Euphemisms for Death

Ashely Conzelmann, Marissa Hernandez, Tenzing Sherpa

     According to dictionary.com, a euphemism is “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.” Often times in our culture, we use euphemisms for topics that we consider taboo. These topics include, but are not limited to, bodily functions, sexual acts, and anything related to death. We all know how bodily functions and sexual acts are related, and that they are considered taboo because they are extremely private matters. But what about death? Why is death so taboo? Death is an inevitable part of life; it happens to everyone at some point. The truth is, death is often feared and many people do not know how to deal with death. Some people are afraid to say words that are related to death such as undertaker, death certificate, and corpses. Some people are also afraid to say death. Why? Because it sounds so permanent and to some it even sounds dirty. If you are one of those people, have no fear. We feel like using the word death is an important part of coping with the fear that many people have. However, we would like to provide you with a list of over 200 euphemisms for death and terms related to death to use until you become more comfortable with the more taboo words. The next time you are talking about death but you don’t want to use any dirty words, try using these words and phrases instead.

The euphemisms have been categorized as follows:

  • General – words/phrases that are more commonly used or do not fit into the other categories
  • Religious – words/phrases that are typically used to describe religious people who have died or words used by religious people to talk about someone who has died
  • Medical – words/phrases used by medical professionals
  • Burial – words/phrases that are used to describe someone who has been buried
  • Murder/Suicide – words/phrases used when someone was murdered or committed suicide
  • Occupations – words/phrases used to describe the death of people in certain occupations
  • Humor – words/phrases that are meant to be humorous (and do not fit into any previously mentioned categories)
  • Related terms – euphemisms for words associated with death; the word in parentheses is the word it replaces

General

  • ate it
  • belly up
  • bereft of life
  • biting the biscuit
  • bought the farm
  • breathed the last breath
  • came to an end
  • ceased to be
  • changed form
  • checked out
  • closed shop
  • croaked
  • crossed over the bar
  • dearly departed
  • deceased
  • defunct
  • expired
  • expired
  • extinct
  • faded away
  • fallen off the perch
  • followed the light
  • game over
  • gave up the ghost
  • gone north
  • gone south
  • gone to Davy Jones' locker
  • gone to feed the fishes
  • gone to his narrow bed
  • gone to the clearing at the end of the path
  • gone west
  • in limbo
  • in repose
  • in the bone yard
  • in the crisper
  • inanimate
  • joined the majority
  • kicked the bucket
  • laid down their burden
  • left a vacant chair
  • left the building
  • lifeless
  • meeting the repo man
  • no longer with us
  • no more
  • off the twig
  • on a permanent vacation
  • passed
  • passed away
  • passed over
  • paying a debt
  • perished
  • perished
  • played a losing hand
  • resting in peace
  • sang his swan song
  • shuffled off the mortal coil
  • sleeping with the fishes]
  • stiff
  • stone cold
  • succumbed
  • taking an extended rest
  • taking the great cat nap
  • tapped out
  • took a harp
  • turned his face to the wall
  • turned up his toes
  • using his one way ticket
  • vaporized
  • wasted
  • with the reaper
  • withered

Religious

  • go to abode of peace
  • angels carried him away
  • answered God's calling
  • asleep in Christ
  • attained Buddha-hood
  • crossed over Jordan
  • crossed over the River Styx
  • earning a reward
  • entered a better world
  • entered the double doors
  • entered the great beyond
  • found the golden grail
  • God took him
  • going to the big castle in the sky
  • gone home
  • gone to a better life
  • gone to a better place
  • gone to eternal rest
  • gone to heaven
  • gone to the playground for the undead
  • in Abraham's bosom
  • in the great beyond
  • joined the choir invisible
  • juggling halos
  • met his maker
  • on the heavenly shores
  • on the other side
  • paid Charon's fare
  • reached nirvana
  • returned to dust
  • returned to his maker
  • returned to his source
  • sprouted wings
  • struck by Zeus
  • traded to the angels
  • transcended
  • translated into glory
  • wandering the Elysian Fields
  • with God now
  • with the ancestors
  • with the angels

Medical

  • at room temperature
  • bloodless
  • didn't make it
  • feeling no pain
  • flatlined
  • his hour is come
  • left us
  • lost
  • lost vital signs
  • negative patient care outcome
  • out of his misery
  • pulled the plug
  • slipped away quickly
  • wearing a toe tag

Burial

  • became a root inspector
  • biting the dust
  • bought a pine condo
  • checking out the grass from underneath
  • counting daisy roots
  • crow bait
  • examines the radishes from below
  • food for worms, worm food
  • in the grave
  • in the horizontal phone booth
  • interred
  • laid to rest
  • eating dandelions by the roots
  • picking turnips with a step ladder
  • pushing up daisies
  • six feet under
  • take an earth plot
  • taking a dirt nap

Murder/Suicide

  • bumped off
  • cashed in
  • erased
  • fled from life
  • offed himself
  • put himself out of misery
  • reached the end of his rope
  • surrendered his life
  • surrendered to the ghost
  • whacked
  • was annihilated
  • was defused
  • was done in
  • was liquidated
  • was snuffed
  • was terminated
  • wearing cement shoes

Occupations

  • cashed in their chips (gambler)
  • danced his last dance (dancer)
  • dropped off the hook (butcher)
  • gone off-line (computer programmer)
  • gone to the happy hunting ground (hunter)
  • gone to the last roundup (cowboy)
  • layed down their knife and fork (gourmands)
  • one last curtain call (actor)
  • ran his last race (runner)
  • reformatted (computer programmer)
  • sang his last song (singer)
  • taken out of production (producer)
  • that was all she wrote (author)
  • took the last count (boxer)
  • went 30 (journalist)
  • wrote his final chapter (author)

Humor

  • baste the formaldehyde turkey
  • became living-challenged
  • decided that Hell's got a better HR Policy than the office
  • gone to sleep city
  • gone to take his free kick at Hitler's backside
  • got stamped "return to sender"
  • immortally challenged
  • kicked the oxygen habit
  • passed his sell-by date
  • permanently out of print
  • procrastinator's paradise
  • solitary confinement
  • tend towards a state of chemical equilibrium
  • winning one for the reaper

Related Terms

  • cadavers (corpses)
  • casket (coffin)
  • cremains (ashes of cremated bodies)
  • funeral director (undertaker)
  • markers (tombstones)
  • mortician (undertaker)
  • non-living person (dead person)
  • obituary (death notice)
  • professional cars (hearses)
  • remains (bodies)
  • service (funeral)
  • vital statistics (death certificate)

 

References

 

"Death Slang - Death and Dying Euphamisms." Fun Games - Bored.com . http://www.bored.com/deathslang/ (accessed March 1, 2011).

"Euphemisms For Death." Funny Material for Any Audience. http://www.you-can-be-funny.com/Euphemisms-For-Death.html (accessed March 1, 2011).

"Euphemism | Define Euphemism at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Free Online Dictionary for English Definitions. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/euphemism (accessed March 1, 2011).

"Euphemisms for Death/dead/to die | Listology." Listology. http://www.listology.com/rosiecotton/list/euphemisms-deathdeadto-die (accessed March 1, 2011).

Keyes, Ralph. "Under the Weather and in the Ground." In Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2010. 124-147.