ep·​i·​taph | \ ˈe-pə-ˌtaf How to pronounce epitaph (audio) \

Definition of epitaph

1 : an inscription on or at a tomb or a grave in memory of the one buried there
2 : a brief statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person or something past

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Other Words from epitaph

epitaphial \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈta-​fē-​əl How to pronounce epitaphial (audio) \ adjective
epitaphic \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈta-​fik How to pronounce epitaphic (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

An inscription on a tomb is an epitaph, as is, by extension, anything written as if to be inscribed on a tomb. Probably the earliest surviving epitaphs are those written on ancient Egyptian sarcophagi and coffins. In Elizabethan times, epitaphs became much more common in English. Many of the best known are literary memorials (often deliberately witty) not intended for a tomb. Benjamin Franklin’s epitaph for himself plays on his trade as a printer, hoping that he will “appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.” The 20th-century writer and wit Dorothy Parker’s suggested epitaphs include “I told you I was sick” and “If you can read this, you’re standing too close.”

Examples of epitaph in a Sentence

The epitaph reads “In loving memory of John Gray: husband, father, soldier.”

Recent Examples on the Web

There’s a reasonable chance Mourinho would ask for that as an epitaph. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Manchester United Tops Liverpool, Without Artistry and, Significantly, Without Pogba," 10 Mar. 2018 In effect the film becomes his own epitaph and tombstone. Patrick Friel, Chicago Reader, "Arts / Film / History / LGBTQ+ / On Video / Television Queer filmmaker Derek Jarman gets a Pride Month retrospective at FilmStruck," 20 June 2018 Kennedy’s words at the conclusion of the Obergefell opinion deserve to be his judicial epitaph. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "How Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Undo Kennedy’s Legacy," 9 July 2017 Thanks to fans like Schaap, the epitaph holds true for fans like me. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Mr. Memory of Jazz," 6 June 2018 Read Bob Woodward's epitaph for that office from June of that year. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Which is the greatest 'witch hunt' in US political history?," 18 May 2018 Regardless, when the epitaph is finally written on this Pelicans' campaign, it will be known as the season of redemption for Dell Demps. Jeff Duncan, NOLA.com, "This Pelicans' season has been one of redemption for Dell Demps," 8 May 2018 What’s more, Microsoft said revenue for the segment that includes Windows, an aging franchise whose epitaph has been regularly written, is expected to grow about 13% in the current quarter. Jay Greene, WSJ, "Driving Microsoft’s Unexpected Windows Boost: Fear," 3 May 2018 If this sounds like an epitaph one game too soon, well, you’re right. Sam Donnellon, Philly.com, "Undermanned and underwhelming, Flyers go quietly in the night," 18 Apr. 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for epitaph

Middle English epitaphe, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin epitaphium, from Latin, funeral oration, from Greek epitaphion, from epi- + taphos tomb, funeral

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Time Traveler for epitaph

The first known use of epitaph was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for epitaph



English Language Learners Definition of epitaph

: something written or said in memory of a dead person especially : words written on a gravestone


ep·​i·​taph | \ ˈe-pə-ˌtaf How to pronounce epitaph (audio) \

Kids Definition of epitaph

: a brief statement on a tombstone in memory of a dead person

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Comments on epitaph

What made you want to look up epitaph? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a strong desire or propensity

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