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

When the epitaph of this excruciating month is written, Reddick's name will top it. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Yuli Gurriel, Astros get walkoff win over Mariners in 10 innings," 28 June 2019 Benito Mussolini was the first political leader to write the epitaph for liberal democracy in Europe. Joseph Loconte, National Review, "Mussolini and the End of Liberal Democracy," 25 June 2019 But, after reading names and epitaphs while gently scrubbing acid rain and lichen off of centuries-old stones, Gonci said her curiosity grew about the people buried beneath them. courant.com, "Group Works To Restore Graves At Wall Street Cemetery," 24 June 2019 This is perhaps a fitting political epitaph for Theresa May, who steps down as leader of the party on June 7th after three years characterised by a toxic combination of hubris, dithering and poor judgment. The Economist, "Labour holds Peterborough, slowing the Brexit Party’s momentum," 7 June 2019 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

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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Statistics for epitaph

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

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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

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