Definition of mortal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmôrdl/


1(Of a living human being, often in contrast to a divine being) subject to death: all men are mortal
More example sentences
  • They live in fear of any living, breathing mortal man.
  • But human beings are mortal creatures and subject to the whims of nature.
  • Earthly things were mortal - subject to change and transition - while the stars and planets were eternal and incorruptible.
1.1Relating to humanity as subject to death: the coffin held the mortal remains of her uncle
More example sentences
  • The mortal remains of the founder of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers rest at Mount Sion and it remains the principal site for the veneration of his relics.
  • There were poignant scenes as his mortal remains were brought to the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
  • The mortal remains of King Richard II of England may be interred in a Scots mediaeval church and not in Westminster Abbey, as has been presumed for the past 600 years.
1.2 informal Conceivable or imaginable: punishment out of all mortal proportion to the offense
More example sentences
  • The things I can do are beyond your mortal imagination.
  • And don't you imagine he ever buys anything; every mortal thing is home grown
  • And if I laugh at any mortal thing.
2 [attributive] Causing or liable to cause death; fatal: a mortal disease figurative the scandal appeared to have struck a mortal blow to the government
More example sentences
  • The transfer of sovereignty, the election, they didn't deal a mortal blow to the insurgency.
  • Without his support the project will suffer a mortal blow.
  • Destroying the finance infrastructure of terrorism can strike a mortal blow at the network of terrorism but cannot prevent every individual terrorist act.
deadly, fatal, lethal, death-dealing, murderous, terminal
2.1(Of a battle) fought to the death: from the outbuildings came the screams of men in mortal combat
More example sentences
  • Yet gladiators must frequently have met their intimate fellows in mortal combat.
  • They build fences to stop the other from trespassing, violently attack each other's wives and children and, finally, destroy themselves in mortal combat.
  • You learn from history that although the young men from both sides threw themselves at each other in mortal combat, they could shake hands a generation later.
2.2(Of an enemy or a state of hostility) admitting or allowing no reconciliation until death.
Example sentences
  • Reconciliation of mortal enemies is a dream of wimps and weenies!
  • His one mortal enemy is change, and he has yet to figure out how to beat it.
  • In the old Scotch-Irish warrior tradition, Jackson regarded political opponents as mortal enemies to be crushed, if possible.
2.3 Christian Theology Denoting a grave sin that is regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace. Often contrasted with venial.
Example sentences
  • If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.
  • They believed priests were Christ's representatives on earth and that missing Mass was a mortal sin, and they made sure the rosary was said every night.
  • If a priest says, ‘do not commit this mortal sin, or else…,’ he's not making a threat, he's giving a warning.
2.4(Of a feeling, especially fear) very intense: parents live in mortal fear of children’s diseases
More example sentences
  • The soloist nervously expresses mortal doubts and fears.
  • I couldn't remember - but I still felt this sense of terror inside, the aftermath of a moment of extreme discomfort and mortal fear.
  • It was like a particularly manic amusement park ride, with the amusement somewhat tempered by mortal fear.
extreme, (very) great, terrible, awful, dreadful, intense, severe, grave, dire, unbearable
2.5 informal Very great: he was in a mortal hurry
More example sentences
  • What is the mortal hurry in the hearing of the application seeking withdrawal of the case?
  • She was already seated and since class hadn't started yet she decided to socialize at a mortal speed.
2.6 informal, dated Long and tedious: for three mortal days it rained
More example sentences
  • Here I've been shut up in this confounded house for four mortal days!
  • For six mortal hours I sat in the office without once leaving my chair!


1A human being subject to death, often contrasted with a divine being.
Example sentences
  • Very rarely and very few blessed mortals are clasped by death in a peaceful embrace.
  • There are a few times, however, when a transformation takes place in order to save a mortal from death.
  • Now he was desperately in need of calm, which he got in being together with other such mortals who were also equally scared.
human being, human, person, man/woman;
1.1 humorous A person contrasted with others regarded as being of higher status or ability: an ambassador had to live in a style that was not expected of lesser mortals
More example sentences
  • Further, the tone of the column may have portrayed the writer as some high priest sitting in judgment of lesser mortals.
  • It is much easier to hurl accusations from above and demand that lesser mortals do the actual work.
  • If maths professors cannot work out how mortgage rates are calculated what chance do we lesser mortals stand?


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin mortalis, from mors, mort- 'death'.

  • murder from Old English:

    The ancient root of murder is shared by Latin mors ‘death’, from which mortal (Late Middle English) also derives, as do words at mortuary. In his Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer wrote ‘Murder will out’. The idea is older, but his concise way of expressing it ensured that it became proverbial. From the 18th century blue was thought of as the colour of plagues and of harmful things in general, and someone being attacked would cry or scream blue murder to emphasize their plight. The phrase now refers to making a noisy protest.

Words that rhyme with mortal

chortle, immortal, portal

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: mor·tal

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