death

noun

1
a
: a permanent cessation of all vital (see vital sense 2a) functions : the end of life
The cause of death has not been determined.
managed to escape death
prisoners were put to death
death threats
compare brain death
b
: an instance of dying
a disease causing many deaths
lived there until her death
2
a
: the cause or occasion of loss of life
drinking was the death of him
b
: a cause of ruin
the slander that was death to my characterWilkie Collins
The drought was death to the farm.
3
capitalized folklore : the destroyer of life represented usually as a skeleton with a scythe
when death comes to take me away
4
: the state of being no longer alive : the state of being dead
5
a
: the passing or destruction of something inanimate
the death of vaudeville
b
: extinction
the death of the dinosaurs
6
law : civil death
7
: slaughter
death and destruction
8
Christian Science : the lie of life in matter : that which is unreal and untrue
Phrases
at death's door
: close to death : critically ill
to death
: beyond endurance : excessively
bored to death
scared to death of spiders
I am sick to death of hearing your excuses.
Most high rollers prefer Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where they are comped to death and have more diversions.William G. Flanagan et al.

Example Sentences

birth, life, and eventual death The newspaper did not report the cause of death. People around the world mourned his death. The accident resulted in two deaths. The number of deaths from cancer is rising. He died a violent death. There has been a death in the family. The general met his death on the battlefield. the death of a marriage Death could be seen lurking in the corner of the painting. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Season 5, which dropped on Netflix in 2022, ends just weeks before her death in 1997. Korin Miller, Women's Health, 18 May 2023 Johnny Depp Tears Up During Standing Ovation After Cannes Film Festival Screening Jeanne Du Barry stars Depp as Louis XV, the King of France from September 1715 until his death in 1774. Carita Rizzo, Peoplemag, 17 May 2023 John Phillip Ryan, 64, of Yucca Valley, admitted to taking funds from 12 of his clients, including Gregg Juarez, an art dealer who lived in Carlsbad until his death in 2018 at age 94, according to the California Department of Insurance. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 May 2023 His death was ruled a suicide but some don't believe that's where the investigation should've ended. Saleen Martin, USA TODAY, 17 May 2023 In later years, Milton had several heart attacks and, before his death, fought two serious bouts with pneumonia, according to IndyStar. The Indianapolis Star, 17 May 2023 After her death in 2012, Karlos Finley said, the Griot Awards were created to honor her memory. Lawrence Specker | Lspecker@al.com, al, 16 May 2023 At 63, 10 years before his death, Conway went public with his diagnosis of dementia. oregonlive, 16 May 2023 Bicyclist and pedestrian deaths from car crashes are on the rise. Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, 16 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'death.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English deeth, from Old English dēath; akin to Old Norse dauthi death, deyja to die — more at die

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of death was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near death

Cite this Entry

“Death.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/death. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition

death

noun
1
: the permanent stopping of all the vital bodily activities (as the beating of the heart and working of the brain) : the end of life
2
: the cause of loss of life
drinking was the death of him
3
capitalized : the destroyer of life represented usually as a skeleton with a scythe
4
: the state of being dead
5
deathlike
-ˌlīk
adjective

Medical Definition

death

noun
1
: the irreversible cessation of all vital functions especially as indicated by permanent stoppage of the heart, respiration, and brain activity : the end of life see brain death
2
: the cause or occasion of loss of life
drinking was the death of him
3
: the state of being dead
in death as in life

Legal Definition

death

noun
: a permanent cessation of all vital bodily functions : the end of life see also brain death, civil death

Note: Death is usually defined by statute and for purposes of criminal homicide has been held to include brain death.

More from Merriam-Webster on death

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!