Most likely origin is from voodoo and other primitive religions or magical practices of West African and Caribbean origin, where the word describes a dead person that is brought back to life, but in a ghoulish, sub-standard format, mute and without any brains or free will, usually for nefarious purposes. Synonyms are the undead or the walking dead. Many African languages have similar words e.g. nzumbe in Bantu meaning ghost. The first known usage for zombie is from c. 1871, but its figurative use to describe any listless person is from the 1930s.