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 Bach laid a wreath and observed a minute of silence in the rain in front of the Peace Memorial Park cenotaph. San Francisco Chronicle, 16 July 2021 Yet he is scheduled to travel to the western city of Hiroshima on Friday, and is due to visit the Peace Memorial Park and lay flowers at a cenotaph dedicated to victims of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing. Washington Post, 13 July 2021 Ever hopeful Florence, though, erected a cenotaph in 1829 for Dante in the Basilica di Santa Croce, which remains empty to this day. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 Apr. 2021 The upright assemblage stands somewhere between a diorama and a cenotaph. Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2020 Some survivors and their relatives prayed at the park's cenotaph before the ceremony. Author: Mari Yamaguchi, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Aug. 2020 Some survivors and their relatives prayed at the park’s cenotaph before the ceremony. Fox News, 6 Aug. 2020 Some survivors and their relatives prayed at the park’s cenotaph before the ceremony. Mari Yamaguchi, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 Aug. 2020 Some survivors and their relatives prayed at the park’s cenotaph before the ceremony. Mari Yamaguchi, BostonGlobe.com, 6 Aug. 2020

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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The first known use of cenotaph was in 1578

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Last Updated

31 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cenotaph.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cenotaph. Accessed 21 Sep. 2021.

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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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