Not Using the Z Word

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Ed: Are there any zombies out there?
Shaun: Don't say that!
Ed: What?
Shaun: That.
Ed: What?
Shaun: That. The Z word. Don't say it.
Ed: Why not?
Shaun: Because it's ridiculous!
Ed: Alright... Are there any out there, though?


A story has creatures that are obviously based on some sort of mythological monster, but goes out of its way not to call them that.

The title comes from Shaun of the Dead, which gave this a Lampshade Hanging, as seen in the page quote: Shaun doesn't like it because it makes him nervous, but the real reason they're not supposed to say it is because they're in a zombie movie.

A subtrope of the Sci Fi Ghetto. Can be used to highlight how their monsters are different. Suppose your monsters are rotting shambling undead that want to drink your blood. Call them zombies and every casual reader's going to assume they're after "braaaaaiiinnss," while call them vampires and, well... Yeah. Of course, when it's used to force a sense of "realism" (we don't call them "zombies" because zombies aren't real), it smacks painfully of Genre Blindness. If you were confronted by what appears to be a member of the walking dead, how much effort would you spend coming up with an alternative name?

One of the more Genre Savvy reasons is that the walking dead technically aren't zombies. The proper "zombie" is a person whose higher thought processes have been removed and are under the sway of a master. This original zombie is usually the result of occult vodou magic. Some books, such as The Serpent and the Rainbow, argue that vodou practitioners actually can create zombies through a combination of drugs and cultural beliefs. "P-zombies", or "philosophical zombies", are even more convoluted—persons who don't have "experience".

Compare to Differently-Powered Individual (for superheroes), A Mech by Any Other Name (for Humongous Mecha), and Magic by Any Other Name. See also Call a Rabbit a Smeerp, Fantastic Slur, and T-Word Euphemism. When used for non-fantastic things and attributes, it may be an attempt to show and not tell.

Examples of Not Using the Z Word include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Naruto these are referred to as "Edo Tensei Reanimations."
  • Highschool of the Dead doesn't even bother making up some name for the zombies, everyone just calls them "Them". One character called them zombies, only to be corrected by another character who made it sound as though zombies are entirely different creatures from the ones the cast faces (they're not, really). It's later mentioned by one of the main characters that the word "Them" was a piece of brilliance: It becomes easier to put "Them" down if you don't think of them as anything and thus affirm their existence as former humans.
    • In the English dub, Takagi mentions it once while in the mansion, but it's the only time it's spoken. Not sure if it was a mistake on the voice actress' part, or if they accidentally had that word in the script dialogue she was reading.
  • Despite its prominence in the title, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has only used the words "Magical Girl" once, during a no fourth wall moment where Nanoha described her situation to the audience as being akin to a magical girl in the third episode of the first season. Every other time, the term "Mage" or "Knight" is used.
    • And in an example closer to the title, Nanoha has no zombies. Nanoha, however, has the Corpse Weapons known as Mariage, which are undead armies that crave human flesh that are raised by a Necromancer.
  • Chiropterans from Blood+ are a way to lampshade that they are sorta different from... Vampires. To be fair, the only things they have in common are the blood-sucking habit and the bat-like characteristics. Chiroptera is the scientific word for bats.
    • And in Blood-C they're called... Elder-Bairns.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX dub, Jaden and the others keep annoyingly referring to the zombies as "Duel Ghouls".
  • A related and slightly confusing example: in Samurai Champloo, in the episode "Lullaby of the Lost", there's a character named Okuru. To Western viewers, he seems to embody a lot of tropes that apply to American Indians. This is because he's supposed to be one of the Ainu, the native peoples of Japan. However, Japanese broadcast code is extremely strict on how the Ainu may be portrayed. Therefore, Okuru is never explicitly identified as Ainu.
    • A later episode actually features zombies as villains; despite the show being a serious Anachronism Stew (and proudly so), none of the protagonists refer to them as such. Or as anything, really. Again, the series is set well before the modern concept of a zombie was established, but this is the same show with beat-boxing samurai.
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service has to deal with corpses on a regular basis. Most of them are even animate at some point, due to the main character's ability to let the spirits of the dead briefly animate their own bodies. They are, however, never referred to as 'zombies'. 'Clients' is used instead.
  • In Chapter 47 of Franken Fran, most characters don't have any problem with the word "zombie" or the indigenous population's term for man-eating monsters in the forest that reproduce by infecting humans, but Fran suggests calling them "human-flesh-eating-syndrome-inflicted-individuals" and wants to look for a cure. It turns out Fran is right: The "zombies" are created by a brain parasite, a deathlike low-metabolism state is part of its maturation cycle, the infected could probably make a full recovery if the parasite were removed, and victims are still conscious but unable to control their actions.

Comic Books

  • The Comics Code once prevented the portrayal of zombies in comics. Marvel Comics decided to get around this by just calling them "zuvembies" instead (a term popularized by a Robert Howard story).
  • Preacher (Comic Book) has a vampire, Cassidy, who is never called a vampire (though they do in a way invoke this trope by him saying he's "the 'v' word"). This is partially due to the fact that, for quite a while, Cassidy didn't know he was a vampire (he was born before Dracula hit the big screen, and he never got to talk with the vampire who turned him). In fact, he didn't realize it until a friend of his lent him a copy of the original Dracula. However, outside of the regular series, in an all-Cassidy special where he meets another vampire, they play with the vampire image (especially the Anne Rice version) all over the place, also referencing (and pointing out the lack of) many different vampire tropes, but the closest they come to actually using the word is when Cassidy calls Ecarius a "wanker" and Ecarius asks if this is an eastern pronunciation of "Whampyre"...
  • The survivors in The Walking Dead call the zombies by a variety of names, includes "lurkers" and "roamers" (depending on the zombies' behavior) or simply "biters." They use the word "zombies" as well, but less frequently, because it's hard to take seriously.
  • In Zombies That Ate the World by Guy Davis and Jerry Frissen they are called "living impaired".
  • In Defoe, zombies are referred to as 'reeks', though Defoe himself has the title 'zombie-hunter general'.
  • In Empowered, reanimated supers really hate the "z-word."
  • In the limited series, Galacta, Daughter of Galactus there's an in-universe example; the eponymous heroine suffers from the same Horror Hunger as her father, craving the life energy of sentient beings, but sates it in ways that benefit humanity, like consuming deadly viruses in sick people. She writes on her Twitter account (yes, she does that - frequently) that she would prefer people not refer to this as "vore". Sadly, fans tend to ignore this - Galacta has infinite potential for fan works with vore.

Fan Works

  • Respawn of the Dead is what would happen if you added zombies to Team Fortress 2. Of course, The Medic, being a man of science, insists that his teammates refrain from calling victims of The Virus zombies. (They do anyway.)
  • In With Strings Attached, the word “Beatles” rarely appears in the narrative; the author refers to them as “the four.” Almost the only time the name appears is when one of the four makes a sardonic or angry reference to it, or when one of the Fans mentions it.
    • Justified in that the book is set in 1980, and the four haven't been The Beatles for ten years, and the author isn't trying to reunite them in that way.
  • Futari wa Pretty Cure Dragon never refers to qipaos in-story, even in the narration, using that term; the Qipao is always referred to as a "Chinese dress" or something similar.


