[sahr-kof-uh-guh s]

noun, plural sar·coph·a·gi [sahr-kof-uh-jahy] /sɑrˈkɒf əˌdʒaɪ/, sar·coph·a·gus·es.

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for sarcophagus

crate, case, bin, chest, coffer, carton, pinto, casket, pall, catafalque

Examples from the Web for sarcophagus

Contemporary Examples of sarcophagus

Historical Examples of sarcophagus

  • 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.


    Anatole France

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

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

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


    H. Rider Haggard

British Dictionary definitions for sarcophagus


noun plural -gi (-ˌɡaɪ) or -guses

a stone or marble coffin or tomb, esp one bearing sculpture or inscriptions

Word Origin for sarcophagus

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

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