memento mori


me·​men·​to mo·​ri mə-ˈmen-tō-ˈmȯr-ē How to pronounce memento mori (audio)
plural memento mori
: a reminder of mortality
especially : death's-head

Did you know?

Memento mori literally means "Remember you must die". The early Puritan settlers were particularly aware of death and fearful of what it might mean, so a Puritan tombstone will often display a memento mori intended for the living. These death's-heads or skulls may strike us as ghoulish, but they helped keep the living on the straight and narrow for fear of eternal punishment. In earlier centuries, an educated European might place an actual skull on his desk to keep the idea of death always present in his mind.

Examples of memento mori in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As sitcom allusions go, that’s practically a memento mori. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 16 Jan. 2024 And all of these, including COVID with its relatively low fatality and infectivity rates, were a polite memento mori compared with the true destructive power of infectious disease. Richard Conniff,, 10 May 2023 Halloween is a memento mori, a reminder of death. Faith Bottum, WSJ, 27 Oct. 2022 The dead fly is a memento mori. Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle, Forbes, 1 July 2022 In the open living-, dining-room, den and office area, a bust of Filipo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement, made by Thayaht (who also invented the jumpsuit), presides over conversations, reading, and work—a kind of modernist memento mori, as Owens describes it. Chris Wallac, Vogue, 31 Aug. 2021 Out flew the meat, memento mori mignon. Jack Fowler, National Review, 30 Apr. 2021 Comprising 47 paintings, drawings, sketchbooks and monotypes made between 1997 and last year, Death and the Maid will explore themes long present in Brown’s work, such as the memento mori, the vanitas and the specter of beautiful women flirting with death. WSJ, 2 Mar. 2023 In a way, that’s more appropriate to memento mori. Matthew Carey Salyer, Forbes, 6 June 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'memento mori.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin, remember that you must die

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of memento mori was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near memento mori

Cite this Entry

“Memento mori.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

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