  • No one in Cloverfield mentions the words "Godzilla", "King Kong", or even "Monster", which would be the logical words anyone would utter upon seeing the creature. Not immediately, though.
  • Shaun of the Dead not only names the trope, but enforces it; later in the film, when David says Barbara's "turning into one of those zombies", Ed angrily shouts "We're not using the Z-word!"
  • Night of the Living Dead never calls them zombies. It does call them "ghouls" in a newscast. According to The Other Wiki, George Romero never thought of them as zombies, despite the movie becoming the Trope Maker for the modern Zombie Apocalypse. It was made at a time when 'zombie' still referred to someone under the spell of a voodoo priest. Although there may have been some passing references to reanimated corpses as zombies in earlier films, it wasn't a general term for them yet.
    • The second movie, Dawn of the Dead, uses the word "zombie" only once. A policeman who mentions his grandfather was a Trinidadian voodoo priest offhandedly calls them as such, but only in one scene.
      • Dawn of the Dead was titled Zombi in some countries. Along with Lucio Fulci's Zombie/Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters, this probably cemented the idea of calling the undead "zombies". The term was also largely averted in other 1970s living dead movies such as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue/Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things.
    • In Land of the Dead, where Dennis Hopper in particular uses it on a couple of occasions. Presumably, at this point in the series, everyone is sufficiently jaded about their situation to finally slap on a label.
    • But in Survival of the Dead, they call them "deadheads" or "assholes".
  • Justified in-character example: In Return of the Living Dead, a character who phones 911 doesn't admit that the attackers are animated corpses, realizing his pleas for help will be dismissed as a prank if he does. He claims that they're people who've gone Ax Crazy ("It's a disease, it's like rabies, only it's faster, it's a lot faster...") instead.
  • Death Becomes Her. No one in the film mentions zombies, but director Robert Zemeckis openly admits in interviews it's a zombie film, albeit glamorous literally Hollywood zombies.
  • Averted in the book I Am Legend by baldly calling a vampire a vampire throughout the narrative, as it was written over a decade before Night. It's not hard to see why, at least in the old black-and-white movie; they're undead, they shamble, they lack proper diction, and they have the intelligence of a rotting cabbage. They have all the weaknesses of vampires, and all the weaknesses of zombies. Film adaptations of the novel never use the word, preferring vague euphemisms. This may be because they're more often treated as zombies due to the more modern concept of a Zombie Apocalypse instead of a Vampire Apocalypse, and the fact that the movie version are less like vampires. The one with Will Smith goes so far as to totally omit the existence of any monsters in the movie from most of its trailers. Additionally, the writers felt "vampire" was too corny, so they called them "darkseekers".
  • The Resident Evil movies never use the word zombie, instead opting for "infected". This doesn't make much sense because, although the games have a wide variety of non-zombie enemies, the movies only have zombies of various stages (except for Tyrants and Crows).
  • Twenty Eight Days Later calls them the Infected. This has resulted in rather nerdy arguments on the Internet on whether they are actually zombies or not.
    • There is an explanation though, as originally they intended to have the condition reversible by replacing the blood of the infected. Thus they weren't dead nor are these undead, since they demonstrated they could die of hunger. They are not rotten too.
    • The exact same is also true of the zombies (or not) in the movies The Crazies and [[[REC]]].
    • It's worth noting though that during the sniper scene in 28 Weeks, one of the soldiers said something about "2 fucking zombies." They actually do use the Z word.
  • The movie Ultraviolet directed by Kurt Wimmer, which is unrelated to the series but also features vampires, refers to them as "hemophages".
  • They always call the Aliens "serpents" and the Predators "hunters" in the Alien vs. Predator movie. In-universe, the Aliens are officially known to humans as Xenomorphs, although the nickname "Bugs" is more common (a minor character in Alien3 calls them "dragons"). Likewise, when the Predators are used as viewpoint characters in the Expanded Universe books, they refer to themselves as "yautja", though it's unlikely any humans know this (the Predators also refer to the Xenomorph as "kainde amedha" -- "hard meat"—and humans as "pyode amedha" -- "soft meat". Don't use the H word!)
    • For the record: the term "Xenomorph"—basically meaning "strange shape", although for taxonomic purposes you might put it as "strange/foreign/alien body"—is official to fans, but it was made very clear that humans had never encountered them before the Nostromo incident, therefore they had no classification at the time; Lt. Gorman was using "Xenomorph" as a placeholder term for the then-unidentified species.
    • The Aliens have also been referred in the role playing game materials by a Latin species name, Linguafoeda acheronsis - literally "vile tongue of Acheron". The "Alien Quadrilogy" DVD menus, on the other hand, refer to them as Internecivus raptus - literally "murderous thief".
  • Planet Terror had "sickos", brain-eating bubbly-skinned not-quite-zombies.
  • The Underworld films call their vampires vampires, but their werewolves are called lycans, which, while it makes sense as a shortening of 'lycanthrope', does make them sound like lichens, that thin layer of green moss and fungus that grows on rocks. That being said, most of the movies are from the perspective of a vampire and someone who was part of neither society. In the third film/prequel we learn that a lycan is a specific kind of werewolf.
    • Word of God has it that one of the conditions for the real life Mob allowing the film to go ahead was that the word "Mafia" should never appear in the screenplay. However, there was only one instance of it in the first place, so it was hardly a dramatic edit.
  • The Hamiltons never uses the word vampire; through most of the movie, it isn't even clear that that's what the story is about.
  • In From Dusk till Dawn, an argument begins over whether the creatures they were fighting are technically vampires. Played with at the end of the movie:

Carlos: What were they, psychos?
Seth: Did they look like "psychos"? Is that what they looked like? They were vampires! "Psychos" do not explode when sunlight hits them, I don't give a fuck how crazy they are!

