ne·​crop·​o·​lis | \ nə-ˈkrä-pə-ləs How to pronounce necropolis (audio) , ne- \
plural necropolises or necropoles\ nə-​ˈkrä-​pə-​ˌlēz How to pronounce necropoles (audio) , ne-​ \ or necropoleis\ nə-​ˈkrä-​pə-​ˌlās How to pronounce necropoleis (audio) , ne-​ \ or necropoli\ nə-​ˈkrä-​pə-​ˌlī How to pronounce necropoli (audio) , -​ˌlē , ne-​ \

Definition of necropolis

: cemetery especially : a large elaborate cemetery of an ancient city

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With its -polis ending, meaning "city", a necropolis is a "city of the dead". Most of the famous necropolises of Egypt line the Nile River across from their cities. In ancient Greece and Rome, a necropolis would often line the road leading out of a city; in the 1940s a great Roman necropolis was discovered under the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica. Some more recent cemeteries especially deserve the name necropolis because they resemble cities of aboveground tombs, a necessity in low-lying areas such as New Orleans where a high water table prevents underground burial.

Examples of necropolis in a Sentence

Archaeologists uncovered a necropolis of ancient Rome. an ancient necropolis that has given archaeologists valuable insights into how people once lived and died
Recent Examples on the Web The Memphite necropolis covered 30 miles of desert and was dotted with pyramids and tombs, many submerged under sand dunes. Dominic Green, WSJ, "‘A World Beneath the Sands’ Review: Pyramid Fever," 23 Oct. 2020 The Saqqara plateau is part of the necropolis of Egypt's ancient city of Memphis. NBC News, "Ancient mummies unearthed in Egypt after more than 2,600 years," 3 Oct. 2020 The Saqqara plateau is part of the necropolis of Egypt’s ancient city of Memphis, that also include Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh and the famed Giza Pyramids. Samy Magdy,, "Archaeologists unearth 27 ancient coffins — unopened since they were buried more than 2,500 years ago — at Egypt’s Saqqara pyramid," 21 Sep. 2020 The Saqqara plateau is part of the necropolis of Egypt’s ancient city of Memphis, that also include Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh and the famed Giza Pyramids. Samy Magdy, Star Tribune, "Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins at Egypt's Saqqara pyramid," 21 Sep. 2020 Its royal pyramids functioned as a necropolis for the city’s elite for almost 600 years. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Record Flooding Threatens Millennia-Old Pyramids in Sudan," 10 Sep. 2020 An exciting new find in an Egyptian necropolis has archaeologists buzzing with anticipation. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "These Egyptian Coffins Have Been Completely Sealed for 2,500 Years. Who's Inside?," 9 Sep. 2020 Studies of tomb art at the necropolis of Saqqara revealed not only the beauty but also the ingenuity of Egyptian artists in the Old Kingdom. National Geographic, "Anonymous artists invented ancient Egypt's iconic style," 27 Aug. 2020 Something as simple as where people put the dead—beneath the floors of their houses, in a cemetery in the middle of town, or in a necropolis on the far side of a river—can offer big clues about how the living viewed their relationship with the dead. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "This 9,000-year-old skeleton is the oldest cremation in the Near East," 17 Aug. 2020

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

1819, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for necropolis

borrowed from Late Latin, "cemetery," borrowed from Greek Nekrópolis, literally, "city of the dead," name of a large cemetery in a suburb of ancient Alexandria, from nekro- necro- + -polis -polis

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Time Traveler for necropolis

Time Traveler

The first known use of necropolis was in 1819

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Last Updated

27 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Necropolis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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How to pronounce necropolis (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of necropolis

formal : a large cemetery especially of an ancient city

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