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mortuary Line breaks: mor|tu¦ary
Pronunciation: /mɔːtʃʊri/

Definition of mortuary in English:

noun (plural mortuaries)

A room or building in which dead bodies are kept, for hygienic storage or for examination, until burial or cremation.
Example sentences
  • He also introduced a rickshaw service, which takes unclaimed bodies from the government mortuary for a proper burial.
  • For extra payment, undertakers began to offer wealthier people new facilities without the taint of the public mortuary to store their dead away from home.
  • She lay dead in the mortuary of the hospital for two weeks before her family was notified.


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Relating to burial or tombs: mortuary rituals a mortuary temple
More example sentences
  • Burial monuments and other mortuary rituals are often costly and elaborate.
  • One interpretation is that the cave became a focus for mortuary rituals, including the defleshing of the dead.
  • From here, the burial cortège, priests and visitors would pass through ceremonial halls onto a causeway that ascended the desert escarpment to the mortuary temple, built against the east face of the pyramid.


Late Middle English (denoting a gift claimed by a parish priest from a deceased person's estate): from Latin mortuarius, from mortuus 'dead'. The current noun sense dates from the mid 19th century.

  • In the Middle Ages a mortuary was a gift claimed by a parish priest from a deceased person's estate. The word derives from Latin mortuus ‘dead’, the source also of mortgage (Late Middle English), literally a ‘dead pledge’ because the debt dies when the pledge is redeemed; and mortify (Late Middle English) ‘deaden’, and related to murder. The current sense, ‘a room or building in which dead bodies are kept’, dates from the mid 19th century. In Paris the bodies of people found dead formerly were taken to a building at the eastern end of the Île de la Cité, where they were kept until identified. It was called the Morgue (from a French word for haughtiness or sad expression). By the 1830s morgue was being used in English for other mortuaries; the parallel use of French morgue is not recorded until the 1940s and was borrowed back from English.

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