mor·ti·fy | \ˈmȯr-tə-ˌfī \
mortified; mortifying

Definition of mortify 

transitive verb

1 obsolete : to destroy the strength, vitality, or functioning of

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 : to subject to severe and vexing embarrassment : shame was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters' beauty and her own— Jane Austen

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

In the novel, Keiko’s friends and family are mortified on her behalf, urging her to find a man and settle down or move to a more professionally fulfilling job. Motoko Rich, New York Times, "For Japanese Novelist Sayaka Murata, Odd Is the New Normal," 11 June 2018 He's mortified, then obeys and is rendered totally naked in front of her and the cameras. Lorraine Ali,, "Fun and head games, terror and bloody revolt in ‘Westworld’s’ smart, action-packed season two," 20 Apr. 2018 The guy Becca is talking to is similarly mortified, but takes it in stride. Meagan Fredette,, "One Way To Become The Villain On The Bachelorette: Show Up In Your Underwear," 3 June 2018 Anglade also has touching moments as Simon struggles to connect with his teenage daughter Lola (Noee Abita), mortified that her dad works in the school cafeteria. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Sink or Swim' ('Le Grand bain'): Film Review | Cannes 2018," 14 May 2018 Though Moore seems mildly mortified at her beauty choices, her fans certainly remember the time that this porcupine–meets–pop-star look was all the rage. Melissa Minton, Allure, "Mandy Moore Had the Most '90s Hairstyle Ever," 3 May 2018 Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images The original Broadway production earned five Tony nominations, yet its glitz mortified the musical’s composer. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in a Live TV Revival," 28 Mar. 2018 Apparently much like the actual historical figure, K.K. Moggie's Mary is an old-style sovereign, mortified by her situation yet standing on the notion that divine right makes her immune to prosecution. Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, "Two British monarchs duke it out in Schiller’s Mary Stuart," 7 Mar. 2018 She too was mortified by Harley’s behavior and sent a letter of apology to the chapter for her reference. Marwa Eltagouri, Washington Post, "She was expelled from college after her racist rants went viral. Her mother thinks she deserves it.," 19 Jan. 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 1

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

27 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \
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 \
mortified; mortifying

Medical Definition of mortify 

: to become necrotic or gangrenous

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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 reject or criticize sharply

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