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Syllabification: mor·tal
Pronunciation: /ˈmôrdl

Definition of mortal in English:


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.
1.1Of or relating 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.
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!


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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.
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'.

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