\ ˈdeth \

Definition of death 

1a : 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

2a : 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 character —Wilkie 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

5a : 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

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.

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Examples of death in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

State police are investigating four untimely deaths in Litchfield County that could be related to heroin overdoes. Peter Marteka, Courant Community, "State Police Investigating Four Untimely Deaths In Nine Days," 15 July 2018 Like Colin, Lily still has a hard time talking about her father’s death. Amelia Nierenberg,, "‘It feels nice to be with other people who have been through it:’ At Camp Kangaroo, grieving kids come together to talk, reflect, and play," 14 July 2018 The documentary highlights that Trayvon’s death gave rise to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Hal Boedeker,, "Trayvon Martin: Parents promote 'Rest in Power' documentary," 13 July 2018 Overall 30 people have been hospitalized in connection with this outbreak; there have been no reported deaths. Sarah Gray, Fortune, "Kellogg's Honey Smacks Cereal Linked to 100 Salmonella Infections, CDC Warns," 13 July 2018 Patrick Lewis, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Reading, wrote after Dr. Carlsson’s death. WSJ, "Arvid Carlsson, Snubbed at University in Sweden, Found a Path to Nobel Prize in Medicine," 13 July 2018 Senator likely to lead search for judicial vacancy Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is again likely to lead the search to fill a vacancy on the federal bench after Lozano’s death. Becky Jacobs, Post-Tribune, "Hammond federal judge Rudy Lozano, 76, dies," 13 July 2018 Jalynne had two early-term miscarriages, one shortly after Jennifer’s death. John Shea,, "Brandon Crawford’s All-Star journey: From family tragedy to national spotlight," 12 July 2018 The interview, conducted three hours after the child’s death, was played for the jury in the murder trial for Williams, 44, a former longtime state worker. Joshua Sharpe, ajc, "DeKalb dad claims autistic son, 10, killed himself — then admits lie," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'death.' 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 death

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

History and Etymology for death

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

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Statistics for death

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for death

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

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More Definitions for death



English Language Learners Definition of death

: the end of life : the time when someone or something dies

: the ending of a particular person's life

: the permanent end of something that is not alive : the ruin or destruction of something


\ ˈdeth \

Kids Definition of death

1 : the end or ending of life

2 : the cause of loss of life Drinking will be the death of him.

3 : the state of being dead He was more famous in death than in life.

4 : ruin entry 2 sense 1, extinction DVDs meant the death of videotape.

to death

: very entry 1 sense 1, extremely We were scared to death.

Other words from death

deathlike \-ˌlīk \ adjective


\ ˈdeth \

Medical Definition of death 

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

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Legal Definition of death 

: 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.

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