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2. a short piece of prose or verse written in honor of a dead person. — epitaphial, epitaphian, epitaphic, adj.
2. close to extinction or stagnant. — moribund, adj.
2. a list of persons who have died within a certain time. Also necrologue. — necrologist, n.
2. a form of divination through communication with the dead; the black art. Also nigromancy. — necromancer, necromant, nigromancien, n. — necromantie, adj.
- As death comes on we are like trees growing in the sandy bank of a widening river —Bhartrihari
- The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here, food for worms —Benjamin Franklin
Franklin’s epitaph for himself is a fine example of appropriately suiting the comparison to what’s being compared.
- (Kill him) dead as a beef —William Faulkner
- [Sexual feelings] dead as a burned-out cinder —Ellen Glasgow
- Death arrives … sudden as a pasteboard box crushed by a foot —Marge Piercy
- Death falling like snow on any head it chooses —Philip Levine
- Death fell round me like a rain of steel —Herbert Read
A simile from one of Read’s many war poems, Meditation of the Waking English Officer.
- Death has many times invited me: it was like the salt invisible in the waves —Pablo Neruda
- Death lies on her, like an untimely frost —William Shakespeare
- Death, like roulette, turning our wish to its will —George Barker
- Death lurking up the road like a feral dog abroad in the swirling snow —Marge Piercy
- Death, you can never tell where else it will crop up —John Hale
- Die alone like a dog in a ditch —Aldous Huxley
- Died in beauty, like a rose blown from its parent stem —CD. Sillery
- Die like candles in a draft —Sharon Sheehe Stark
In the short story, The Johnstown Polka, the simile has a literal frame of reference; specifically, a room in an old age home which is overheated because to open the windows would kill the people in it.
- Died like flies in a sugar bowl —Rita Mae Brown
- (I won’t) drown like a rat in a trap —George Bernard Shaw
- Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast flaying cloud, a flash of lightning, a break of the wave, man passes from life to his rest in the grave —William Knox
- Dying is as natural as living —Thomas Fuller
- Dying like flies —Anon
An even more frequently used variation is to “Drop like flies.”
- (I will) encounter darkness as a bride —William Shakespeare
- (You couldn’t) expect death to come rushing in like a skivvy because you’d rung the bell —Paul Barker
- Feel my death rushing towards me like an express train —John Updike
- Felt death near, like a garment she had left hanging in her closet and could not see or find, though she knew it was there —Abraham Rothberg
- Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms —Percy Bysshe Shelley
- The intimations of mortality appear so gradually as to be imperceptible, like the first graying in of twilight —Richard Selzer
- Like a clock worn out with eating time, the wheels of weary life at last stood still —John Dryden
- Like a led victim, to my death I’ll go —John Dryden
- Like sheep they are laid in the grave —The Holy Bible/Psalms
- (I now) look at death, the way we look at a house we plan to move into —William Bronk
- Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other —Francis Bacon
- Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short, but when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day —Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Passed away, as a dry leaf passes into leaf mold —John Updike
- [In old age] the shadow of death … like a sword of Damocles, may descend at any moment —Samuel Butler
- She passed away like morning dew —Hartley Coleridge
- Talking over the fact of his approaching death as though it were a piece of property for agreeable disposition in the family —Elizabeth Spencer
- There are no graves that grow so green as the graves of children —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
From a letter of condolence to W. R. Sturtevant, September 17, 1878, in which the simile continues as follows: “Their memory comes back after a time more beautiful than that of those who leave us at any other age.”
See Also: CHILDREN
- We are all kept and fed for death, like a herd of swine to be slain without reason —Palladas
- We end our years like a sigh … for it is speedily gone, and we fly away —The Holy Bible/Psalms
- Wherever you go, death dogs you like a shadow —Anon, probably dating back to before Christ.
big jump An American cowboy who dies is said to have taken the big jump.
bite the dust To die; to come a cropper; to suffer defeat; to fail. The image created by the phrase is one of death: a warrior or soldier falling from a horse and literally biting the dust. In 1697, Dryden used the phrase in his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.
So many Valiant Heros bite the Ground.
