\ ˈdeth How to pronounce death (audio) \

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 Just weeks ago though, that half million case mark seemed inevitable — case and death rates were at their highest points since the start of the pandemic. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan working to fix lag in COVID-19 vaccine administration, officials say," 30 Dec. 2020 Massachusetts has suffered some of the highest death rates in the country from the coronavirus, partly because a wave of infections tore through nursing homes across the state early in the pandemic., "No travel history in 1st reported US case of COVID-19 variant," 30 Dec. 2020 But so far, death rates haven’t met those worst-case scenario predictions. Aryn Baker, Time, "Why Africa's COVID-19 Outbreak Hasn't Been as Bad as Everyone Feared," 30 Dec. 2020 Black, indigenous and Latino residents have death rates of more than 2.7 times that of white people nationwide, according to the APM research lab, which has tracked coronavirus deaths across racial groups since the beginning of the pandemic. Tatiana Sanchez,, "How the Bay Area’s latest coronavirus surge is hitting low-income communities of color," 27 Dec. 2020 Eventually, combinations of antiviral pills—including Truvada and Descovy, produced by Gilead Sciences —proved effective, helping to cut death rates by about half over the last decade and prolonging the lives of those with HIV. Betsy Mckay, WSJ, "How HIV Research Laid the Foundation for Covid Vaccines," 24 Dec. 2020 For decades studies have shown that death rates among homeless people were anywhere from three to eight times higher than the general population. New York Times, "Isolation Helps Homeless Population Escape Worst of Virus," 23 Dec. 2020 Among those five, Baltimore City and Baltimore County have the highest death rates at 6.7 and 5.6, respectively. Ben Leonard,, "Six things we learned about COVID-19 in Maryland from a new federal coronavirus data report," 22 Dec. 2020 This first round of the Pfizer vaccine is designated for health care workers in the 50 Illinois counties that have seen the highest per capita death rates from COVID-19. Suzanne Baker,, "Edward Hospital tops 100 deaths from COVID-19 this year," 22 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for death

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for death

Last Updated

6 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Death.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for death


How to pronounce death (audio)

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 How to pronounce death (audio) \

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 How to pronounce death (audio) \

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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