    • The monstrous, rapid transformation is more typical of zombie films than of vampire stories. Quentin Tarantino himself has said that a zombie movie was what he had in mind.
  • Subverted in 30 Days of Night, where one character asks "if they aren't vampires, then what the hell are they?" after being told it's ridiculous to assume that the monsters are exactly that.
  • The vampires of Near Dark are never referred to as vampires, despite the blood-drinking, extra strength, lack of aging and general vampire-ness.
  • In Steven Spielberg's version of |The War of the Worlds the characters go out of their way to avoid describing the clearly alien invaders as "aliens".
  • Superhero movies sometimes do this also.
    • Iron Man in which the term "Iron Man" wasn't used until after nearly everything was over (and the hero was named by the media, not Tony Stark).
      • This film is, however, one of the only Superhero movies to actually use the "s-word". Surprisingly, most super hero movies avoid using the term "super hero". This could possibly be because the writers felt the term was ridiculous or more likely, because most superhero movies function under the The Only One trope. There is no sense in naming an entire group of people if there is only one guy who fits the term.
    • X2, Lady Deathstrike was never named (except in the credits).
    • In Spider-Man 3 the codenames of the three villains: Venom, Sandman, and Neo-Goblin (Harry's villain name according to merchandising) are never used. Instead, they are Eddie, Baker, and Harry.
    • The straight-to-DVD animated The Invincible Iron Man movie was an even worse offender. His name is never used, and when mentioned in some Chinese prophecy, he's referred to as "The Iron Knight."
    • The Dark Knight Saga seemed to pointedly avoid the "Two-Face" moniker, even to the point that they were calling him "Harvey Dent" in the promotional materials and even the credits (which list him as "Harvey Dent" and not "Harvey Dent/Two-Face"). He is referred to as "Harvey Two-Face," once (referring to an old nickname), before everyone goes back to calling him Harvey Dent.
      • This is done on purpose, alluding to the fact that they were trying to prevent Harvey from becoming a villain and maintain his status as a hero to Gotham.
    • In the the Chris Nolan Batman films, Batman's Vehicle is never called the "Batmobile" because it would sound too silly.
      • As opposed to "Batpod" which doesn't sound silly at all...
    • In The Incredible Hulk, Emile Blonsky is only referred to by his real name, and not as The Abomination, even after his transformation. He's only referred to as "an abomination" once in the entire film, mostly as a nod to the comics. The film-makers remarked on the record that they avoided using the character's comic name because it would have sounded silly.
    • Likewise, in Captain America: The First Avenger, the main villain, Red Skull, is only called that once, and the phrase is used as an insult rather than an actual code name. All other times he's referred to as Schmidt.
    • The cosmic cube in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is called the Tesseract.
  • The protagonists of Kick-Ass talk about superheroes all the time, but the Mafia-esque villains refuse to at first. The mob bosses don't believe an underling when he claims he didn't betray them, he was framed by some guy dressed like Batman. Since at this point there are no known superheroes in the world, we can't really blame the boss for his incredulity.
    • It then becomes something of a running gag for the mob to refer to Big Daddy as Batman. To try and make it seem less ridiculous, the guy telling the story attempts to save face by saying he's not the actual Batman but someone who looks like him.
  • The word "vampire" is never uttered in Rise: Blood Hunter to describe the cult of undead blood drinkers. That's why most people who saw the trailer thought it was about some sort of Pushing Daisies-esque zombie or something.
  • In the 1998 American Godzilla remake, the word "monster" is never used. Usually, it's "that thing" or "the creature" or "target" or, at one point, "a dinosaur". In fact, the name Godzilla is only used about twice.
  • The granddaddy of the 'Don't use the "R" word' subtrope: Back in 1977, the world knew mechanical/electronic automata as pretty much just one thing: Robots. To look different, we suppose, Star Wars referred to theirs as something (at the time) different, an abbreviation of 'android' -- droid. Of course, nowadays the word is so common that non-Star Wars-based shows and movies have used it, even, and it's entirely possible that there are people out there who would recognize the word 'droid' more quickly. Moreover, 'droid' is more immediately recognizable as a term for sci-fi movie robots—few people would think to refer to an automated arm that screws bolts onto cars, a thick frisbee that sucks your carpet clean, or a plastic velociraptor with stupid legs as 'droids'. This also contains irony. Abbreviated from 'androids,' the word 'droid' should thus refer only to things that match the definition of 'android.' 'Android,' of course, means 'artificial person' (and more precisely, male artificial people) -- only of the two most famous Star Wars droids, 50% aren't humanoid at all.
    • However, the word 'droid' is a (and has been for decades) a registered trademark of Lucasfilm. One only needs to watch a commercial for a Motorola Droid phone to see the 'used with permission' fine print. If the term 'droid' has ever been used in a non-Lucasfilm movie, then the studio likely paid for the privilege.
      • Actually, the Motorola Droid was designed by George Lucas, himself. Hence, why there is a Droid R2-D2.
    • At one point in A New Hope, Luke explicitly refers to C-3PO and R2-D2 as robots.
  • The Hunger never uses V-word, despite the fact that it centers around a nigh-immortal woman who drinks blood.
  • The Sixth Sense avoids using the words "medium" and "psychic" although clearly the young Cole could be described as either. However, the ghosts of the film are called ghosts several times.
  • John Landis' Innocent Blood never uses the word vampire, but isn't merely an example of Genre Blindness as dialog and clips from classic horror movies hint that many of the characters are thinking it.
  • In [[[REC]]] the 'zombies' are never acknowledged as such, even though it's acknowledged the fact that it's a virus. There's even the suggestion that the virus is from Hell.
  • The Evil Dead series refers to its undead monsters as "deadites", a term first used by the medieval knights that Ash finds locked in combat against them. Justified in that 13th century Europeans would hardly know the word "zombie", but also an effort to emphasize that their monsters are different. The deadites, the result of Demonic Possession, can levitate, perform acrobatic feats such as cartwheels and spinning jump kicks, and possess a fiendish intelligence that gives them the heads-up on mortal enemies... not to mention great singing voices. The word "deadite" may refer to anything possessed by the spirits of the Necronomicon rather than a single creature, as it's been equally used to describe everything from possessed and reanimated humans to evil skeletons, winged gargoyles and mirror doppelgangers.
  • Bishop prefers to be called an "artificial person."
  • Legend of the Werewolf, a Hammer 1975 movie starring Peter Cushing about, you guessed it, a werewolf (not Cushing). Although Cushing and other characters talk about the probable cause of several murders, they never utter the word "werewolf" or "wolfman": "It could have been... (the other guy waits to hear the anticipated hypothesis) No, that's a preposterous idea". Besides, the wolfman's romantic interests works as a prostitute (which is an important part of the plot) and that word is not uttered either: "She told me she's a servant." "(Laughs) Yes, she does indeed serve".
  • In Leprechaun 4: In Space the Leprechaun is never referred to as such; the main characters just assume he's some kind of alien.
  • Not a mythological monster example, but it is worth noting that The Godfather (part 1) does not once use the word "Mafia," and in the novel it's based on, only people outside the syndicate refer to it as such, while Vito uses the phrase Cosa Nostra (i.e., "this thing of ours") during his speech to the bosses of the Five Families. This ties in with the fact that real-world mobsters never use the term, as far as anyone can tell who is likely to say anything about it.
    • The first member to even publicly acknowledge its existence was Joe Valachi, in October 1963.
    • American mobsters didn't really use "Mafia" or "La Cosa Nostra" to refer to themselves until they adapted those terms from law enforcement and film and television. In Italy Mafia refers to geographically specific (Sicilian) crime groups but in North America some regional differences were ignored among Italian immigrants. Also, during and after Prohibition the vast organized crime network united by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky was half Jewish, and thus preferred the ethnically neutral term "Syndicate".
  • Covered and named straight out between 5:20 and 7:00 in The Spoony One's review of the movie Quarantine, which apparently just thinks all of its zombies are "sick" and "need help".
  • Nobody in Requiem for a Dream ever says the word "heroin". Viewers are expected to realize on their own what it is three of the four main characters are addicted to.
  • The word "Transformer" is only used twice in the Transformers series, once in each film and the first film is referring to the piece of electrical equipment. Granted, the terms "Autobot," "Decepticon", and "Cybertronian" are thrown around constantly, though this might have something to do with the trademark.
    • This is probably because in most Transformers continuities, the title isn't a term Cybertronians use to describe themselves.
    • Also, Sector 7 made a point of classifying Megatron as a Non-Biological Extraterrestrial (or NBE) rather than simply filing him under "R" for "Robot".
  • In Unbreakable, the word "superhero" or variants are never used. The closest it comes is having the protagonists' son say "You think my dad's a..." only to be interrupted. However, it rather fits with the Deconstructionist aspect of the movie.
  • In the 1994 film Wolf the characters never use the word "werewolf," even though that is obviously what Jack Nicholson's character is turning into.
    • Could be to avert expectations of a traditional Hollywood-style wolfman. Since the film tends to avoid standard horror tropes and was created with an older audience in mind than most horror films are made for, it's crucial to leave out anything which suggests that their werewolves are not different.
  • Averted Trope in Zombieland. Keeping track of how many times the characters say "Zombie" is part of the drinking game.
  • Nosferatu used - well, "nosferatu" to avoid saying "vampire." This was probably to disguise the fact that it was a wholesale Captain Ersatz rip-off of Dracula.
    • It had copyright infringement problems as it was, considering that it was a more faithful adaptation of the book than any of the "official" filmed versions.
  • Justified in the zombie film Undead or Alive, as it takes place in the 1800's Wild West... well before the Z-word would come into regular use.
  • In Braindead, the one time the word "zombie" is used, the corpse of Lionel's mother immediately kills the hooligan who says it. Maybe she took offense.
  • The protagonists in Primer never refer to their time machine as a time machine, nor do they use the words time travel to describe their time travel.