Western stories popularized the phrase in expressions such as “many a redskin bit the dust that day” (Webster’s Third). It is also said to have gained currency during World War II in R.A.F. circles. Today the phrase is used figuratively in reference to the defeat, disaster, or failure of a person or something closely associated with a person. One who is defeated is said to bite the dust, but rarely is the phrase used seriously in regard to someone’s death.
bless the world with one’s heels To suffer death by hanging. The bless of the expression carries its obsolete meaning ‘to wave or brandish,’ a meaning Dr. Johnson conjectured derived from the action of benediction when the celebrant blesses the congregation with the monstrance. In somewhat similar fashion a hanging man blesses the world with his heels.
buy it To be killed; to die prematurely as a result of a tragedy. Buy it is a witty way of saying “pay for it with one’s life.” The phrase dates from the early 19th century when it was used primarily in military circles.
The wings and fuselage, with fifty-three bullet holes, caused us to realize on our return how near we had been to “buying it.” (W. Noble, With Bristol Fighter Squadron, 1920)
Today this British slang phrase is used in nonmilitary contexts as well.
buy the box To die, or be as good as dead. Many people buy their own coffins in order to spare their families the expense and trauma of the funeral and burial arrangements. The irony of “preparing for death” probably gave rise to this irreverent slang expression, the implication being that once a person “buys the box,” he might as well be dead.
buy the farm To die; to be shot down and killed. The origin of this British slang phrase has been attributed to British pilots who were wont to say that when “it was all over,” they were “going to settle down and buy a farm.” Many pilots were never able to realize this dream because they were shot down and killed. Thus, buy the farm became a euphemism for ‘die’ because of the glaring disparity between the idealized dream cherished by the pilots and the tragic reality of the death they experienced.
cash in one’s chips To die, to pass on or away. Also cash or pass or hand in one’s checks. In use since the 1870s, this expression is a reference to the card game of poker, in which a player turns in his chips or checks to the banker in exchange for cash at the end of the game.
cross the Great Divide To die; to go west; to cross the Styx. Cross over is a euphemistic way of saying ‘to die.’ Cross the Great Divide is a longer, more emphatic, but still euphemistic way of saying the same thing. Here the “Great Divide” is being used figuratively to refer to the illusory line between life and death. At one time, the unsettled area referred to as the “West”—across the Great Divide or Continental Divide —represented the “Great Unknown,” and heading in that direction came to mean risking one’s life.
curtains See TERMINATION.
dance on air To be hanged; also dance on nothing. A person who is hanged may undergo involuntary muscle contractions. These jerky movements resemble dancing of a sort. Similar expressions include dance in the rope and dance the Tyburn jig, the latter in reference to Tyburn, a place for public executions in London, England.
If any of them chanced to be made dance in the rope, they thought him happy to be so freed of the care and trouble [that] attends the miserable indigent. (Sorel’s Comical History of Francion, 1655)
Just as the felon condemned to die …
From his gloomy cell in a vision elopes,
To caper on sunny greens and slopes,
Instead of the dance upon nothing. (Thomas Hood, Kilmansegg, Her Death, 1840)
dead as a doornail Dead, very dead, deader than dead; inoperative with no hope of repair. Many houses formerly had a heavy metal knocker on the front door. A doornail was a large, heavy-headed spike sometimes used as a striker plate against which the knocker was struck to increase its loudness and prevent damage to the door. Since the doornail was continually being struck on the head, it was assumed that nothing could be deader.
Old Marley was as dead as a doornail. (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843)
As knockers (and doornails) became less common, the word doorknob was often substituted in the expression. Other expressions such as dumb as a doornail and deaf as a doornail imply that someone is extremely stupid or stone deaf, respectively.
debt to nature Death. The implication is that life is a loan and, with or without interest, it must be paid off with death. Pay one’s debt to nature means to die. Both these expressions, common since the Middle Ages, have been used as euphemistic epitaphs on tombstones, particularly those from the early 20th century.
Pay nature’s debt with a cheerful countenance. (Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, approx. 1593)
die for want of lobster sauce See EXCESSIVENESS.
die in harness To die while working or while in the middle of some action, especially while fighting. The allusion may be to a horse who drops dead while still in harness, as a plowhorse working a field. Another possibility is that harness is used in the archaic sense of armor for men or horses, as in the following passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:
At least we’ll die with harness on our back. (V,v)
Two similar phrases are to die in the saddle and to die with one’s boots on. The latter dates from the late 19th century and formerly meant to die a violent death, especially by hanging. To die in the saddle brings to mind cavalry or mounted soldiers while to die with one’s boots on conjures up images of foot soldiers, as in the following citation:
They died with their boots on; they hardly ever surrendered. (Listener Magazine, 1959)
die like Roland See HUNGER.
feed the fishes To die by drowning.
food for worms A dead and interred body; a corpse or carcass. The source of this saying is obvious. Another expression of similar zoological origin is food for fishes, referring to one dead from drowning.
