see it last year. Even 17 points behind the leaders, the team still haven't given up the ghost.
2. If a machine gives up the ghost, it stops working. Danny's car has finally given up the ghost. This week, our water heater gave up the ghost.
3. If a person or plant gives up the ghost, they die. There was a tree at the bottom of the garden that had clearly given up the ghost a few years previously.
lay the ghost of something
If you lay the ghost of something bad in your past, you do something which stops you being upset or affected by it. Jockey Maguire laid the ghost of a terrible week with a triumphant win in the Irish Champion Hurdle yesterday. Note: You can also say that you lay to rest the ghost of something with the same meaning. Timmis seems to have laid to rest the ghost of her unhappy 1992 campaign when she failed to make the Olympic team.
white as a sheetor
white as a ghost
If someone looks as white as a sheet or as white as a ghost, they look very pale because they are frightened, shocked or ill. When I saw him his face was as white as a sheet and he was crying. She was as white as a ghost and trembling all over.
not a Chinaman's chancenot even a very slight chance.
1952 Frank Yerby A Woman Called Fancy You haven't a Chinaman's chance of raising that money in Boston.
a ghost (or spectre) at the feastsomeone or something that brings gloom or sadness to an otherwise pleasant or celebratory occasion.
The ghost or spectre of Banquo at the feast in Shakespeare's Macbeth is the most famous literary instance of this. There are other versions of the expression. A skeleton at the feast dates from the mid 19th century and probably refers to the ancient Egyptian practice of having the coffin of a dead person, adorned with a painted portrait of the deceased, present at a funeral banquet. A death's head at the feast alludes to the use of a death's head or skull as a memento mori (an object which serves as a reminder of death).
the ghost in the machinethe mind viewed as distinct from the body.
This phrase was coined by the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle in The Concept of Mind ( 1949 ) for a viewpoint that he considered completely misleading.
the ghost walksmoney is available and salaries will be paid.
This expression has been explained in theatrical phrasebooks by the story that an actor playing the ghost of Hamlet's father refused to ‘walk again’ until the cast's overdue salaries had been paid.
give up the ghost1 (of a person) die. 2 (of a machine) stop working; break down, especially permanently. 3 stop making an effort; give up hope.
The Old English meaning of ghost , ‘the soul or spirit as the source of life’, survives only in this idiom.
look as if you have seen a ghostlook very pale and shocked.
not have (or stand) the ghost of a chancehave no chance at all.
lay a (or the) ghostget rid of a distressing, frightening, or worrying memory or thought.
The image here is of exorcizing an unquiet or evil spirit.
be a shadow/ghost of your/its former ˈselfnot have the strength, influence, etc. that you/something used to have: He’d been ill for some time, and he looked a shadow of his former self. ♢ The old house, which had once been so full of life, was now just a ghost of its former self.
give up the ˈghost
1 (old-fashioned) die
Ghost in this idiom means ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’.
2 (humorous) (of a machine, etc.) stop working because it is so old: My old computer has finally given up the ghost, so I’m getting a new one.
3 (of a person) stop making an effort; stop working: She persuaded me to carry on when I was tempted to give up the ghost.
not have a ˈghost of a chance (of doing something)(informal) have no chance at all (of doing something): He doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of passing the exam this year.
The ghost of something is a very small amount that is difficult to see, hear, feel, etc.
(as) ˌwhite as a ˈsheet/ˈghost(informal) very pale in the face, because of illness, fear or shock: She went as white as a sheet when she heard the news.
tv. to kill someone. Mooshoo threatened to ghost the guy.
See also: ghost
n. a wad of lint, as found under a bed. (Use caution with turd.) There’s a lot of ghost turds under the bed.
give up the ghost
To cease living or functioning; die.
Slim to no possibility. There have been several explanations about the origin of this odious phrase, all arising from Chinese immigrants working in the American West. One is that they were given the most dangerous jobs, such as setting and igniting explosives. Another is that judges and juries routinely convicted Chinese defendants on the flimsiest of evidence. A third is that Chinese miners were allowed to work gold claims only after others had taken the best ore. In any event, “Chinaman's chance” should be relegated to the slag heap.