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90s Slang You Should Know


[spook] /spuk/
Informal. a ghost; specter.
Slang. a ghostwriter.
Slang. an eccentric person.
Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person.
Slang. an espionage agent; spy.
verb (used with object)
to haunt; inhabit or appear in or to as a ghost or specter.
Informal. to frighten; scare.
verb (used without object)
Informal. to become frightened or scared:
The fish spooked at any disturbance in the pool.
Origin of spook
1795-1805, Americanism; < Dutch; cognate with German Spuk
Related forms
spookery, noun
spookish, adjective
Usage note
When referring to a black person, the term spook dates back to the 1940s. It is used with disparaging intent and is perceived as highly insulting. Black pilots who trained at Tuskegee Institute during World War II were called the Spookwaffe. Some sources say that black pilots reclaimed this derogatory nickname as a self-referential term of pride. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for spook
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • “That spook gets snow on him, same as any human,” grinned Mac.

  • I'll round up this spook tonight for good, and then the vassal's task is done.

    The Ghost Breaker Paul Dickey
  • I could tell you some spook stories that would make your hair stand on end, but they are better told in the gloaming.

    Modern Icelandic Plays Jhann Sigurjnsson
  • I made sure it was a spook, an' there wasn't a bit o' breath left in me.

    Humorous Ghost Stories Dorothy Scarborough
  • But sure it must be, seeing you have a voice of your own, which is a thing never yet given to a spook.

    The Copper Princess Kirk Munroe
  • I know it wasn't a bloomin' spook when I 'eard 'e 'adn't asked for a drink.

    Norman Ten Hundred A. Stanley Blicq
  • No, you creep around to gain the spook over to yourselves, that it may fight on your side: you woo for the ghost's favor.

    The Ego and His Own Max Stirner
British Dictionary definitions for spook


a ghost or a person suggestive of this
(US & Canadian) a spy
(South African, slang) any pale or colourless alcoholic spirit: spook and diesel
verb (transitive) (US & Canadian)
to frighten: to spook horses, to spook a person
(of a ghost) to haunt
Derived Forms
spookish, adjective
Word Origin
C19: Dutch spook, from Middle Low German spōk ghost
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spook

1801, from Dutch spook, from Middle Dutch spooc "spook, ghost," from a common Germanic source (cf. German Spuk "ghost, apparition," Middle Low German spok "spook," Swedish spok "scarecrow," Norwegian spjok "ghost, specter," Danish spøg "joke"), of unknown origin. Possible outside connections include Lettish spigana "dragon, witch," spiganis "will o' the wisp," Lithuanian spingu, spingeti "to shine," Old Prussian spanksti "spark."

Meaning "undercover agent" is attested from 1942. The derogatory racial sense of "black person" is attested from 1940s, perhaps from notion of dark skin being difficult to see at night. Black pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute during World War II called themselves the Spookwaffe.


1867, "to walk or act like a ghost," from spook (n.). Meaning "to unnerve" is from 1935. Related: Spooked; spooking.


1867, "to walk or act like a ghost," from spook (n.). Meaning "to unnerve" is from 1935. Related: Spooked; spooking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for spook



  1. A black person: Some are just spooks by the door, used to give the organization a little color (1945+)
  2. A spy; secret agent: Mr Wolfson isn't a spook for the CIA (1942+ Espionage)


To put on edge; make apprehensive; frighten: ''It's the first time in my life I've ever been spooked,'' says a Byrd staffer (1935+)

[fr Dutch]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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