  • Harry Potter's "Inferi". They're closely based on the zombies of Haitian folklore (bodies animated by magic, to do the magician's bidding). The name comes from Roman gods of the underworld, the Inferi Dei. Ironically, zombies are mentioned by name in the first book; Quirrell supposedly got rid of one and received his turban as a reward.
  • Subverted in World War Z: they had all sorts of codewords starting with Z ("Zack" was common in the U.S., a callback to "Charlie" from The Vietnam War), and when they actually did use the word "zombie" it was self-conscious, because until the Zombie Apocalypse, zombies had just been scary things from horror movies. Incidentally, the British called them "Zeds" (the European convention for the letter "Z"), and the Japanese named them after a type of ant.
  • Kit Whitfield's Bareback (Benighted in the US) is about a world where nearly everyone is a werewolf; they are referred to only as "lycanthropes" or "lycos." She discussed this in an interview, saying that B-Movies have rendered the word "werewolf" utterly unusable.
  • The vampiric narrator of Steven Brust's Agyar never once uses the word "vampire," nor does he ever explicitly describe himself feeding on blood, though he does so many times. Agyar tells the story simply to put his thoughts on paper, and therefore does not explain anything that would be second nature to himself.
  • Used for humor in Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man. Windle Poons comes back as an undead, but almost any mention of the word "zombie" in describing his condition dissolves into a debate as to whether or not he actually is one. Because to really be a zombie, you need to eat a certain root and this specific kind of fish...
    • Not to mention the fact that Zombies prefer to be called the Vitally Impaired.
      • Or the "Differently Alive." Though actually quite a few zombies don't mind being called zombies. Even Reg Shoe, the biggest undead rights activist in Ankh-Morpork, has never objected specifically to the word "zombie."
  • Green Rider and its sequels by Kristen Britain have the Eletians or Elt. They look, act, and speak like traditional Tolkienesque elves, but the author never calls them that (though considering her alternate name was "Elt", she might as well just have owned up to it).
  • In Cell, Stephen King has his protagonists calling the victims of the mystery brainwipe "phone-crazies", later "phoners". This is kind of mentioned in the main character's internal monologues; he finds himself thinking of them as zombies on one occasion, then decides that they aren't zombies because they are still alive.
  • Stephen Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series has this in the Tiste races and the Jaghut. The K'Chain Chemalle are the world's lizardmen.
  • Half lampshaded, half played straight in Daniel Waters' Generation Dead, where the term "zombie" is only used in the same way as words like "nigger" and "dyke" are in the real world: that is, it is occasionally used as a joke or jocular term of affection amongst those actually belonging to the subculture (undead kids obviously, in this case), but considered offensive for anybody else to use. In fact, one of the book's more amusing running gag concepts involves society's attempts to come up with a politically correct alternative, with them at first settling on "Living Impaired" and eventually leaning more towards "Differently Biotic". Of course, not that this really stops any of the people who are unsettled by them from calling them the Z word...
    • In Generation Dead, dead teenagers become non-deadly zombies and emo goes out of style. However, the insanely PC folks of the 'verse insist on calling the zombies "living-impaired" and don't get that zombies don't really care; they just want to live normal "lives," so to speak.
  • In Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, Silas is obviously a vampire, but the word is never used.
  • The vampires in Peeps by Scott Westerfield are pointedly not referred to as vampires, instead they're called "Peeps" which is short for Parasite-Positive. They're explicitly acknowledged to be the source of vampire legends, but the modern and scientifically literate vampires just feel self-conscious using it, probably because it sounds pretentious.
  • Explicitly parodied in the fourth book of The Dresden Files. Harry is attacked by a fairy plant monster that he insists on calling a "Chlorofiend", a term he just made up because he'd feel silly saying he was attacked by a plant monster. He does call Zombies as such though.
  • Stationery Voyagers has Mosquatlons, who consider it mildly offensive to be referred to as "vampires," though they've come to accept it. Likewise, the Aviatets are in their bird form all the time, and mildly object to the morphic slurs "werebirds" and "werecanaries."
  • Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori series centers around a secret society of Japanese assassins. The author never once drops the word Ninja. Similarly, the feudal warriors are never referred to as Samurai.
  • Saturn's Children by Charles Stross justifies this in regard to its robots—the actual term robot is considered a Fantastic Slur.
  • In Pride and Prejudice And Zombies, while no effort is made by the author/narrator to not refer to the zombies as such, the characters occasionally refer to them as "unmentionables" or "the afflicted", apparently because calling them zombies isn't proper. They sometimes do so anyway.
    • The euphemism results in a bit of Narm for readers to whom "unmentionables" means "underwear".
    • IIRC, it's set before the word "zombie" was coined.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Sun Wolf And Starhawk novel The Ladies of Mandrigyn, the Big Bad (or, more accurately, The Dragon and the Eldritch Abomination that's powering him) has a nasty habit of turning people into ghouls, or type-F zombies, or some sort of blind, slavering, mindlessly vicious freaks. However, the canon term for the process's victims is "nuuwa", and that's all that they're ever called.
  • In John Ajvide Lindqvist's Handling the Undead, a large number of recently dead people suddenly and for unclear reasons comes back to life, sort of. After some debate, the authorities decide that the official term for these people should be "the Reliving". Not everyone obey this politically correct rule and many people keeps referring to the undead as Zombies.
  • In the Torchwood novel Bay of the Dead, Gwen and Ianto initially refuse to refer to the attackers as zombies. Jack, however, is practically gleeful about it.

Jack: You know what I'm thinking, don't you?
Ianto: No, Jack. It's ridiculous. You know it's ridiculous.
Jack: On our way here we field a call from Gwen, who says that she and Rhys have been attacked by a walking corpse. And now here we are surrounded by evidence of an attack in which the perpetrators used their bare hands as murder weapons and then cannibalised their victims. What does that suggest to you, Ianto?
Ianto: It's crazy, Jack. It's horror-movie hokum. You know it is.
Jack: And you know what we're up against here, don't you?
Ianto: No, I don't. Don't say it, Jack. Don't use the-
Jack: Zombies!
Ianto: -zed word.

  • Wheel of Time Draghkar, despite having many classic vampire traits and in every appearance in the story so far have been in situations that nobody would bat an eyelash at having vampires in and only differing from classic vampires in classic stories in that they serve a darker power, are never referred to as vampires. Of course, given the nature of the world, it is reasonable to assume that Draghkar are supposed to be where we got our vampire myths from.
  • From Brandon Sanderson's works come a couple of examples- the Elantrians from Elantris and the Lifeless from Warbreaker are both pretty clearly zombies (albeit very different variations), but are never called such- indeed, the word "undead" itself is almost never used. Also, the Koloss from Mistborn aren't exactly orcs, but have a number of similarities and play a similar role in the story.
    • Word of God has stated that the people in Elantris are not zombies. In fact, he wrote a long blog post explaining why he does not consider them to be zombies. He then concluded by saying "Having said that, I have always wanted to write a zombie story." He also refers to the Elantrians as "essentially zombies" in an Annotation so make of that what you will.
  • In Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, the zombies are called "The Unconsecrated" by the people of the village fenced in by the titular forest. They mostly shamble around in a Romero-esque fashion, but occasionally some smarter, faster ones appear. Her second book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, which takes place in another village, uses the term "Mudo", a morphing of the word "mute". The last book, The Dark and Hollow Places, in a third locale, switches back to "Unconsecrated" for most people, although the main character occasionally uses the term "plague rat" (more of a "street name" than a formal name).
  • The hushu in Avatar (the sixth Indigo novel, that is).
  • Affinity Bridge contains revenants: Victorian zombies.
  • Douglas Adams' So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish contains a lampshade on this when discussing a real-life Rain God - "We can't call him supernatural, because people think they know what that means, and we can't really call him paranormal either for the same reason. So let's call him 'paranatural' or 'supernormal'..."
  • Invoked and justified in Ex Heroes by Peter Clines. It's evidently easier to accept that they're dead if they're called "Exes" as in "Ex-living" or "Ex-people".
  • In the Ravenloft novel I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin, Strahd doesn't actually know the word "zombie" until Azalin tells him what it means. Ironic, as both of these dark wizards are undead themselves, and Strahd had been casting Animate Dead spells for decades beforehand: his native language simply hadn't had a name for the results.
  • In Lies, Brittney comes back from the dead with no pulse and no need to breathe or eat. She wasn't after anyone's brains, but other than that she basically was a zombie. The Town Council establishes that the other kids aren't allowed to call her a zombie, but the term is used anyway. When Brianna uses the term to her face, Brittney replies that she's not a zombie, she's an angel. As it turns out, she's a reanimated corpse possessed by the gaiaphage. In other words, a zombie.
  • Inverted in the Myth Adventures series, in which the word "human" is virtually never used. Sentient species are referred to by terms that reflect their dimensions of origin, and "people" is a catch-all for every known-to-be-sentient race. This has the effect of making the human characters sound just as fantastical as the nonhumans, as befits a Verse where a human in a nonhuman dimension is just as much a "demon" as vice versa.
    • Well, not quite as "fantastical," as the "correct" term for denizens of the (human) protagonist's home dimension is "Klahds" (pronounced "clods" and that's definitely intentional on the author's part). Other races include Deveels, Pervects, Trolls (and their female counterparts Trollops), Jahks (pronounced "jocks"), and more - the idea being that pretty much any sentient being you might encounter is probably just a native of a dimension where everyone looks like they do, and whatever name you know them by is probably just a species name (or a corruption of one) based on the name of their home dimension.
  • In John Green's unpublished novel Zombicorns Mia hates the word zombies being used for the "Z'd up" saying that they're not zombies any more than the Spanish flu was Spanish.
  • The Old Kingdom series is heavily concerned with the undead, but never uses the familiar word "zombie". Analogues to common forms of undead would be Dead Hands (zombies), Shadow Hands (ghosts or wraiths), Mordicants (think a golem possessed by an undead spirit) and Greater Dead (liches).

