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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from epitaph

epitaphial \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈta-​fē-​əl How to pronounce epitaph (audio) \ adjective
epitaphic \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈta-​fik How to pronounce epitaph (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 Vänskä and the orchestra sound as if doing the same for Mahler's restless ghost, giving eloquent voice to his emotionally exhausting epitaph. Rob Hubbard, Star Tribune, "Minnesota Orchestra's new 'Mahler 10' album is a gripping journey through pain, love," 15 Mar. 2021 That would be a fitting epitaph for Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Why Cuomo Cooked the Books on Nursing-Home Deaths," 6 Mar. 2021 That’s the epitaph for Malzahn’s time on The Plains: Oh, what should have been, but never was. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, "Auburn sends powerful message in firing Gus Malzahn," 13 Dec. 2020 Eight months ago, more than a few people were writing George Gascón’s political epitaph. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, "George Gascón barely survived his primary. Now, he’s likely to be L.A. County’s district attorney," 5 Nov. 2020 That’s a fine epitaph for the Trump-Russia investigation. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Steele’s Dossier Source Was a Suspected Russian Spy," 26 Sep. 2020 The McDonogh teacher Levy was soon visiting with his English classes to delight in her irreverent epitaph. Tim Prudente, baltimoresun.com, "Writer Dorothy Parker’s ashes exhumed from longtime Baltimore resting place. But moved where?," 4 Sep. 2020 So important was the memory of Marathon to Aeschylus that on his death in Sicily in 456 B.C., his epitaph makes no mention of the fact that he had been awarded the prize for the best tragic playwright in the Athenian festival, the Dionysia. National Geographic, "At the Battle of Marathon, Athens' underdog victory stunned Persia," 6 Feb. 2020 In addition to this epitaph, the memorial features a portrait of the deceased; the dates of his August 26, 1792, birth and April 4, 1864, passing; and etchings of a flower and spiraling staircase. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "155 Years After His Death, Abolitionist John Pierre Burr’s Epitaph Updated to Include His Father, Aaron Burr," 24 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about epitaph

Time Traveler for epitaph

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for epitaph

Last Updated

29 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Epitaph.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epitaph. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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