He was food for fishes now, poor fellow. (Rider Haggard, Mr. Meson’s Will, 1894)
give up the ghost To die, to expire, to breathe one’s last. Ghost refers to one’s soul or spirit, the essence of life. The expression is Biblical in origin:
But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? (Job 14:10)
go belly up An American slang expression meaning to die and float belly up in the manner of dead fish. It is used figuratively for any failure or nonsuc-cess, just as death is.
go the way of all flesh To die. This expression is of Biblical origin:
And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the Earth. (Joshua 23:14)
The phrase’s evolution to its present form with flesh substituted for the Earth is not fully understood by modern scholars. The expression appeared in The Golden Age by Thomas Hey-wood (1611):
Whether I had better go home by land, or by sea? If I go by land and miscarry, then I go the way of all flesh.
go west To expire, die. This expression, obviously derived from the setting of the sun in the west, may be traced to the ancient Egyptian belief that their dead resided west of the Nile River. In addition, whites who traveled west of the Mississippi during the frontier days were considered fair game for Indians; hence, in the United States “going west” became synonymous with dying. The use of this expression has decreased since its heyday during World War I.
I shall once again be in the company of dear old friends now ‘gone west.’ (E. Corri, Thirty Years as a Boxing Referee, 1915)
have [someone’s] number on it See DESTINY.
join the majority To die; to pass on or away. Also join the great majority, go or pass over to the majority, death joins us to the great majority. Based on the Latin phrase abiit ad plures, this expression and variants have been in use since the early 18th century.
kick the bucket To die. Although several explanations as to the origin of this expression have been advanced, the most plausible states that the phrase came from an old custom of hanging slaughtered pigs by their heels from a beam, or bucket, as it is known in parts of England. In use since 1785, this irreverent synonym for to die is popular in both England and America. Shorter variations include kick, kick off, and kick in.
leap in the dark An action of unknown consequences; a blind venture; death. The last words of Thomas Hobbes, philosopher and translator (1588-1679), are reputed to have been:
Now am I about to take my last voyage—a great leap in the dark.
make a hole in the water To commit suicide by drowning. The hole in this expression refers to a grave. To make a hole in the water, then, is to go to a watery grave intentionally. This slang phrase, rarely heard today, dates from the mid-19th century.
Why I don’t go and make a hole in the water I don’t know. (Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1853)
make [someone’s] beard See DOMINATION.
necktie party A lynching or hanging; also necktie social, necktie sociable, necktie frolic. This euphemistic and irreverent American slang expression, popularized by western movies, is an extension of the slang necktie ‘hangman’s rope.’
Mr. Jim Clemenston, equine abductor, was on last Thursday morning, at ten sharp, made the victim of a neck-tie sociable. (Harper’s Magazine, November, 1871)
[one’s] number is up A person is about to die—one is done for, one’s time has come. At an earlier date, number referred to one’s lottery number; currently, the full expression refers euphemistically to death.
Fate had dealt him a knock-out blow; his number was up. (P. G. Wodehouse, Girl on Boat, 1922)
This expression was common among American soldiers who may have been the first to use it in speaking of death.
peg out To die; to bite the dust. In cribbage, the game is finished when a player pegs out the last hole. This expression is among the less frequently heard euphemisms for death.
Harrison … was then 67 … and actually pegged out in 1841. (H. L. Mencken, in The New Yorker, October 1, 1949)
push up daisies To be dead and buried in one’s grave; also turn one’s toes up to the daisies and under the daisies. The reference is to the flowers often planted on top of new graves. The expression and variants have been in use since the mid-19th century.
sprout wings See CHARITABLENESS.
step off To die; to be married. The expression’s latter sense, often extended to step off the carpet, refers to the conclusion of the bride’s procession to the altar. The phrase’s former, more common, meaning is an allusion to the last footstep of life.
The old man and I are both due to step off if we’re caught. (Dashiell Hammett, Blood Money, 1927)
take for a ride To murder; to deceive or cheat; to pull someone’s leg. This underworld euphemism for ‘murder’ dates from the early 1900s. Gangsters first abducted their victims, then took them to a secluded area where they were murdered.
The gang believes he is getting yellow-or soft, and usually takes him for a ride…. (Emanuel H. La vine, The Third Degree, 1930)
Take for a ride also means ‘deceive, cheat’ because the driver is in a position to manipulate or trick. The expression is often used of one who leads another on and then fleeces him.