Live-Action TV

  • Ultraviolet never used the word vampire. Instead, the government called them "Code 5" (that is, V). Also 'leeches' as a slang term.
  • The Doctor Who story The Curse of Fenric has undead which drank blood and are repelled by strong faith, but are never called vampires. (Another Doctor Who story, "Smith and Jones" has similarly vampiric creatures not named as such. Admittedly, they differ from vampires in some significant ways.) This was possibly because an earlier story Doctor Who, State of Decay, did have vampires called by name, and the ones in the later stories were clearly different.
    • In the Big Finish audio production Loups-Garoux, in which the Doctor meets a group of Werewolves, they're usually called "Loups-Garoux" (the French word for "werewolves"), but one character calls them "Lobos", sometimes they're referred to as "wolves", and "Werewolf" is used sparingly.
    • The television story "Tooth and Claw" has the Doctor explain that the monster is a "lupine wavelength haemovariform", but it's called a werewolf throughout. Similarly, the Carrionites in "The Shakespeare Code" are frequently called witches. The Gelth from "The Unquiet Dead" aren't called ghosts in that story, which is fair enough since they aren't actually ghosts, just gas creatures. They can also possess human bodies for a little zombie action.
    • Then you have the "Vampires of Venice" which inverts this trope by constantly saying how similar the Monster of the Week is to vampires, only for them to turn out to be not vampires but alien fish creatures.
  • The 2007 Flash Gordon series avoids referring to any of the Mongo peoples as the human-animal mashups or mythological constructs that they're based on, and by which they are known in most other adaptations. Thus, Hawkmen are "Dactyls", Lionmen are "Tuuren", Amazons are "Omadrians", and so forth. Being that it's an installment of Flash Gordon, it doesn't work. At all.
  • The Initiative in Buffy the Vampire Slayer insists on calling the various monsters they hunt "Hostile Sub-Terrestrials" or HSTs in a laughable effort to sound scientific about it, sounding suspiciously like "Aggressive Non-Terrestrials" from the dragonless Doctor Who story "Dragonfire". The Scoobies are not impressed. But then the Initiative are military. If they don't have a multiple-word phrase they can abbreviate, they wither and die.
  • Kyle XY features a main character and another character who are clones, but follow almost no cloning cliches; possibly because of this, nobody ever uses the word "clone" in the show. Until the last episode comes and they are apparently not only not clones, but show no qualms about killing actual clones, even though the description of their origins (and their identical appearances to their parents in younger days) meant "clone".
  • In an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Herc visits his old friend Vlad, who lives in Transylvania, and learns that he's changed a bit since the old days... Apart from a couple of slips, however, the script resolutely uses the term "strigoi" to describe the bloodsucking monsters ("strigoi" being yet another East European term for a vampire, but is similar to the Classic Greek term "striga").
    • "Striga" is more likely to be interchangeable with "witch" than "vampire"...not, of course, that old folktales are super-careful about such distinctions.
    • Fortunately, they're using the folklore version of Vlad and not drawing from the historical version. A 'couple of slips' for Vlad Dracul would be pretty bad for anyone within a hundred miles that so much as looked at him funny. And certainly not be Family Friendly Violence in the least.
    • Also of note are the Bacchai who show up in both Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess. Though in this case, it's more twisting the Baccai from mythology into vampires than it is avoiding a term.
  • Cylons in Battlestar Galactica are called any number of names, from "Toaster" to "Skin Job", but never robots, except in "Pegasus", in which some of Pegasus's crew members call a Cylon just that. In the miniseries, Baltar says disparagingly to Number Six "You're a Cylon. A robot."
  • Dead Set never uses the word zombie to describe its undead - writer Charlie Brooker wanted to distinguish it from more light-hearted zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead where characters use the Z-word frequently. One character does however quote "They're coming to get you Barbara!" from Night of the Living Dead, so at least they aren't completely Genre Blindness.
    • Plus Patrick directly quotes the famous "choke on 'em" line, in a tributary recreation of the scene from Day of the Dead.
  • Midway through series 2 of Torchwood, Owen is killed off and then revived through Applied Phlebotinum. The show makes it quite clear that he's still technically dead: he has no metabolism, can't eat or drink, can't heal injuries, etc. And yet, despite all the references to him being a walking dead man, no one once uses the word "Zombie".
    • Probably because calling him a zombie would be rather demeaning and would imply he's less than human. He retains his intelligence and reasoning, he's just dead.
  • Heroes is to be commended for being well into its third season with no sign of planning to use the word "mutant". Or for that matter, "superhero" or "supervillain". The Fan Nickname for people with powers in Heroes is "evolved humans", because those are nothing like "mutants" (of course, granted, "metahuman" is already taken...). And no one in Heroes has "powers", going by Heroes Wiki; they have "abilities". And no one has "super strength", they have "enhanced strength", because "super strength"... well that would be just silly.
    • Of course, Ascended Fanboy Hiro does refer to himself as a "superhero", and the characters have swapped "abilities" with "special powers" and "powers" occasionally.
    • Especially Sylar. He doesn't have abilities, he has powers. And considering how he can slice the top of your head off like it's a hard-boiled egg, it's best not to argue.
  • Sheena, Queen of the Jungle contains an episode in which the title character faces off against some mindless people who walk like the dead. When her love-interest/straight man refers to them as "zombies", Sheena and her African matron are alternately shocked and amused; apparently "zombie" is some sort of sexual term in the tribe's language.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles made a point of never ever saying the T-word out loud, despite it being the very title of the show. Then, at the climax of (possibly) the last episode, Sarah screamed it into her adversary's face. Good times.
  • In The West Wing, they don't like to use the word "recession" in the building, because the press might ask if they had been talking about a recession. Instead, they talk about bagels.

President Bartlet: So where are we headed?
Larry: Signs indicate we could be sliding toward... bagel.
(Off Bartlet's look)
Josh: Sir, Larry doesn't need a vacation, that's the word we've agreed to use in-house to avoid using the 'r' word.
Bartlet: What I need is your recommendation for keeping us out... I really don't have to call it that do I?... For keeping us out of a... thing.

  • In That Mitchell and Webb Look no one in the quiz show broadcast uses the word zombie to describe Them. This may be because they've forgotten what it means.
  • In The Walking Dead, the main characters refer to zombies as "walkers" or "geeks."
    • Word of God states that this is because The Walking Dead exists in a universe where "zombies" never became a pop-cultural phenomenon, so people would not generally know the term (unless they had a trivial knowledge of voodoo). Because there's no easily recognizable equivalent in their universe, each group of survivors tends to call them different things. We've got "walkers," "geeks," "roamers," "lame-brains"...
  • The Event places bizarre importance on using the term "Eebies" (Extra Terrestrial Biological Entities) and not "Aliens". Because "Aliens" makes the series hard to take seriously, whereas Eebies naturally lends a sense of seriousness and significance to the proceedings.
  • Lampshaded in S3E3 of Being Human (UK). '...or they were hiding a zombie.' 'Oh christ, are we really gonna call her that?'
  • Henry from Sanctuary doesn't like it when he's referred to as a werewolf.

Henry: Yeah, we don't use the 'W' word around here.
Will: Oh, right, right. It's, uh, HAP.
Henry: It's a hyper-accelerated protean, thank you very much.



  • The Creature Feature song Aim For the Head is based on the film Night of the Living Dead, and as such uses the term "ghoul" instead of zombie.
  • The zombies in Chiodos' Those Who Slay Together Stay Together are only ever referred to as "the infected".

Newspaper Comics

  • Candorville justifies this in a humorous fashion regarding its "fangs": "Copyright issues. Lawyers would get involved."

Tabletop Games

  • The tabletop game Unhallowed Metropolis, set in a nightmarish future London (while, in a twist, keeping the victorian setting from before the outbreak of the plague alive) where the dead do not always rest quietly, uses various terms for them, and Zombies is only one of them. The standard term is "animates", mortus animatus is the scientific name, and the term ambulatory dead is also sometimes used.
  • The World of Darkness games are a somewhat odd case: each of them uses the particular creature's common name as the title of the game ("Vampire", "Werewolf" etc.) but those names are largely avoided in the actual text and even more in the parlance of the creatures themselves. Vampires are "Kindred" or sometimes (in Vampire: The Masquerade) "Cainites." Werewolves are "Garou" in Werewolf: The Apocalypse (or "Uratha" in Werewolf: The Forsaken), and so forth.
    • They acknowledge the stereotypical terms, but use them about as frequently as we refer to ourselves as "hominids" and for similar reasons.
    • In the case of vampires, this is explained as them wanting to sound more refined than they actually are, a sort of denial. One sourcebook describes using the word vampire in a meeting of the more "civilized" Kindred as being akin to shouting "motherfucker" in church.
    • The trope is incompletely sustained, but justified where it is. Vampires know they're vampires, werewolves know they're werewolves, everyone else in on the Masquerade knows they're vampires and werewolves. But they call themselves by something more flattering and the others more insulting. Vampires, for instance, tend to call werewolves and mages "lupines" and "warlocks," whereas those groups might call vampires "bloodsuckers" or "leeches". The same thing extends to humans; few people refer to themselves and others as 'humans', and the vampire label them the more condescending 'kine'.
    • Promethean: The Created establishes that the name used for the Walking Wasteland supernaturals that are the game's subject is mostly just for-the-players's-convenience shorthand, and that most of the titular species wouldn't even recognize the term. There are simply too few of them for the Created to have an accepted species name.
  • Due to a religious flap about the presence of demons and devils in the game, Dungeons & Dragons was forced to refer to the inhabitants of the Abyss and the Inferno as "Baatezu" and "Tanar'ri" for many long years. And then they tried to return and ended up with a mix of both. As one of narrators in "Hellbound:The Blood War" put it:

Most berks think that the Blood War's nothing more than the battle between dem-- no, wait. That ain't the right word. For one thing, it's a sure road to woe. Calling the fiends by the d-words is no better than insulting any other group of folks because of the way they look or act. Not only does it infuriate them, it marks the speaker as a crass boor, someone to be shunned (or killed). Might as well call a bariaur a randy goat, or a slaad a slimy toad. It's a mark of ignorance, plain and simple, and it'll paint a body to be as Clueless as they come.
When speaking of the evil creatures that fight the Blood War, just call them "baatezu" and "tanar'ri", or "the fiends." Or call them nothing at all; that way, a body's not as likely to draw their attention.

    • Though, in 3rd Edition and beyond, they're back to being demons (tanar'ri) and devils (baatezu). Though both terms are used in places and almost interchangeably, as the majority of demons belong to the Tanar'ri race, and most devils belong to the Baatezu race.
    • Technically, it's not the same: "demons" and "devils" are collective nouns the Clueless (Prime mortals) use for "Chaotic Evil fiends" and "Lawful Evil fiends", while "Tanar'ri" and "Baatezu" are names of races, dominant on their respective planes. There are other chaotic and lawful fiends: a Quasit and Bebilith are Chaotic Evil fiends from Abyss, but not Tanar'ri. On the other hand, a Chaotic Neutral or True Neutral (20%) Alu-fiend who was born on Prime and never left it—definitely a Lesser Tanar'ri, but calling her "demon" would stretch the term a lot.
  • Magic: The Gathering encountered a similar problem as D&D did several years into its rise to power; for many years, cards which depicted a horrible monster from the Underworld were "Beasts" or "Horrors" without fail, and never too closely resembled the demon stereotype. At about the same time, images such as "Unholy Strength"'s flaming pentagram disappeared, and this was later Handwaved as a choice to "avoid using real-world iconography in our fantasy universe". A few of the creature-type changes have since been Retconned. Lampshaded in Unglued, where Infernal Spawn of Evil has the type Demon crossed out with Beast scribbled in. (Wizards of the Coast have since realized that the game is popular enough to ignore such silliness, and demons now appear in almost every set. They even released a duel deck set for "Divine Vs. Demonic.")
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game, any card in the "Demon" archetype becomes an "Archfiend" for its US release.

