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[sahr-kof-uh-guh s] /sɑrˈkɒf ə gəs/
noun, plural sarcophagi
[sahr-kof-uh-jahy] /sɑrˈkɒf əˌdʒaɪ/ (Show IPA),
a stone coffin, especially one bearing sculpture, inscriptions, etc., often displayed as a monument.
Greek Antiquity. a kind of stone thought to consume the flesh of corpses, used for coffins.
Origin of sarcophagus
1595-1605; < Latin < Greek sarkophágos, noun use of the adj.; see sarcophagous Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sarcophagi
Historical Examples
  • The majority are engaged in the construction of temples and sarcophagi.

  • The images of the Four Seasons are not uncommon on Christian sarcophagi.

    Pagan and Christian Rome Rodolfo Lanciani
  • Coffer cut with ledges and catch-holes for a lid, like other sarcophagi.

  • In this the graves and sarcophagi are sunk in the floor as well as in the walls.

    The Catacombs of Rome William Henry Withrow
  • The story of Iphigenia is a favourite theme for the sarcophagi of women.

    The Story of Perugia Margaret Symonds
  • The group of sarcophagi in this chamber has apparently never been touched.

    The Story of Perugia Margaret Symonds
  • The museum contains a fine collection of statues, busts, sarcophagi, &c.

    Rambles in Rome S. Russell Forbes
  • On the left-hand side, two sarcophagi remain, with the names of Sex.

    Old Rome

    Robert Burn
  • Beneath the chapel is a vault lined with sarcophagi of the Corsini.

    Walks in Rome Augustus J.C. Hare
  • Hence we ascend a staircase lined with Christian sarcophagi.

    Walks in Rome Augustus J.C. Hare
British Dictionary definitions for sarcophagi


noun (pl) -gi (-ˌɡaɪ), -guses
a stone or marble coffin or tomb, esp one bearing sculpture or inscriptions
Word Origin
C17: via Latin from Greek sarkophagos flesh-devouring; from the type of stone used, which was believed to destroy the flesh of corpses
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 sarcophagi

plural of sarcophagus (q.v.).



c.1600, "type of stone used for coffins," from Latin sarcophagus, from Greek sarkophagos "limestone used for coffins," literally "flesh-eating," in reference to the supposed action of this type of limestone (quarried near Assos in Troas, hence the Latin lapis Assius) in quickly decomposing the body, from sarx (genitive sarkos) "flesh" (see sarcasm) + phagein "to eat" (see -phagous). Related: Sarcophagal.

The "stone" sense was the earliest in English; meaning "stone coffin, often with inscriptions or decorative carvings" is recorded from 1705. The Latin word, shortened in Vulgar Latin to *sarcus, is the source of French cercueil, German Sarg "coffin," Dutch zerk "tombstone."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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