memento mori

noun
me·​men·​to mo·​ri | \ mə-ˈmen-tō-ˈmȯr-ē How to pronounce memento mori (audio) \
plural memento mori

Definition of memento mori

: a reminder of mortality especially : death's-head

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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 Updating the classical memento mori, a reminder of mortality, the Tennessee artist depicts toys, ornaments and Halloween decorations. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022 Some saints have been known especially for their devotion to the Latin phrase memento mori, remember your death. Alexandra Desanctis, National Review, 2 Mar. 2022 The boy king’s once triumphant riches now appeared tragic, his death mask a memento mori not only for individuals but for civilizations, which, no matter how powerful, seemed destined to fall. Casey Cep, The New Yorker, 7 Feb. 2022 But the pandemic—that inescapable memento mori—serves as a frame and a catalyst rather than a subject. Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Jan. 2022 Fighting Demons, his second posthumous album is a tortured but overall grateful memento mori from a talented artist who left us all too soon. Will Dukes, Rolling Stone, 16 Dec. 2021 Letting collections of things perpetuate in this way creates both a memento mori and a refusal of death’s power: American storage-renting is the opposite of Swedish death cleaning. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Dec. 2021 Letting collections of things perpetuate in this way creates both a memento mori and a refusal of death’s power: American storage-renting is the opposite of Swedish death cleaning. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Dec. 2021 Some of its most fervent adherents collect the bones of small animals, as a form of memento mori. Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'memento mori.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of memento mori

1598, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for memento mori

Latin, remember that you must die

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Time Traveler for memento mori

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The first known use of memento mori was in 1598

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Dictionary Entries Near memento mori

memento

memento mori

memetics

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Last Updated

19 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Memento mori.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/memento%20mori. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about memento mori

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