Video Games

  • The enemies in Killing Floor are referred to officially as Specimens. Another in-universe name for them is Zeds, but no one who plays the game actually calls them that.
  • The Resident Evil games do use the term, quite a bit. There's even a moment in the fourth one where Leon observes the villagers trying to kill him aren't zombies, appearing perfectly human (if rather pale) and interacting intelligently with one another, and the first Majini Chris Redfield or Sheva shoots in the fifth, Chris notes that they don't move like any zombie he's ever seen.
    • Totally averted in all the rest of the pre-Remake games: Everyone calls them zombies without hesitation or qualification. Except for Marvin, who refers to them as "zombie-like creatures". Most games that feature zombies made after Remake will have common folks refer to them as "monsters", while those with more knowledge will call them B.O.W.'s (Bio-Organic Weapons). This name is perhaps the only example sillier than the term zombie itself, seeing as biological and organic are synonyms, and saying BOW takes longer. Then again, it may be justified in that BOW encompasses more than just the humans—it includes the crocodile-like creatures, bats, snakes, etc. 
    • Although they are the least zombie-like in the new series beginning with 4 and 5, as Capcom wanted to move away from the old "Romero-style slow zombies with a few mutated bosses" set up and moved to the "normal people just converted by Las Plagas" approach. This also marked a Genre Shift from survival horror to action, though Resident Evil 5 does very briefly bring Zombies back into the mix; and after going two games without them, it's actually surprising again when they grab you.
    • [ResidentEvil:Revelations\] ditches the word "Zombie" almost completely, as Jill and Parker generally refer to the zombie-ish Oozes as simply "things" or "infected" - this gets rather odd, as none of the monsters they encounter have their actual names (ie Ooze, Sea Creeper, Scagdead) ever said. The only exceptions to the Z-word is when Jill calls Rachel a zombie.
      • Characters not on the Queen Zenobia generally refer to the enemies they face as, again, B.O.W's, although they'll occasionally call Hunters by their actual name.
  • Fallout 3 hosts a form of radioactive human mutants called "Ghouls" in the post-WWIII nuclear wasteland, coming in intelligent, civilized and mindless, flesh-eating (but god, not slow) and arm-chewing forms. Because of the latter form, people keep calling the intelligent ones zombies, leading to situations where uttering the Z-word around normal Ghouls is about as smart as removing the safety pin on a hand grenade and not throwing. In fact, calling a Ghoul a zombie is on par with using the "N-word" around black people. "Three Dog", the DJ of one of the Game's Radio stations called "Galaxy News Radio", uses a "Public Service Announcement" to point out that the intelligent ghouls aren't zombies and explains that they are human, but also goes on to say that the feral ghouls that live in the sewers and other dark places "are just mindless zombies, so kill as many as you damn well please".
    • There's one side-mission called "You Gotta Shoot Em In The Head" where a ghoul named Mr. Crowley tells you to go kill 4 characters you've probably met in your travels and take a key from them as proof because they're ghoul haters. He specifies that you need to take them out with head shots because these guys see ghouls as nothing more than zombies, so you might as well kill them with the method most used to kill zombies as a karmic death. This turns out to be a lie and he really just wants the keys so he can enter a locked area and get some rare armor. The 4 characters are 3 guys he worked with as a mercenary and their boss (who actually is a ghoul hater). Crowley's pissed off at them for supposedly leaving him to die when the mission went south, which lead to him becoming a ghoul.
    • Of course, in Fallout 1 and 2, they never are actually referred to as zombies. Probably as 1 and 2 had a dearth of the mindless, flesh-eating variety.
  • In Parasite Eve 2, Eve is never referred to as a clone.
  • In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, characters rarely use the D word as slang for D-Constructs, despite its presence in the game's title.
  • The Boktai series is a rather strange example, where while ninety percent of the time its antagonists are referred to as "Immortals", the game still manages to slip in the occasional "Vampire". The Spiritual Sequel, Lunar Knights, makes the terms completely different, however. Vampires are vampires. Immortals are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • The open-source strategy game Battle for Wesnoth calls its zombies "walking corpses", which makes sense, given the term "zombie" would not have existed in the medieval setting used. One scenario in an included campaign even parodies the Shaun of the Dead "zed word" exchange mentioned above. It makes a little less sense when a Walking Corpse kills and reanimates a mounted unit. You then get a new mounted "walking corpse" that never walks.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, when the French mercenaries in South America have their nanomachines repressed, causing emotion, guilt, and reason to flood back into their brain, they are heavily brain damaged, to the point where they feel no pain and shamble about and attack like Romero zombies. Despite being a nerd, Otacon says "things" instead of "zombies".
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Vamp is a pale-skinned immortal who can perform superhuman physical feats and loves drinking human blood. He's insultingly called a 'vampire' a couple of times by Raiden, but Snake just calls him a 'freak', and his name is actually a reference to his sexuality.
  • The roguelike Castle of the Winds uses "Walking Dead" instead of the Z word.
  • Robots are "Synthetics" in Mass Effect.
    • In the instance of reanimated corpses, you have either the Geth-transformed Husks or the plant spore mind-controlled Thorian Creepers, both of which shamble around fairly similarly to other undead specimens.
    • The Codex does point out that various "synthetic rights" groups have successfully lobbied to have "artificial" lifeforms be dubbed "synthetic" instead of "robot" or similar.
    • Might be a Genius Bonus. The origin of the word is from the Czech word for "work", first used in this context by one Czech sci-fi author.
  • In The Elder Scrolls demons are "Daedra". In Arena they were called Daemons, but there was only one variety of them, "Fire Daemons." They were renamed as Daedra in Daggerfall as the backstory settled, then a type of Daedra inherited the name of the abandoned man-made golems, Atronachs, in Morrowind.
    • Zombies are still zombies, though. And vampires are still vampires.
      • Zombies are called Bonewalkers in Morrowind, but this is explicitly described as a regional variation, with 'Zombie' being the common western term and 'Bonewalker' being the Dunmeri term. There are creatures called Zombies in Vvardenfell, but the Ash Zombies aren't all that zombie-like, or even undead.
      • In Skyrim, the word "zombie" is used, but it's for temporarily-risen bodies that crumble to dust after a while and generally look the same as they did when they were alive. The more traditional rotten shambling corpses are "draugr".
    • I think official canon still recognizes "demon" as a word used to describe daedra, but is considered inaccurate by scholars. Sort of how the singular of "daedra" is "daedroth," which is also the name of the giant, bipedal lizards that spit fire/poison. It shows a lot of dedication when the writers are willing to include in-universe linguistic errors.
    • Interestingly, the as-yet unseen continent of Akaviri does seem to have "snow demons" called Kamal, that are completely independent from daedra. Whether or not they actually exist or are anything like how they're described in the scarce texts they appear in is up for some discussion.
    • "Daedra" in general seems to be retconned into a term meaning a divine creature. Note that divine doesn't necessarily mean good, but in another plane of existence. For instance, there are 16 Daedra "Princes", some of them may have agreeable values as you, and hence may seem like they're "good", while a good number of them do represent "disagreeable" acts, in particular, Mehrunes Dagon (Prince of Destruction) and Molag Bal (Prince of Corruption).
    • "Daedra" basically means "Not our ancestors", referring to the fact that those entities did not self-sacrifice to form or become bound to the Mundus, the plane of existence that the planet Nirn, and thus the continent of Tamriel is in. Since they didn't take part in generating so much creatia, they have a bit of a Creative Sterility problem.
  • Dead Space does not have 'zombies'. It has Necromorphs ( = dead form).
  • Valve's Zombie Apocalypse Co-op shooter Left 4 Dead lampshades this in its first TV spot, viewable here. Some of the random conversations and quips the characters make reference this. Francis in particular can go an almost half a campaign (5 levels) calling the Infected/zombies 'vampires' (even talking about techniques for killing vampires) before Bill gets annoyed and finally corrects him with a very firm "They're ZOMBIES, Francis!"
    • Left 4 Dead calls them Infected; though, since the game takes more after the fast zombie rather than the shambling zombie and they're not dead, it may or may not make sense. Though "infected" is the official term, the characters do refer to them as Zombies, particularly Zoey, who's very Genre Savvy, and calls "zombie bullshit" on them running that fast. Graffiti also has a little fun with this. One line says "Move during the day they only come out at night," and right below it is another saying, "THAT'S VAMPIRES MORON!"
      • According to some of the unused lines, Zoey was supposed to point out at one point that they aren't "technically zombies but infected", meaning that the survivors just call them zombies for convenience.
      • Them being referred to as infected instead of zombies was the entire reason for the sequels banning in Australia. As they were victims of a disease, the law was very clear that hurting them was unacceptable. If they had just said zombies there would be no problem.
      • Too bad it wasn't a dog (Word of God is that the infection is a mutated form of Rabies).
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth notes that Hojo objects to the use of the term "magic" to refer to the powers of Materia. But he can't offer a better explanation or word to refer to it, so no one really paid attention to him.
  • In Final Fantasy XII and the other Final Fantasy games set in Ivalice call Humans "Humes", borrowing from Final Fantasy XI. Cid never uses the term "human", when he talks about bringing "History back into the hands of Man". Maybe "Man" is used to describe every sentient races of Ivalice, but it is never really explored.
  • In a case of 'using the other M word', the term "machine" was only used once near the beginning of Final Fantasy X to clarify for players what "machina" were. The trope is later played with in Final Fantasy X-2, where certain groups start using the term "machine" to avoid the in-universe negative connotations of "machina".
  • Another Square Enix example, Humans in The Last Remnant are called Mitras.
  • Link in The Legend of Zelda games is a Hylian by race or Hyrulian by nationality. The term "elf" is never used. Like 28 Days Later, this has resulted in some fan debate about whether he is actually an elf. Also used literally, as there is a race of living dead present through many of the games who have the appearance of corpses, no intelligence, and walk in a slow shuffle, yet they are only ever referred to as "ReDeads". The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time even involves a minor Zombie Apocalypse, in which the entire of Hyrule town is infested by zombies, and we only see a small portion of its population evacuating to Kakariko. Nevertheless, all we hear is something along the lines of "Under Ganon, Hyrule became a land of monsters".
    • The status of Link and Hylians in general as elves or another species altogheter has been Ret Conned in the later Zelda games, where they are just referred a different kind of human.
    • The ReDead trophy in Super Smash Bros.. Melee clarifies that ReDeads are magical constructs made to behave and look like the walking dead as an exercise in psychological warfare.
  • House of the Dead: Overkill uses this trope early on in the game, where G corrects his partner on calling the mutant enemies zombies, spelling out the trope's title. Of course, this is done with a wink and a nod, as the game is an intentional So Bad It's Good mixup of every zombie trope in the book.
    • Also Sega Superstars crossover games avoid the words "Death" and "Zombie" all the time, so they refer to the series as "Curien Mansion" or abbreviate them as "HODT". The zombies are called "Monsters" and "Experiments" by the race commentator and the profile of the two playable characters, Zobio and Zobiko, classify their species as "Ex-Humans".
  • Fable II has zombies (reanimated, shambling dead) called "Hollow Men". Which is fair enough, since it takes place in a different world. One NPC, Sister Hannah, cracks a joke about them not truly being hollow because then they'd make a different noise when struck.
  • The first five or ten minutes or so of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines only use the term "Kindred" in place of vampire, which might give one the impression that the term is exclusively used in place of the more familiar term. However, in the tutorial, your mentor Jack casually says "Kindred, that's, uh, our word for 'vampire'."
  • The Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green video game goes to such extremes to avoid using the "Z" word, it's almost comical. Some of the more strained euphemisms the game uses include "flesh feasters", "awakened dead", and "soulless walkers".
  • The Flood in Halo are never referred to as zombies. Granted they are quite different than the standard idea of zombies to a knowledgeable observer but former allies transformed into hostile walking corpses should certainly be notably familiar to at least some humans.
  • Averted in Half-Life 2. Rebels will yell "Zombie!" whenever they see a you-know-what, and Alyx makes a few zombie puns (she calls burning one a "Zombie-que" and a zombified Combine soldier a "zombine"). Perhaps even inverted considering they're not actually the dead come to life, but living humans mutated and being controlled by the headcrabs.
  • Guild Wars not only has more traditional zombies (the undead from early-mid Prophecies and in certain Eye of the North dungeons), it has "Awakened" (Joko's underlings and, presumably, Joko himself, all of whom look more like mummies) and "Afflicted" (those inflicted with Body Horror by Shiro's plague. Not actually undead, but they act enough like zombies to qualify). They're also The Virus.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, apparently the word "soul" can't be used, so when in Mephisto's (a Captain Ersatz of the Devil) world, you'll be barraged by references of his obsession with people's "Astral Spirits", bordering into Narm.
  • This trailer for upcoming Funcom MMORPG The Secret World.

Narrator: I've seen those movies. I know what they're supposed to be called... but I refuse to use the word. They're dead people, but they're walking.