But the one who really took my friend for a ride was the electrician. He used more … cable … than … it takes to build a battle ship. (Roger W. Babson, in a syndicated newspaper column, 1951)
turn one’s face to the wall To die; more precisely, to make the final gesture of acquiescence indicating that one is about to give up the ghost. The origin is Biblical (2 Kings 22:2); when Hezekiah was informed his death was imminent:
He turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord.
The expression appears in works as varied as Narratives of the Days of the Reformation (1579):
He turned his face to the wall in the said belfry; and so after his prayers slept sweetly in the lord.
and Tom’sawyer (1876):
He would turn his face to the wall, and die with that word unsaid. (Mark Twain)
|Noun||1.||death - the event of dying or departure from life; "her death came as a terrible shock"; "upon your decease the capital will pass to your grandchildren"|
alteration, change, modification - an event that occurs when something passes from one state or phase to another; "the change was intended to increase sales"; "this storm is certainly a change for the worse"; "the neighborhood had undergone few modifications since his last visit years ago"
fatality, human death - a death resulting from an accident or a disaster; "a decrease in the number of automobile fatalities"
martyrdom - death that is imposed because of the person's adherence of a religious faith or cause
megadeath - the death of a million people; "they calibrate the effects of atom bombs in megadeaths"
exit, expiration, going, passing, departure, release, loss - euphemistic expressions for death; "thousands mourned his passing"
wrongful death - a death that results from a wrongful act or from negligence; a death that can serve as the basis for a civil action for damages on behalf of the dead person's family or heirs
|2.||death - the permanent end of all life functions in an organism or part of an organism; "the animal died a painful death"|
organic phenomenon - (biology) a natural phenomenon involving living plants and animals
cell death, necrobiosis - (physiology) the normal degeneration and death of living cells (as in various epithelial cells)
necrosis, sphacelus, gangrene, mortification - the localized death of living cells (as from infection or the interruption of blood supply)
|3.||death - the absence of life or state of being dead; "he seemed more content in death than he had ever been in life"|
state - the way something is with respect to its main attributes; "the current state of knowledge"; "his state of health"; "in a weak financial state"
eternal rest, eternal sleep, quietus, sleep, rest - euphemisms for death (based on an analogy between lying in a bed and in a tomb); "she was laid to rest beside her husband"; "they had to put their family pet to sleep"
neonatal death - death of a liveborn infant within the first 28 days of life
|4.||death - the time when something ends; "it was the death of all his plans"; "a dying of old hopes"|
lifespan, lifetime, life-time, life - the period during which something is functional (as between birth and death); "the battery had a short life"; "he lived a long and happy life"
grave - death of a person; "he went to his grave without forgiving me"; "from cradle to grave"
end, ending - the point in time at which something ends; "the end of the year"; "the ending of warranty period"
birth - the time when something begins (especially life); "they divorced after the birth of the child"; "his election signaled the birth of a new age"
|5.||death - the time at which life ends; continuing until dead; "she stayed until his death"; "a struggle to the last"|
|6.||Death - the personification of death; "Death walked the streets of the plague-bound city"|
|7.||death - a final state; "he came to a bad end"; "the so-called glorious experiment came to an inglorious end"|
state - the way something is with respect to its main attributes; "the current state of knowledge"; "his state of health"; "in a weak financial state"
|8.||death - the act of killing; "he had two deaths on his conscience"|
destruction beginning, rise, growth, emergence
"Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" Bible: Genesis
"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" [John Donne LXXX Sermons]
"To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead" [Samuel Butler Notebooks]
"Death, the most dreaded of evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist" [Epicurus letter to Menoeceus]
"One dies only once, and it's for such a long time" [Molière Le Dépit Amoureux]
"Anyone can stop a man's life, but no one his death; a thousand doors open on to it" [Seneca Phoenissae]
"Death hath ten thousand doors"
"For men to take their exits" [John Webster The Duchess of Malfi]
"After the first death, there is no other" [Dylan Thomas A refusal to mourn the death, by fire, of a child in London]
"Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honour aspireth to it; grief flieth to it" [Francis Bacon Essays]
"Fear death? - to feel the fog in my throat,"
"The mist in my face" [Robert Browning Prospice]
"Death never takes the wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go" [Jean de la Fontaine Fables]
"If there wasn't death, I think you couldn't go on" [Stevie Smith]
"My name is Death: the last best friend am I" [Robert Southey The Curse of Kehama]
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Bible: I Corinthians
"Fear of death is worse than death itself" [William Shakespeare King Lear]
"I have been half in love with easeful death" [John Keats Ode to a Nightingale]
"How wonderful is death,"
"Death and his brother sleep!" [Percy Bysshe Shelley Queen Mab]
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" Bible: Psalm 23
"Death be not proud, though some have called thee"
"Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so" [John Donne Holy Sonnets]
"We all labour against our own cure, for death is the cure of all diseases" [Thomas Browne Religio Medici]
"Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other" [Francis Bacon Essays]
"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval" [George Santayana Soliloquies in England]
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes" [Benjamin Franklin letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy]
"Death is the great leveller"
to be in at the death (Hunting) → ver el final de la caza
it will be the death of him (lit) → será su perdición
you'll be the death of me (fig) → vas a acabar conmigo
till death us do part → hasta que la muerte nos separe
this is death to our hopes → esto acaba con nuestras esperanzas
it was death to the company → arruinó la empresa
death to traitors! → ¡muerte a los traidores!
