ceno·​taph | \ ˈse-nə-ˌtaf How to pronounce cenotaph (audio) , -ˌtäf \

Definition of cenotaph

: a tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere

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The word cenotaph is derived from the Greek kenos taphos, meaning "empty tomb." A cenotaph is a monument, sometimes in the form of a tomb, to a person or group of persons buried elsewhere. Ancient Greek writings tell of many cenotaphs, although none of them survives. Existing cenotaphs of this type are found in churches (for example, in Santa Croce in Florence, where there are memorials to Dante, Machiavelli, and Galileo). The term is now applied to national war memorials.

Examples of cenotaph in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy by viewing The Sixth Floor Museum, Dealey Plaza and the Kennedy memorial cenotaph. Shannon Sutlief, Dallas News, "Explore Dallas like a visitor and enjoy some safe-distance sightseeing," 14 May 2020 The imperial graveyard of London, with its Trafalgar Square, Waterloo Station, and countless cenotaphs and war memorials, sets the stage for an altogether different response to the coronavirus outbreak. Patrick Mulholland, National Review, "Easter Still Frames the Irish Response to Times of National Crisis," 13 Apr. 2020 His gravestone was actually a cenotaph, a stone with his name on it but no body buried underneath. CBS News, "Headless torso found in Idaho cave identified as outlaw who escaped jail in 1916," 1 Jan. 2020 The pharaoh also took the care to honor his grandmother Tetisheri by building a cenotaph to her in Abydos, the center of the cult of Osiris, the god of the afterlife. National Geographic, "How three rebel queens of Egypt overthrew an empire and gave birth to a new kingdom," 7 Mar. 2019 The good folks of the Town of Rhine raised $1,000 in 1867 for the cenotaph. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sheboygan County community remembers its Civil War dead 150 years after it erected memorial," 28 May 2018 As with Halsey’s current fine installation downtown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which spins off the Classical motif of Plato’s Cave, this piece also looks to an ancient source — the Egyptian form of a cenotaph, or empty tomb. Christopher Knight, latimes.com, "'Made in L.A. 2018': Why the Hammer biennial is the right show for disturbing times," 5 June 2018 People crowded around the white fence surrounding the cenotaph to watch a wreath being placed at the memorial. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sheboygan County community remembers its Civil War dead 150 years after it erected memorial," 28 May 2018 Walking around Ramgarh, our tour guide showed us Poddar houses, Poddar temples, Poddar cenotaphs, all covered in some of the region’s best preserved frescoes, what pride in roots! Namrata Poddar, Longreads, "A Storyteller, Unbecoming," 8 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cenotaph.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cenotaph

1578, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cenotaph

French cénotaphe, from Latin cenotaphium, from Greek kenotaphion, from kenos empty + taphos tomb

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Time Traveler for cenotaph

Time Traveler

The first known use of cenotaph was in 1578

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Statistics for cenotaph

Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cenotaph.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cenotaph. Accessed 6 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for cenotaph


How to pronounce cenotaph (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cenotaph

: a special structure or statue that is built to remind people of a dead person who is buried somewhere else especially : a structure built to honor the people who were killed in a war

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