  • Mona in A Vampyre Story is adamant that, even though she can't go out in the sun, is incredibly cold and clammy, turns into a bat, and lives on a liquid diet in flavors of salt and iron, she's not a vampire. She's just cursed. (Spoiler: She's a vampire.)
  • In Tales of the Abyss, the word "replica" is used instead of "clone".
    • In Tales of Vesperia, the "Kritya" are a race of highly intelligent humanoids with long, pointy ears, have been in existence far longer than humanity, with superior technology as old as the human race itself to boot. Sound familiar? We thought so.
  • In Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, they keep using "copies" instead of "clones".
    • Kingdom Hearts, on the other hand, calls them "Replicas".
      • Justified on both counts. The word "clone" has a different connotation in Final Fantasy VII. In fact, Hollander likely specifically avoided it because he didn't want his experiments to be associated with Hojo's, which ironically didn't produce true clones. As for the Replicas, they aren't clones, they're just modified Nobodies. Since when have you ever known a clone to have a face that changes depending on who's looking at it?
      • Not quite. The Replica you're thinking of was a special case. That other Replica that was a major character actually was a clone. There were also around forty Vexen Replicas in the manga that were, by definition, clones.
  • Prototype also uses the term "infected". Most infected resemble zombies, half-rotten and shambling around, but those aren't really even dangerous to the player character. Most of the strongest ones hardly even resemble people any longer.
  • Universe At War has "Mutants". They're the classic 50's monster-movie type zombie, right down to being radioactive and transmitting their "contagion" through tgheir attacks
  • In the Red Dead Redemption DLC, Undead Nightmare, the word is almost never used despite taking place in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, instead they are referred to as the "Undead". Justified because the game takes place in 1911, before the modern zombie genre was invented.
  • Rift has your standard-issue shambling undead (although they seem to still be self-aware to some degree) who are often found in death rifts and areas otherwise corrupted by Regulos. They're called "lorn."

Web Comics

  • Robots in Girl Genius are called "Clanks," never "robots." The real world owes the word 'robot' solely to Czech author Karel Capek's play R.U.R. (from Slovak 'robota' = 'labor'), and Girl Genius is set before it was written. (Also, Capek's 'robots' are apparently biological creations rather than mechanical. Constructs, anybody?) Although the characters are all supposed to be speaking in German anyway, so Phil Foglio could "translate" it however he wanted.
    • And, naturally, Lucrezia's army of mind-controlled corpses are called revenants.
      • They're not dead. Ironically, this means that "zombie" is technically the more accurate term.
  • In spite of the ever-present supernatural elements of the setting, Gunnerkrigg Court goes over 400 pages before the first use of the word "magic". The commentary below the comic lampshades this.
  • Sluggy Freelance does this a couple of times with the "ghouls" who were revealed to be aliens who adopted human forms, and the "infected" (namely, infected with intelligence increasing insects that turn people into unusually feral geeks). Of course, it also includes straight-up, spelled-with-a-Z zombies on occasion, too, so the different names are probably to avoid confusion more than anything else. In one case, the Z-words are called "deadels" by the one who raised them. As one character argues, "Hey, when your world is ruled by an evil demon who wants to call its undead minions 'deadels', you call 'em 'deadels!'"
  • The Orphaned Series Lacunae has photosensitive bloodsuckers that are called "haemophages" or just "phages", but never "vampires."
  • Linburger always has a different word for their Demihuman races. So thus the elves are called Cyll, the Cat Girls are called Mirrakae, and the orcs are called Trokks. Granted, Catgirl would be a pretty silly name for a race.
  • Lampshaded in Dead Metaphor, a 'zombie comedy' webcomic. People call the undead 'zombies', but it's considered a politically-incorrect term, on par with calling someone a retard.
  • Sort of discussed in El Goonish Shive:

Susan: You know what? Screw it. It was a vampire. [...] Not really, but it was a monster that used to be human, hypnotized young women, and sucked blood out of their necks. It doesn't matter what I say. You two are going to hear "vampire".

  • Very, very much averted in Zombie Ranch. Not only does the in-universe show have the same title as the comic, the characters are constantly referring to the zombies as zombies. Justified by it being over twenty years since the dead first started to walk. There's no denying their everyday existence, so why make up new words?

Web Original

  • In the universe of The Descendants, there's a sort of culture war going on over using the term 'superhero'. As comic books exist in that world and there are presumably legal issues involved in using it, the media calls the real super humans emerging 'prelates' even though many of them call themselves 'superheroes' and their enemies 'super villains'. It gets better when you note the extent the series goes to to call their mutants anything but.
  • The online furry comic/graphic novel Rework the Dead and its sequel, Rework the Dead II, by David Hopkins, has zombies referred to as "Reworks"--- which makes sense as the dead are reanimated immensely stronger, faster, incredibly violent and with claws and razor-sharp fangs (Warning: this "funny animal" comic is anything but cute and cuddly).
  • To certain sects in the alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die USENET newsgroup and it's sister website The Jihad To Destroy Barney On The Web, use of It Of The Ol' One Tooth's name is blasphemous and is believed to give him power. Thus many derogatory names were invented to label that Purple Pedophile in place of the monster's name.
  • How to Write Badly Well parodies it.
  • We're Alive prefers to use terms like "biters" or simply "them."
  • Xombie
  • Averted by The League of STEAM; their zombie manservant is even named "Zed".

Western Animation

  • In the Justice League cartoons, the characters with particularly stupid names in the comics (like Amazo, Martian Manhunter, Ocean Master, and most of the Superfriends) were almost always called by other names. Amazo was actually named by Lex once, in the episode where he fires the JLU's space-cannon. He's talking to himself about his new robot body he's been building and specifically mentions the creation of the robot Amazo as his inspiration. Solomon Grundy ought to be mentioned, and he is explicitly referred to as a zombie, which leads to the exchange:

Green Lantern: Funny thing is, he's supposed to be dead.
Vixen: Aren't all zombies, by definition, dead?
Green Lantern: Uh...

    • In the episode where Lex Luthor convinces the Amazo robot to leave Earth alone, Amazo is referred to by name repeatedly.
    • Power Girl wasn't exactly in Justice League Unlimited (though she actually was in the tie-in comic series). The villainess Galatea was somewhat based on her (similar appearance, and the fact that her breasts are larger than those of her counterpart Supergirl is directly mentioned), except Galatea was an evil clone created from Kara's DNA.
    • Justice League also had "Task Force X", which wasn't referred to by it's comics name "the Suicide Squad" because, hey, it's a kid's cartoon.
      • Task Force X is actually the official name in the comics as well; it's just that the "Suicide Squad" nickname is far better-known and more commonly used.
  • The Aladdin series had a character that controlled what were obviously some form of Undead, but the words undead and zombie were never mentioned. Instead, they were always called Mamluks, which rather than being some kind of mythological creature, simply means "slave" in Arabic. While they were enslaved zombies.
    • Historically, the mamluks were the soldiers of slave origin used by Muslim rulers to fight their wars. They became a powerful warrior caste, and some did reach the level of sultan (including one named Ala'a ad-Din (Aladdin)). Therefore, it would be correct to call them mamluks, which has nothing to do with their status of being undead. Strangely enough, one of the original sources of Arabian Nights was written down in the second half of the 13th century in the Mamluk kingdoms of Syria and Egypt. However, the undead of Persia/Arabia were typically referred to as "ghuls", or "ghouls".
    • Iago does refer to them as zombies in the episode "Black Sands": "Big blue zombie at twelve o’clock!"
  • The Secret of Kells never uses the word "bible"—it's really a Gospel Book—despite being about making one. The Book of Iona/Kells is just referred to as "the book" or a sacred text.
  • In The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XX" there's is a 'muncher' outbreak started by eating infected hamburgers. Notably, the segment is mostly an extended parody of 28 Days Later, listed above.

Real Life

  • People fighting to end slavery usually refer to it as "Human Trafficking", because most people don't take the concept of modern-day slavery seriously.
    • Part of the reason for that is that the word slavery tends to imply that it's legally sanctioned. Human trafficking emphasizes the fact that it's done by criminals, like drug trafficking.
    • At the start of the American civil war, slaves that fled over to the union side were refered to in offical reports and newspapers as "contraband".
      • Because prior to the 13th Ammendment, slavery was still legal under the US Constitution. However, criminals resisting Federal authority (such raising an army against it!) could have their "property" confiscated as "Contraband".
    • Also, there are slaves who are not trafficked, and some forms of human trafficking which are thoroughly evil are not exactly slavery. One of the leading researchers in the field, Siddarth Kara, relates the story of meeting trafficked and sexually exploited women who - though technically freed - still worked the sex trade they had been trafficked into. Likewise, debt-bonded villagers in South Asia are slaves to the owners of their debts, but they are usually not trafficked into the area. Their young children, especially girls, may be trafficked out of the area. Whatever you imagine comes next, the reality is worse. Trafficking and slavery are highly related but not identical.
  • Writers of anything but media for DC and Marvel cannot use the term "Superhero" or derivative terms... on paper at least. In practice, the copyright is both relatively unenforceable and possibly illegal, but it does force people to use other terms for it in published media. See Differently-Powered Individual for some examples; though that trope and this are not directly synonymous, they overlap.