Zombie Etymology

According to the Oxford English, zombie is a word of West African origin that comes from the words nzambi (god) or nzumbi (fetish) in the Kikongo language, which is spoken in Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and surrounding areas. . Some authors also compare it to the Kongo word vumbi (mvumbi) (ghost, revenant, corpse that still retains the soul), (nvumbi) (body without a soul). A Kimbundu-to-Portuguese dictionary from 1903 defines the related word nzumbi as soul, while a later Kimbundu–Portuguese dictionary defines it as being a “spirit that is supposed to wander the earth to torment the living”.

The term zombie or zombi originally also referred to a snake-god in the voodoo religion of West Africa. When African people were taken as slaves to Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean during the 18th and early 19th centuries, they brought their religious beliefs and practices with them.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word zombie originates from the word zonbi, used in the Louisiana Creole or the Haitian Creole. According to the Creole culture, a zombi represents a person who died and was then brought to life without speech or free will. The followers of Vodou believe that a dead person can be revived by a sorcerer. After being revived, the zombies remain under the control of the sorcerer because they have no will of their own.

Other terms for zombies in fiction


  • Shamblers (Feed)
  • Hungries (The Girl with all the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge)
  • Rotters (The Deadlands)
  • Shambler (Broken Lands [p.113]) [Ravager, p.113?]
  • Skrakes (Last Ones Left Alive)
  • Skels (Zone One)
  • Stragglers (Zone One)
  • Zoms (Rot & Ruin)
  • El Muertos (“The Crossing of Aldo Ray”)
  • Los Muertos Vivientes (Broken Lands [P.10]): Spanish for ‘The Living Dead’
  • Dead Ones (TWD): GN. Hershel calls them ‘Dead Ones’.
  • ‘Squares’, ‘suckers’, ‘saps’ (Zone One): How the character Gary refers to the dead in different ways. (p.25)



TWD = The Walking Dead

FTWD = Fear the Walking Dead

TWB = The World Beyond

WWZ = World War Z

  • Abominations
  • Ankle Biters – Zombies that do not have legs or otherwise cannot walk
  • Banelings (“Legend of the Seeker”)
  • Beaters (“Aftertime”)
  • Biters
  • Biters (TWD)
  • Blasters (Z Nation): Zombie irradiated by a nuclear reactor blast.
  • Blends (Z Nation): Half-zombie, half-human
  • Bonies (Warm Bodies)
  • Cannibal Corpses
  • Cold Bodies (TWD “No Sanctuary”)
  • Cranks – people infected with the Flare (The Maze Runner)
  • Crawlers- Zombies that do not have legs; another name for Ankle Biters
  • Creepy Crawlies (“The Walking Dead” video game)
  • Creeper (TWD “Walk with Me”)
  • Crimson Heads (See VACT)
  • Deadheads (Z Nation)
  • Dead Beats
  • Dead Heads
  • Dead Ones (TWD): S5 Terminus member calls them ‘dead ones’.
  • Draggers – Zombies that do not have legs; another name for Ankle Biter
  • Eaters (FTWD, S5.E11): Wes says his brother might think he has become an ‘eater.’ Although he is lying about his brother waiting for him, he uses Alicia and Victor to return to the police station to retrieve the book manuscript a man stole from him.
  • Empties (TWB)
  • Fleshies (Warm Bodies)
  • Floaters (TWD)
  • Freakers (Days Gone)
  • G’s (WWZ): for Ghouls
  • Geeks (TWD)
  • Ghoulies (Daybreaker)
  • Ghouls (“G’s” for short)
  • Goner (Z Nation S5.E2)
  • Growlers (FTWD)
  • Guardians (TWD): The Whisper group refers to them zombies in positive terms.
  • Grabbers – zombies trapped inside abandoned cars who are still dangerous because they can reach out of the windows.
  • Hawkings (Zombieland: Double Tap)
  • Homers (Zombieland: Double Tap)
  • The Hungry Ones (TWD) S9. How the Whisperers (Alpha in the first instance) refer to zombies along with Guardians (first used by Beta).
  • Infected (28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, FTWD, and numerous others)
  • Lamebrains (TWD, S2.E8)
  • Lurkers (TWD “Walk with Me”)
  • Los Muertos (FTWD, Z Nation)
  • Meat Bags
  • Monsters (TWD, and others)
  • Mortally Challenged (Z Nation, S5.E2)
  • Mudo (“Forest of Hands and Teeth”)
  • Munchers (FTWD, S5.E12-The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX) : Sarah says: “Wen and I have been funding the pavement since before the munchers were munchin’.”
  • Necrotics (Eat, Brains, Love)
  • Noob – Any newly infected zombie; used by Todd Wainio in World War Z
  • Ninjas (Zombieland: Double Tap)
  • Parents: (“The Dead”)
  • Post-Dead Folks (Z Nation, S5.E2)
  • Puppies and Kittens (“Z Nation”)
  • Revived/Revitalized:(“The Zom-B Chronicles”) – Though, the revitalized maintain the memory of their former life and still have free will
  • Rippers (TWD) S10.E13
  • Risen Roamers (“The Walking Dead”)
  • Rotters (TWD)
  • Rots (TWD) S8E6
  • Rotters Runners – Another name for Infected
  • The Passed (FTWD)
  • Roamers (TWD, S2.E9)
  • Saifu – term used in Japan in World War Z, the Japanese name for driver ants, used by analogy (sort of like calling them “swarmers”)
  • Shufflers
  • Skels/Skeletons (“Zone One”)
  • Sickos (TWD) S9 The term used by the group introduced in season 9 that includes Connie, and Kelly, Luke, Magna, and Yumiko.
  • Skin Bags (TWD)
  • Skin Eaters (TWD)
  • Slackjaws
  • Stenches (Land of the Dead)
  • Stiffs
  • Stragglers (“Zone One”)
  • Swimmers – A bloated and waterlogged zombie
  • Stumblers (FTWD)
  • Talkers (Z Nation, S5.E1): Zombies that retain cognitive abilities. The ‘Black Rain’, George (Katy O’Brien), says it’s on account of their souls remaining conscious even though their bodies have died: “The dead don’t just walk. Now they talk.” Talkers are possibly in between Zs and Human
  • Tin Cans – Zombies in riot gear or any metal armor
  • Them (HOTD)
  • The Living Dead
  • The Resurrected (“Z Nation”)
  • Those things (Night of the Living Dead): This is the most used reference to the zombies.
  • The Walking Dead
  • T-800s (Zombieland: Double Tap)
  • Unconsecrated (“Forest of Hands and Teeth”)
  • Undead
  • Unmentionables (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”)
  • V-ACT (Resident Evil)
  • Whiskey Delta (Left 4 Dead)
  • Zachs/Zacks (WWZ)
  • ZQN (“I am a Hero”)
  • Walkers (TWD, FTWD)
  • The Wasted (TWD) S6E15
  • White Walkers (Game of Thrones)
  • Z’s (Z Nation)
  • Zed Heads (WWZ)