than·​a·​tol·​o·​gy | \ ˌtha-nə-ˈtä-lə-jē How to pronounce thanatology (audio) \

Definition of thanatology

: the description or study of the phenomena of death and of psychological mechanisms for coping with them

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Other Words from thanatology

thanatological \ ˌtha-​nə-​tə-​ˈlä-​ji-​kəl How to pronounce thanatological (audio) \ adjective
thanatologist \ ˌtha-​nə-​ˈtä-​lə-​jist How to pronounce thanatologist (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the personification of death and the twin brother of Hypnos (Sleep). The ancient Greeks eventually came to use thanatos as a generic word for "death." Thanatology is a direct linguistic heir of the Greek term and was first documented in English in the mid-1800s. As a science, thanatology examines attitudes toward death, the meaning and behaviors of bereavement and grief, and other matters. In 1935, the word thanatos itself made its debut in English, ushered in with psychoanalytic theory to describe an unconscious tendency toward self-destruction.

Examples of thanatology in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Another thirty-five years passed before the paper was translated into English and published, in Omega, a journal of thanatology, by Russell Noyes, Jr., a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Black Ice, Near-Death, and Transcendence on I-91," 2 Apr. 2018

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

First Known Use of thanatology

circa 1842, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for thanatology

Greek thanatos + English -logy

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Time Traveler for thanatology

Time Traveler

The first known use of thanatology was circa 1842

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Cite this Entry

“Thanatology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for thanatology


than·​a·​tol·​o·​gy | \ ˌthan-ə-ˈtäl-ə-jē How to pronounce thanatology (audio) \
plural thanatologies

Medical Definition of thanatology

: the description or study of the phenomena of death and of psychological mechanisms for coping with them

Other Words from thanatology

thanatological \ ˌthan-​ət-​ᵊl-​ˈäj-​i-​kəl How to pronounce thanatological (audio) \ adjective

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with thanatology Encyclopedia article about thanatology

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