An epitaph (from Greek ἐπιτάφιον epitaphion "a funeral oration" from ἐπί epi "at, over" and τάφος taphos "tomb")[1] is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial. An epitaph may be in poem verse; poets have been known to compose their own epitaphs prior to their death, as W.B. Yeats did.

Most epitaphs are brief records of the family, and perhaps the career, of the deceased, often with an expression of love or respect - "beloved father of ..." - but others are more ambitious. From the Renaissance to the 19th century in Western culture, epitaphs for notable people became increasingly lengthy and pompous descriptions of their family origins, career, virtues and immediate family, often in Latin. However, the Laudatio Turiae, the longest known Ancient Roman epitaph exceeds almost all of these at 180 lines; it celebrates the virtues of a wife, probably of a consul.

Some are quotes from holy texts, or aphorisms. An approach of many epitaphs is to 'speak' to the reader and warn them about their own mortality. A wry trick of others is to request the reader to get off their resting place, as often it would require the reader to stand on the ground above the coffin to read the inscription. Some record achievements, (e.g. past politicians note the years of their terms of office) but nearly all (excepting those where this is impossible, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) note name, year or date of birth and date of death. Many list family and their relation to them; such as Father / Mother / Son / Daughter etc. of.


Notable epitaphs

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
that here, obedient to their law, we lie.

— Simonides's epigram at Thermopylae

I am ready to meet my Maker.
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

Winston Churchill[2]

To save your world you asked this man to die:
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?

— Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier, written by W. H. Auden[3]

Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!

Virginia Woolf[4]

Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare,
To digg þe dust encloased heare.
Blese be þe man þat spares þes stones,
And curst be he þat moves my bones.
In modern English:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

William Shakespeare[5]

I told you I was ill.

Spike Milligan

That's all folks.

Mel Blanc

If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again.

Stan Laurel

Consider, friend, as you pass by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you too shall be. Prepare, therefore, to follow me.

— Scottish tombstone epitaph

Epitaphs in music

In a more figurative sense, music in memory of deceased people has been composed. Igor Stravinsky composed in 1958 Epitaphium for flute, clarinet and harp. In 1967 Krzysztof Meyer called his Symphony No. 2 for choir and orchestra Epitaphium Stanisław Wiechowicz in memoriam. Jeffrey Lewis composed Epitaphium — Children of the Sun for narrator, chamber choir, piano, flute, clarinet and percussion. Bronius Kutavičius composed in 1998 Epitaphium temporum pereunti. Valentin Silvestrov composed in 1999 Epitaph L.B. (Епітафія Л.Б.) for viola (or cello) and piano. In 2007 Graham Waterhouse composed Epitaphium for string trio as a tribute to the memory of his father William Waterhouse.

See also


External links

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(on a tomb or monument),

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  • Epitaph — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Epitaph Records Fundada entre 1985 y 1986 Fundador(es) Brett Gurewitz Género(s) Punk rock Post hardcore Hardcore punk Rock alternativo País de Origen …   Wikipedia Español

  • Epitaph — (эпитафия) может означать: Epitaph  музыкальная композиция Чарльза Мингуса (1989) Epitaph  концертный 4 дисковый бокс сет группы King Crimson (1997) Epitaph  альбом группы Front Line Assembly (2001) Epitaph  альбом группы… …   Википедия

  • Epitaph — Ep i*taph, v. i. To write or speak after the manner of an epitaph. [R.] [1913 Webster] The common in their speeches epitaph upon him . . . He lived as a wolf and died as a dog. Bp. Hall. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Epitaph — Ep i*taph, n. [F. [ e]pitaphe, L. epitaphium a funeral oration, fr. Gr. ?, orig. an adj., over or at a tomb; epi upon + ? tomb. Cf. {Cenotaph}.] 1. An inscription on, or at, a tomb, or a grave, in memory or commendation of the one buried there; a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Epitaph — Ep i*taph, v. t. To commemorate by an epitaph. [R.] [1913 Webster] Let me be epitaphed the inventor of English hexameters. G. Harvey. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Epitaph — (Epitaphion, griech.), Grabschrift; auch ein mit einer solchen versehenes Grabmal …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Epitaph — Epitāph (Epitaphĭum, grch.), Grabschrift, auch Grabmal; Epitaphĭus (zu ergänzen: logos, Rede), Leichenrede, namentlich die Rede zum Ruhm der im Kampfe für das Vaterland Gefallenen, wie der E. des Perikles im 2. Buche des Thucydides …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • epitaph — mid 14c., from O.Fr. epitaphe (12c.) and directly from M.L. epitaphium funeral oration, eulogy, from Gk. epitaphion a funeral oration, neut. of epitaphos of a funeral, from epi at, over (see EPI (Cf. epi )) + taphos tomb, funeral rites, from PIE… …   Etymology dictionary

  • epitaph — [n] inscription on a gravestone commemoration, elegy, epigraph, eulogy, hic jacet, legend, memorial, monument, remembrance, requiescat in pace, sentiment; concept 278 …   New thesaurus

  • epitaph — ► NOUN ▪ words written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone. ORIGIN Greek epitaphion funeral oration , from ephitaphios over or at a tomb …   English terms dictionary

  • epitaph — [ep′ə taf΄, ep′ətäf΄] n. [ME & OFr epitaphe < L epitaphium, eulogy < Gr epitaphion < epi, upon, at + taphos, tomb < thaptein, to bury] 1. an inscription on a tomb or gravestone in memory of the person buried there 2. a short… …   English World dictionary

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