Definition of corpse in English:
- Then for the next 8 hours during the second stage I evacuated corpses or dead bodies.
- Lisa Morgan, 30, a legal secretary from Chatham, Kent, clung to a tree for six hours, surrounded by human corpses and dead animals.
- He emphasizes that their dead bodies, their corpses, will fall in the wilderness.
Middle English (denoting the living body of a person or animal): alteration of corse by association with Latin corpus, a change that also took place in French (Old French cors becoming corps). The p was originally silent, as in French; the final e was rare before the 19th century, but now distinguishes corpse from corps.
At one time corpses did not have to be dead. Until the early 18th century a corpse (from Latin corpus ‘body’) could be the living body of a person or animal, as in ‘We often see…a fair and beautiful corpse but a foul and ugly mind’ (Thomas Walkington, 1607). You would need to specify ‘a dead corpse’ or some similar expression if you were talking about a dead body. In time, you could simply say ‘a corpse’ and people would assume that you meant a dead person. The p used to be silent and the final e was rare before the 19th century. In fact, corpse and corps (late 16th century), ‘a division of an army’ are basically the same word. Latin corpus has given us several words, among them corporation (Late Middle English), corpulent (Late Middle English) or ‘fat’, corset (Middle English) a ‘little body’, and incorporate (Late Middle English). A corporal (mid 16th century) is in charge of a ‘body’ of troops.
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