The English word “zombie” is first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey, in the form of “zombi”. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of the word as West African, and compares it to the Kongo words nzambi (god) and zumbi (fetish).
According to Great Discoveries in Archaeology, the history of zombies dates back to 8th century. The word zombie has its roots in Kongo meaning ‘spirit of a dead person.’ The Creole shifted the meaning to someone who dies and was brought back to live without speech or free will. Interestingly, Creole shaman or voodoo priests used a powder which contains tetrodoxin, which is the toxic ingredient in the California newt or orange-bellied newt as discussed in episode 204.