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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 sarcophagus
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Above the silk was an ivory mask, the spoil of a sarcophagus, which he had found in Seville.

    The Paliser case Edgar Saltus
  • They knelt down, each in turn, before the sarcophagus, and put their lips to it.

    Thais Anatole France
  • We are in the antechamber of the hall where the sarcophagus is bound to be!

  • The vases contained the viscer of the mummy enclosed in the sarcophagus.

  • The cover was off, but the painted coffin of the Pharaoh lay in the depths of the sarcophagus.

    Cleopatra H. Rider Haggard
  • I have lain my breasts Against the granite Of the sarcophagus Where he was.

    Spectra Arthur Ficke
  • The 'sarcophagus' displays every known variety of architecture and decoration.

    The Book of Snobs William Makepeace Thackeray
British Dictionary definitions for sarcophagus


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 sarcophagus

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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