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[ep-i-taf, -tahf] /ˈɛp ɪˌtæf, -ˌtɑf/
a commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument about the person buried at that site.
a brief poem or other writing in praise of a deceased person.
verb (used with object)
to commemorate in or with an epitaph.
Origin of epitaph
1350-1400; Middle English epitaphe < Latin epitaphium < Greek epitáphion over or at a tomb, equivalent to epi- epi- + táph(os) tomb + -ion noun, adj. suffix
Related forms
[ep-i-taf-ik] /ˌɛp ɪˈtæf ɪk/ (Show IPA),
epitaphist, noun
epitaphless, adjective
unepitaphed, adjective
Can be confused
epigram, epigraph, epitaph, epithet. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for epitaph
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He was buried at Dublin, with an epitaph recording his cowardice.

  • He closes the letter by saying, "There's a poem for you; it is rather too long for an epitaph."

    Concerning Cats Helen M. Winslow
  • But, now, the memory of it has been awakened within me by you, and I have read you its epitaph.

    A Hero of Our Time M. Y. Lermontov
  • He was also asked to write an epitaph on John Frederick Roorbach.

  • The most beautiful thing he has done—to my mind—is his epitaph.

    My Contemporaries In Fiction David Christie Murray
  • The world has long since written the word "Failure" as an epitaph for Robert Owen.

    Socialism John Spargo
  • There his epitaph may be read in fine bold lettering, still distinct.

    Memoirs Charles Godfrey Leland
  • I would have for my epitaph your smile and the whimsical irony of your comment.

    Erik Dorn

    Ben Hecht
British Dictionary definitions for epitaph


/ˈɛpɪˌtɑːf; -ˌtæf/
a commemorative inscription on a tombstone or monument
a speech or written passage composed in commemoration of a dead person
a final judgment on a person or thing
Derived Forms
epitaphic (ˌɛpɪˈtæfɪk) adjective
epitaphist, noun
Word Origin
C14: via Latin from Greek epitaphion, from epitaphios over a tomb, from epi- + taphos tomb
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 epitaph

mid-14c., from Old French epitaphe (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin epitaphium "funeral oration, eulogy," from Greek epitaphion "a funeral oration," noun use of neuter of epitaphos "of a funeral," from epi "at, over" (see epi-) + taphos "tomb, funeral rites," from PIE root *dhembh- "to bury." Among the Old English equivalents was byrgelsleoð.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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