Simple Definition of sarcophagus
: a stone coffin from ancient times
Examples of sarcophagus in a sentence
<the crypt under the abbey church contains the sarcophagus of the monastery's founding abbot>
Did You Know?
Body-eating coffins might sound like the stuff of horror films, but "flesh-eating stone" does play a role in the etymology of sarcophagus. That creepy-sounding phrase is a literal translation of "sarkophagos," the Greek word that underlies our English term. It's not clear whether the Romans truly believed that a certain type of limestone from the region around Troy would dissolve flesh (and thus was desirable for making coffins). That assertion came from Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, but he also reported such phenomena as dog-headed people and elephants who wrote Greek. But there’s no doubt that the ancient Greek word for the limestone, "sarkophagos," was formed by combining sark-, meaning "flesh," with a derivative of "phagein," a verb meaning "to eat."
Origin of sarcophagus
Latin sarcophagus (lapis) limestone used for coffins, from Greek (lithos) sarkophagos, literally, flesh-eating stone, from sark- sarc- + phagein to eat — more at baksheesh
First Known Use: 1619
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