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[deth] /dɛθ/
the act of dying; the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism.
Compare brain death.
an instance of this:
a death in the family; letters published after his death.
the state of being dead:
to lie still in death.
extinction; destruction:
It will mean the death of our hopes.
manner of dying:
a hero's death.
(usually initial capital letter) the agent of death personified, usually represented as a man or a skeleton carrying a scythe.
Compare Grim Reaper.
Also called spiritual death. loss or absence of spiritual life.
Christian Science. the false belief that life comes to an end.
bloodshed or murder:
Hitler was responsible for the death of millions.
a cause or occasion of death:
You'll be the death of me yet!
Archaic. pestilence; plague.
Compare Black Death.
at death's door, in serious danger of death; gravely ill:
Two survivors of the crash are still at death's door.
be death on, Informal.
  1. to be excessively strict about:
    That publisher is death on sloppily typed manuscripts.
  2. to be snobbish about or toward.
  3. to be able to cope with easily and successfully:
    The third baseman is death on pop flies.
do to death,
  1. to kill, especially to murder.
  2. to repeat too often, to the point of becoming monotonous and boring:
    That theme has been done to death.
in at the death,
  1. Fox Hunting. present at the kill.
  2. present at the climax or conclusion of a situation.
put to death, to kill; execute.
to death, to an extreme degree; thoroughly:
sick to death of the heat.
Origin of death
before 900; Middle English deeth, Old English dēath; cognate with German Tod, Gothic dauthus; akin to Old Norse deyja to die1; see -th1
Related forms
predeath, noun
Can be confused
dearth, death.
1. decease, demise, passing, departure.
1. birth, life. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for death
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If he had known it, it was with the Dance of death on the bridge of Lucerne.

    The Armourer's Prentices Charlotte M. Yonge
  • You know we wouldn't think of stopping when it may mean life or death to you.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • "Poor chap's only starved to death," said Mrs. Gwilt-Athelstan.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • I don't think he ever got over the death of his brother, about a year ago.

  • He kept no records of birthdays and wedding-anniversaries or the hour of death.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
British Dictionary definitions for death


the permanent end of all functions of life in an organism or some of its cellular components
an instance of this: his death ended an era
a murder or killing: he had five deaths on his conscience
termination or destruction: the death of colonialism
a state of affairs or an experience considered as terrible as death: your constant nagging will be the death of me
a cause or source of death
(usually capital) a personification of death, usually a skeleton or an old man holding a scythe
  1. to death, to the death, until dead: bleed to death, a fight to the death
  2. to death, excessively: bored to death
at death's door, likely to die soon
(informal) catch one's death, catch one's death of cold, to contract a severe cold
do to death
  1. to kill
  2. to overuse (a joke, etc) so that it no longer has any effect
in at the death
  1. present when an animal that is being hunted is caught and killed
  2. present at the finish or climax
(informal) like death warmed up, very ill
like grim death, as if afraid for one's life
put to death, to kill deliberately or execute
adjectives fatal lethal mortal prefixes necro- thanato-
Word Origin
Old English dēath; related to Old High German tōd death, Gothic dauthus
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for death

Old English deað "death, dying, cause of death," in plura, "ghosts," from Proto-Germanic *dauthaz (cf. Old Saxon doth, Old Frisian dath, Dutch dood, Old High German tod, German Tod, Old Norse dauði, Danish død, Swedish död, Gothic dauþas "death"), from verbal stem *dheu- (3) "to die" (see die (v.)) + *-thuz suffix indicating "act, process, condition."

I would not that death should take me asleep. I would not have him meerly seise me, and onely declare me to be dead, but win me, and overcome me. When I must shipwrack, I would do it in a sea, where mine impotencie might have some excuse; not in a sullen weedy lake, where I could not have so much as exercise for my swimming. [John Donne, letter to Sir Henry Goodere, Sept. 1608]
Death's-head, a symbol of mortality, is from 1590s. Death row first recorded 1940s. Death knell is attested from 1814; death penalty from 1875; death rate from 1859. Slang be death on "be very good at" is from 1839. Death wish first recorded 1896. The death-watch beetle (1660s) inhabits houses, makes a ticking noise like a watch, and was superstitiously supposed to portend death.
FEW ears have escaped the noise of the death-watch, that is, the little clickling sound heard often in many rooms, somewhat resembling that of a watch; and this is conceived to be of an evil omen or prediction of some person's death: wherein notwithstanding there is nothing of rational presage or just cause of terror unto melancholy and meticulous heads. For this noise is made by a little sheathwinged grey insect, found often in wainscot benches and wood-work in the summer. [Browne, "Vulgar Errors"]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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death in Medicine

death (děth)
The end of life; the permanent cessation of vital bodily functions, as manifested in humans by the loss of heartbeat, the absence of spontaneous breathing, and brain death.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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death in Science
The end of life of an organism or cell. In humans and animals, death is manifested by the permanent cessation of vital organic functions, including the absence of heartbeat, spontaneous breathing, and brain activity. Cells die as a result of external injury or by an orderly, programmed series of self-destructive events known as apoptosis. The most common causes of death for humans in well-developed countries are cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, certain chronic diseases such as diabetes and emphysema, lung infections, and accidents. See also brain death.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for death
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with death
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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