a fight to the death → una lucha a muerte
to fight to the death → luchar a muerte
to catch one's death (of cold) → coger un catarro de muerte
to be at death's door → estar a las puertas de la muerte
to hold on like grim death → estar firmemente agarrado (fig) → resistir con la mayor firmeza
to look like death warmed up or > warmed over (US) → estar muy demacrado, estar hecho una pena
to death: to be bored to death → estar muerto de aburrimiento
it frightens me to death → me da un miedo espantoso
to put sb to death → dar muerte a algn
to sentence sb to death → condenar a algn a muerte
I'm sick to death of it → estoy hasta la coronilla de ello
he's working himself to death → trabaja tanto que va a acabar con su vida
he works his men to death → a sus hombres los mata a trabajar
it worries me to death → me preocupa muchísimo
death blow N → golpe m mortal
death camp N → campo m de exterminio
death cell N → celda f de los condenados a muerte
death certificate N → partida f de defunción
death duties NPL (Brit) → impuesto m de sucesiones
death house N (US) → pabellón m de los condenados a muerte
death knell N → toque m de difuntos, doble m
it sounded the death knell of the empire (fig) → anunció el fin del imperio, presagió la caída del imperio
death march N → marcha f fúnebre
death mask N → mascarilla f
death penalty N → pena f de muerte
death rate N → tasa f de mortalidad, mortalidad f
death rattle N → estertor m
death ray N → rayo m mortal
death roll N → número m de víctimas, lista f de víctimas
death row N (US) → celdas fpl de los condenados a muerte, corredor m de la muerte
death sentence N → pena f de muerte
death squad N → escuadrón m de la muerte
death threat N → amenaza f de muerte
death throes NPL → agonía fsing
death toll N → número m de víctimas
death warrant N → orden f de ejecución
to sign one's own death warrant → firmar su sentencia de muerte
death wish N → ganas fpl de morir
after his death → après sa mort
These deaths could have been prevented
BUT On aurait pu éviter de telles tragédies.
There had been a death in the family
BUT Il y avait eu un deuil dans la famille.
to die a horrible death → mourir de façon horrible
to die a lonely death → mourir dans la solitude
to put sb to death (= execute) → mettre qn à mort
to be stabbed to death → mourir poignardé(e)
to be beaten to death → être battu(e) à mort
to scare sb to death → faire mourir qn de peur
to bore sb to death → ennuyer qn à mourir
I was bored to death → Je me suis ennuyé à mourir.
to be at death's door (= close to death) → être à l'article de la mort
to fight to the death → lutter jusqu'à la mort
a fight to the death → une lutte à mort
to be a matter of life and death (= crucial) → être une question de vie ou de mort
to work sb to death (= overwork) → faire travailler qn à mort
to work o.s. to death (= overwork) → se tuer au travail life-and-death situation
death[dɛθ] n → morte f (Med, Admin, Law) → decesso; (of plans, hopes) → fine f
to be burnt to death → morire carbonizzato/a
to drink o.s. to death → uccidersi a forza di bere
to sentence sb to death → condannare a morte qn
to put sb to death → mettere a morte qn, giustiziare qn
a fight to the death → un duello all'ultimo sangue
to be at death's door → essere in punto di morte
it will be the death of him → sarà la sua rovina
you'll be the death of me (fam) (fig) → mi farai morire
you look like death warmed up (fam) → sembri un morto che cammina
bored to death (fam) → annoiato/a a morte
I'm sick or tired to death of it (fam) → ne ho fin sopra i capelli