Definition of death in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɛθ/


[mass noun]
1The action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism: he had been depressed since the death of his father [count noun]: an increase in deaths from skin cancer I don’t believe in life after death
More example sentences
  • It is a sad fact that these deaths are now so commonplace that they rarely make the news.
  • There is no family history of sudden infant deaths and everything had seemed okay.
  • It is estimated that around one fifth of all deaths in the UK are attributed to smoking.
demise, dying, end, passing, passing away, passing on, loss of life, expiry, expiration, departure from life, final exit, eternal rest;
murder, killing, assassination, execution, dispatch, slaying, slaughter, massacre
informal snuffing, curtains, kicking the bucket
Law  decease
rare quietus
1.1The state of being dead: even in death, she was beautiful
More example sentences
  • So tranquil appeared the manly features in the repose of death, that some moments had passed ere those around could believe that the patriarch was no more.
  • The bad part of grief is that it, like death, lasts forever.
1.2The permanent ending of vital processes in a cell or tissue.
Example sentences
  • I highly recommend this book for all who have an interest in plant biology and programmed cell death in general.
  • Mutations can affect genes that control the birth or death of cells.
  • Roots of this length have not initiated physiological death processes, and include a mass of mitotic cells.
1.3 (Death) The personification of the power that destroys life, often represented in art and literature as a skeleton or an old man holding a scythe. Also called the Grim Reaper.
Example sentences
  • The Ancient Mariner was by now in agony, as he looked upon all those whom Death had taken.
  • Ah, they told themselves, Reaper, the Minion of Death, is back in town.
  • One short sleep, we wake eternally, and Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!
the Grim Reaper, the Dark Angel, the Angel of Death
1.4The destruction or permanent end of something: the death of her hopes
More example sentences
  • Cinema's birth or rebirth is intimately linked to its death and the process of its mourning.
  • The death of the American auto industry -- and the loss of hundreds of thousands of high-paying union jobs -- isn't necessarily a bad thing for the environment if it means more market share for more efficient Japanese vehicles.
  • The Mighty Ed Driscoll has a terrific post on the death of the smart romantic comedy, inspired by a piece by A.O. Scott.
end, finish, cessation, termination, extinction, extinguishing, collapse, ruin, ruination, destruction, extermination, eradication, annihilation, obliteration, extirpation
1.5A damaging or destructive state of affairs: to be driven to a dance by one’s father would be social death
More example sentences
  • What they did was create a situation where if you are a high school student, it is social death to have a mobile phone that is not a Nokia.
  • Being a Classics teacher is not the social death it was twenty-five years ago.
  • Playing the lone wolf is gutsy, but be prepared for professional and social death.



as sure as death

Quite certain.
Example sentences
  • Cynicism comes with age, as sure as death, and I haven't missed it.
  • Only give her a chance, and as sure as death she'll get hold of John, after all.
  • They would take turns to come to our house for a cup of tea and as sure as death they would sit on this chair.

at death's door

(Especially in hyperbolic use) so ill that one may die: you’ve been out a lot, considering you’re supposed to be at death’s door
More example sentences
  • Yes, I was prostrate, at death's door, battling a feline-inflicted strep infection.
  • She was at death's door and it wasn't like Jennifer - it was like something had been switched off inside her.
  • Paramedic Liz Moore said: ‘It's the first time we've seen him since the incident in February, and it's lovely to see him looking so well after being at death's door.’

be the death of

(Often used hyperbolically or humorously) cause someone’s death: you’ll be the death of me with all your questions
More example sentences
  • His early death encouraged the belief that debauchery and dissipation had been the death of him.
  • It had been keeping Paladiene safe for over one thousand years now, but he alone had been the death of over one hundred Gate Holders.
  • According to the authors, human-induced global warming could be the death of over a million species by the year 2050.

be in at the death

Be present when a hunted animal is caught and killed.
Example sentences
  • All the hunters who were in at the death expressed their surprise at these appearances.
  • My horse was, fortunately, a quiet old beast, that had rushed with me into many a herd, and been in at the death of many a buffalo.
  • After the latter I had many a long and tiring run in my boyish days; and on one occasion followed the pack for five hours, without a moment's rest, and was in at the death of a fourth hare.
4.1Be present when something fails or comes to an end.
Example sentences
  • After the first two matches of the 2004-05 Premier League season, Arsenal and Chelsea have both announced their intentions to be in at the death for the Premiership title.
  • Before the big show I went on stage and told the audience they were in at the death of a film.
  • A fury of rule or ruin has always in the history of human affairs been a characteristic of the ‘strong men’ whose fate it is to be in at the death of an expiring principle.

catch one's death (of cold)

informal Catch a severe cold or chill: don’t come out, dear, you’ll catch your death!
More example sentences
  • Um… Could we stay the night, it is dreadfully cold out here, and we might catch our death if we don't get in out of the rain.
  • Go and put some dry clothes on quick, before you catch your death of cold.
  • There are extensive views from here across Ilkley Moor and Wharfedale, but don't forget to wrap up warm or you may just catch your death of cold!

