The Unknown Painter

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"The Unknown Painter", subtitled "A Story of Murillo's Pupil",[1] is a short story by an anonymous author that has been falsely claimed to contain the first English-language use of the word 'zombi(e)'.[2] (Zombie was spelled without an 'e' until the 1900s). The story, which is a fable about Murillo's pupil Sebastián Gómez, was originally printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal in the 1830s. It was reprinted in 1838 in the Alton Telegraph, and subsequently reprinted, with changes, multiple times in American newspapers.[3]

In fact the original version of the story[4] did not include the word 'zombi', which seems to have been added in the text and the title in later American reprints.[5] The actual first use of the word "zombi" in English, as recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1819, prior to the publication of the story.[6]


  1. ^ Text of the story
  2. ^ Clemens, Luis (15 December 2013). "Zoinks! Tracing The History Of 'Zombie' From Haiti To The CDC". National Public Radio CodeSwitch. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  3. ^ Kordas, Ann (2011). "New South, New Immigrants, New Women, New Zombies: The Historical Development of the Zombie in American Popular Culture". In Christopher Moreman and Cory Rushton. Race, oppression and the zombie : essays on cross-cultural appropriation of the Caribbean tradition. Jefferson, North Carolina, USA: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 16. ISBN 9780786459117.
  4. ^ Text of the story
  5. ^ See, e.g. the version in the "Pacific Appeal" of 5 July 1862 (accessed 23 May 2014).
  6. ^ "Zombie"[permanent dead link], in Oxford English Dictionary Online (subscription required), accessed 23 May 2014