sar·​coph·​a·​gus | \ sär-ˈkä-fə-gəs How to pronounce sarcophagus (audio) \
plural sarcophagi\ sär-​ˈkä-​fə-​ˌgī How to pronounce sarcophagus (audio) , -​ˌjī , -​ˌgē \ also sarcophaguses

Definition of sarcophagus

: a stone coffin broadly : coffin

Synonyms for sarcophagus


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Body-eating coffins might sound like something out of a horror film, but flesh-eating stone? The latter plays a role in the etymology of sarcophagus; it is the literal translation of líthos sarkóphagos, the Greek phrase that underlies the English term. The phrase traveled through Latin between Greek and English, taking on the form lapis sarcophagus before being shortened to sarcophagus. It's not clear whether the ancient Romans believed that a certain type of limestone from the region around Troy would dissolve flesh (and thus was desirable for making coffins). That assertion came from Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, but he also reported such phenomena as dog-headed people and elephants who wrote Greek. Regardless, there is no doubt that the ancient Greek word for the limestone combined sárx, meaning "flesh," with a derivative of phagein, a verb meaning "to eat."

Examples of sarcophagus in a Sentence

the crypt under the abbey church contains the sarcophagus of the monastery's founding abbot
Recent Examples on the Web The sarcophagus, commissioned by the Parks Department, had been displayed in Fort Tryon Park for nearly a year until June, but now its final resting place may be underneath the artist’s work table. New York Times, 11 July 2022 The nearly naked man encased in the large, mechanized sarcophagus is Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), who has willingly turned his body into a living, breathing, lightly bleeding fresco. Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2022 The much younger Elizabeth died in 1942 and was placed next to her husband in a matching solid bronze coffin and marble sarcophagus. oregonlive, 27 May 2022 Over the last six episodes, the series slowly revealed clues hinting at Jake's eventual appearance, from that mysterious third sarcophagus in episode 4 to the violent and unexplained blackouts Marc and Steven both experienced. Devan Coggan,, 5 May 2022 The plant’s four reactors have been shut down ever since, and an encasement called a sarcophagus covers the location of the original explosion and fire. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 3 May 2022 In 2019, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned an ancient golden Egyptian sarcophagus to Egypt after it was found to have been stolen during the Arab Spring uprisings. Carlie Porterfield, Forbes, 26 May 2022 The dorade is freed from its sarcophagus at the table, filleted and served with confit peewee potatoes and artichokes. Washington Post, 18 May 2022 Marc had just discovered Steven in his own sarcophagus. Josh St. Clair, Men's Health, 4 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of sarcophagus

1619, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sarcophagus

borrowed from Latin, after lapis sarcophagus "kind of stone with caustic properties used for coffins," partial translation of Greek líthos sarkóphagos, literally, "flesh-eating stone"; sarkóphagos from sarko- sarco- + -phagos -phagous

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The first known use of sarcophagus was in 1619

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Last Updated

30 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sarcophagus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of sarcophagus for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about sarcophagus


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