Apparition, phantasm, phantom, wraith, ghost, spirit, specter, shade and revenant all mean a visible but immaterial appearance of a person or thing, especially a likeness of a dead person or of a person or thing that is not physically present.
Apparition, phantasm, and phantom all stress the illusory character of what appears to the sight.
Apparition often connotes suddenness or unexpectedness of coming.
- The patient recognized one of the women as the apparition she had seen.
While phantasm often suggests the workings of a disordered or overexcited imagination. (see also: Fancy vs Fantasy vs Phantasy vs Phantasm vs Vision vs Dream vs Daydream vs Nightmare )
- Try taking away the phantasm and the entire human contribution you sober realist.
- There are hopes that the threatened war will turn out to be a phantasm.
And phantom a dreamlike character and form without substance or shape without body or mass.
- The phantom used to appear unexpectedly, but mostly during the winter.
- The phantom of the merry-go-round is just a local superstition.
Wraith specifically denotes an apparition of a living person that appears to a friend or relative and portends the former’s death but is also used of an apparition of a dead person.
- You told me that your father was taken by the wraith.
In extended use it stresses the insubstantial and evanescent character of the apparition.
- That child flits about like a wraith.
The remaining words in their literal senses all denote an apparition of a dead person.
Ghost (see also: Ghost ship vs Ghost train and Lay someone to rest vs Lay someone’s ghost to rest ) and spirit (see also: Soul vs Spirit and Vigor vs Vim vs Spirit vs Dash vs Esprit vs Verve vs Punch vs ÉLan vs Drive) are the familiar and general terms for a disembodied soul; specter (not necessarily human) connotes more of the mysterious or terrifying.
- the ghost of her father that had come back to haunt her
- The gardens are said to be haunted by the ghost of a child who drowned in the river.
- He is dead, but his spirit lives on.
- It was believed that people could be possessed by evil spirits.
- Japanese primarily connect lotus flower and death as well as the specter world together.
- The specter of the murdered man haunted the house.
Shade usually connotes impalpability but it stresses personality rather than mode of appearance. (see also: Blind vs Shade vs Shutter and Color vs Hue vs Shade vs Tint vs Tinge vs Tone and Gradation vs Shade vs Nuance and Shade vs Shadow vs Umbrage vs Umbra vs Penumbra vs Adumbration and Touch vs Suggestion vs Suspicion vs Soupçon vs Tincture vs Tinge vs Shade vs Smack vs Spice vs Dash vs Vein vs Strain vs Streak )
- His writing benefits from the shade of Lincoln hovering over his shoulder.
Revenant, when it denotes a ghost, carries none of the implications of the other terms for a disembodied spirit except the return from the grave; it is therefore used often in straight prose or where a term without emotional connotations is desirable.
- The dead son becomes a ghostly revenant.