What is the origin of the word ‘zombie’?
As most of us are aware, a zombie is a corpse without a soul which people believe has been brought back to life by witchcraft or other supernatural means, and the origin of the word ‘zombie’ shows us why this is. The idea of zombies originated in the religion of some West African peoples, and it’s to that continent we must look to find out more about the word’s background.
The Oxford English Dictionary informs us that zombie is a word of West African origin and that it was first recorded in English in 1819. It’s related to the words zumbi (meaning ‘fetish’) and nzambi (meaning ‘a god’) in the Kikongo language, which is spoken in Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and surrounding areas. The term zombie or zombi originally also referred to a snake-god in the voodoo religion of West Africa. When these peoples 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. The idea of the zombie then gradually spread through the USA and Europe, fuelled in the 20th century by fiction, the cinema, and television.
《牛津英语大辞典》（The Oxford English Dictionary，简称OED）中首次引用zombie一词是在1819年，Robert Southey的History of Brazil一书中：“Zombi, the title whereby he [the chief] was called, is the name for the Deity, in the Angolan tongue… NZambi is the word for Deity”。该词发音源自刚果周边土著语言，与zumbi（物神）和nzambi（神）相关，最初指西非巫毒教蛇神的名字。在十八世纪和十九世纪早期，西非地区的人们被当作奴隶贩卖至海地和加勒比其他地区，他们也带来了宗教信仰和传统。僵尸的概念随后逐渐传遍美国和欧洲。
Zombie的现代概念最初由记者William Seabrook引入美国主流文化，他在1929年出版的The Magic Island中详细描述了海地巫毒教奴役僵尸这一耸人听闻的经历。该小说随后在1932年被改编成电影White Zombie，电影中的僵尸机械地由巫师操控。1968年，乔治•A•罗梅罗（George A. Romero）执导了僵尸史上具有里程碑意义的电影《活死人之夜》（Night of the Living Dead），罗梅罗执导下的僵尸没有理性思维，苏醒后喜欢咬人，人被僵尸咬伤后，会被感染成为僵尸；僵尸行动缓慢，步履蹒跚，暮气沉沉，明显缺乏协调性。该片提出的僵尸概念被后世的僵尸片所接受和推崇。
Nowadays, zombies are so firmly ensconced in our minds that the word has gained a range of meanings. It can now also refer to:
- a person who is very slow-witted or completely unresponsiveto their surroundings;
- a type of cocktail, made with several kinds of rum, liqueur, and fruit juice;
- a computer that is controlled by another person without the owner’s knowledge; such computers are used for sending spam or other illicit online activities;
- a zombie bankis one which is insolvent, but which is able to continue to operate because it has government support.