A ghoul is a folkloric monster associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh, often classified as but not necessarily undead. The oldest surviving literature that mention ghouls is likely One Thousand and One Nights. The term is first attested in English in 1786, in William Beckford's Orientalist novel Vathek, which describes the ghūl of Arabian folklore.
The Arabian ghoul is a desert-dwelling, shape shifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary travellers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, robs graves, drinks blood, steals coins and eats the dead, taking on the form of the one they previously ate.
In the Arabic language, the female form is given as ghouleh and the plural is ghilan. In colloquial Arabic, the term is sometimes used to describe a greedy and/or gluttonous individual.