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

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 Combining meticulous scholarship with chilling storytelling, her book should mortify any reader who still doubts that America was in many ways built on a foundation of white supremacy and black oppression. Harold Holzer, WSJ, 21 Mar. 2021 Sometimes someone would burst in without knocking, and I’d be mortified at having to spit out what had accumulated before conversation could begin. Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times, 20 Jan. 2020 Being stalked by an invisible enemy surely mortifies those with an obsessive-compulsive fear of germs, and deepens the distress of many who have experienced waves of uncontrollable anxiety before the epidemic. Benedict Carey, New York Times, 23 Apr. 2020 Viewers of the Hulu drama were mortified at Elena's behavior throughout the episode, shocked that the woman could behave so terribly without a shred of remorse. Ineye Komonibo,, 16 Apr. 2020 Jane’s skill at Mozart’s Sonata in F shocks and amuses but isn’t pleasing enough in the film to mortify us on Emma’s account. The Conversation, 27 Mar. 2020 Environmental groups that fended off oil rigs in the Arctic Refuge for four decades were mortified. Dan Joling, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Oct. 2019 Environmental groups that fended off oil rigs in the Arctic Refuge for four decades were mortified. Dan Joling, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Oct. 2019 In the aftermath, Emira, mortified, resolves to find a new job, while the well-meaning but delusional mom-blogger who employs her becomes obsessed with winning her affection and loyalty. Elizabeth C. Gorski, The New Yorker, 13 Jan. 2020 See More

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.

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

Learn More About mortify

Time Traveler for mortify

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near mortify




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for mortify

Cite this Entry

“Mortify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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

More Definitions for mortify


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


intransitive verb
mor·​ti·​fy | \ ˈmȯrt-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce mortify (audio) \
mortified; mortifying

Medical Definition of mortify

: to become necrotic or gangrenous

More from Merriam-Webster on mortify

Nglish: Translation of mortify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mortify for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

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!