do someone to death

Kill someone: he had been done to death by his two attackers
More example sentences
  • But because he was different he was done to death.
  • But the death of the prince of Wales at Tewkesbury in 1471 sealed his own fate, and a few days later he was done to death.
  • We are standing here only a couple of hundred yards from Magennis's bar where Mr McCartney was done to death a few weeks ago.

do something to death

Perform or repeat something so frequently that it becomes tediously familiar: a subject that has been done to death by generations of painters
More example sentences
  • Racing games have been done to death so these days they have to fall into two categories: genuine world-beaters or average games with a great gimmick.
  • Hitler and the Nazis have been done to death academically.
  • Mr O'Sullivan said the incinerator issue had been done to death here.

a fate worse than death

A terrible experience: are you going to buy me a drink as well as rescuing me from a fate worse than death?
More example sentences
  • Treves rescues Merrick from a fate worse than death as he is attacked by a ravenous crowd at Liverpool Street station.
  • To me, failing at this calling when challenged would be a fate worse than death.
  • It'd be a fate worse than death, a bit like being kept comatose on life support for decades: yes, technically you're alive, but it's no life at all.

like death warmed up (or North American over)

informal Extremely tired or ill: I feel like death warmed up
More example sentences
  • ‘Geez mate, you look like death warmed up on toast and served in hell’ Max commented as he sat down on the end of the bed.
  • From the moment of life to the moment of death, he had the exact same look in his eyes, because he always kind of looked like death warmed over.
  • He looked like death warmed over for the second or third time. He had the pallor of a corpse; he had little color to him.

a matter of life and death

see life.

put someone to death

Kill someone, especially with official sanction: the prisoner was found guilty of sabotage and put to death without trial
More example sentences
  • While about one quarter of murder victims in Texas are black males, since 1976 only 0.4 percent of prisoners executed in Texas have been put to death for murdering black victims.
  • Longerich concurred, adding that Hitler's reference to the Slovakian Jews is significant because (as Hitler must by this time have known) they had been put to death in extermination camps.
  • This is not achieved by objectifying murderers and putting them to death to serve as an example to others in the expectation that they might possibly be deterred thereby.

till (or until) death us do part

For as long as each of a couple live: to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, till death us do part
From the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer
More example sentences
  • ‘In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part’: these are words spoken by grown-ups.
  • God's blessing is bestowed on the couple's pledge of fidelity ‘till death us do part.’
  • This promise to love, honor, and cherish till death us do part was precisely a recognition of our new state of unity.

to death

Used of a particular action or process that results in someone’s death: he was stabbed to death
More example sentences
  • Of what use is decisive victory in battle, he asked, if we bleed to death as a result?
  • Forensic experts believe they now have a DNA profile of the person who stabbed her to death.
  • Earlier this year, trouble flared when a British teenager was stabbed to death outside a bar.
13.1Used to emphasize the extreme nature of a specific action, feeling, or state of mind: I’m sick to death of you I’ve got used to speaking in public but it used to scare me to death
More example sentences
  • I am sick to death of people like you standing up and telling me how wrong I am.
  • However, I am sick to death of people maligning the elderly as burdens on society.
  • I'm sick to death of liberal commentators waffling on their opposition to the war.

to the death

Until dead: a fight to the death
More example sentences
  • We go on until all of you give up or until the last man is standing, a fight to the death.
  • That way, he suggested, those who remain behind can fight to the death without fear that their cause will die with them.
  • My theory is they do this to force people to buy two packets, in order to avoid that inevitable fight to the death.



Pronunciation: /ˈdɛθlʌɪk/
Example sentences
  • Hester's face is an almost deathlike pale mask.
  • Because in the face of all this death and deathlike cynicism, love is the one impulse in our repertoire that says the world is unfinished.
  • That's why I sank into a deathlike peace one recent night in Northern Ontario, as midnight ushered in the longest day of the year.


Old English dēath, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch dood and German Tod, also to die1.

  • dead from Old English:

    Dead is related to Dutch dood and German Tod ‘death’, and to death itself. Their shared ancestor is the origin of die. Often it is not enough to be dead: someone must be as dead as a doornail or as a dodo. The comparison with the extinct dodo is understandable enough, but it is not clear why doornails are particularly associated with death. A doornail was one of the large iron studs that were once used on doors to give additional strength or simply for decoration. It may also have been the large stud struck by the knocker, which, subject to constant pounding, could be considered well and truly dead. The phrase goes back to the Middle Ages and was used by Shakespeare, in whose time a person could also be as dead as a herring. Death has prompted many reflections on the human condition. The Roman poet Claudian wrote omnia mors aequat, ‘death levels all’—in English death is the great leveller. Shakespeare's The Tempest contains the line ‘He that dies pays all debts’, a thought that had become death pays all debts by the time of the novelist Sir Walter Scott. That nothing is certain but death and taxes has been a view since the early 18th century. The original deadline (mid 19th century) was a line drawn around a military prison, beyond which any prisoner was liable to be shot. It is first mentioned in a document of the 1860s.

Words that rhyme with death

Beth, breath, Jerez, Macbeth, Seth

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: death

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