mor·​ti·​fy | \ ˈmȯr-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce mortify (audio) \
mortified; mortifying

Definition of mortify

transitive verb

1 : to subject to severe and vexing embarrassment : shame was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters' beauty and her own— Jane Austen
2 : to subdue or deaden (the body, bodily appetites, etc.) especially by abstinence or self-inflicted pain or discomfort mortified his body for spiritual purification
3 obsolete : to destroy the strength, vitality, or functioning of

intransitive verb

1 : to practice mortification
2 : to become necrotic or gangrenous treated his wound so that it would not mortify

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The Deadly History of Mortify

Mortify once actually meant "put to death", but no longer. Its "deaden" sense is most familiar to us in the phrase "mortifying the flesh", which refers to a custom once followed by devout Christians, who would starve themselves, deprive themselves of every comfort, and even whip themselves in order to subdue their bodily desires and punish themselves for their sins. But the most common use of mortify today is the "humiliate" sense; its connection with death is still apparent when we speak of "dying of embarrassment".

Examples of mortify in a Sentence

It mortified me to have to admit that I'd never actually read the book. was mortified by her children's atrocious manners

Recent Examples on the Web

On Wednesday, when President Donald Trump was showing off a doctored hurricane forecast in the White House Oval Office, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were mortified. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "“Precious hours were wasted”: Trump’s doctored map affected hurricane forecasters," 6 Sep. 2019 Large-scale protests in Hong Kong on that sacred date would mortify the Chinese government. Mary Hui, Quartz, "Hong Kong’s protests passed a notable milestone, and sensitive days lie ahead," 30 Aug. 2019 Any American caught in that situation would have been flummoxed, then mortified, then angry. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Who Is Boris Johnson?," 19 July 2019 At any other moment in American history, this exhausting drama would have seemed unthinkable, nutty, and deeply mortifying for a country that still counts itself a global superpower. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "Republicans Have Become the Except-When-Trump-Does-It Party," 6 June 2019 Despite Savannah seeming slightly mortified at the story, Jenna shared yet another personal secret about her. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "See 'Today' Star Jenna Bush Hager Blurt Out the Most CRINGE-Y Secret About Savannah Guthrie," 15 May 2019 The purpose of British wedding speeches is to mortify the groom (and bride) for at least ten minutes. Jessica Pan, The Cut, "The 10 Most Bizarre Royal Etiquette Rules," 17 May 2018 Getting caught with your hand in the church plate is mortifying. Howard Cohen, miamiherald, "He tried stealing money from a church drop box. He got caught in an embarrassing way. | Miami Herald," 28 Mar. 2018 And the growing influx of immigrants — even before the late-1840s famine in Ireland — was mortifying the city’s Protestant, Anglophile and nativist majority. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Don’t Mess With Dagger John," 7 Mar. 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

History and Etymology for mortify

Middle English mortifien, from Anglo-French mortifier, from Late Latin mortificare, from Latin mort-, mors

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Statistics for mortify

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for mortify

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

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More Definitions for mortify



English Language Learners Definition of mortify

: to cause (someone) to feel very embarrassed and foolish


mor·​ti·​fy | \ ˈmȯr-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce mortify (audio) \
mortified; mortifying

Kids Definition of mortify

: to embarrass greatly I ought to have read more, for I find I don't know anything, and it mortifies me.— Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
mor·​ti·​fy | \ ˈmȯrt-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce mortify (audio) \
mortified; mortifying

Medical Definition of mortify

: to become necrotic or gangrenous

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More from Merriam-Webster on mortify

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mortify

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mortify

Spanish Central: Translation of mortify

Nglish: Translation of mortify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mortify for Arabic Speakers

Comments on mortify

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


to fake an opponent out of position

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