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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.
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. 2014.
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Examples from the web for epitaph
  • Young or old, death awaits us all, and the epitaph-writer knows it.
  • This book is a worthy epitaph to a vibrant woman.
  • It seemed an appropriate epitaph for an obsolescent merchandising trend.
  • Most carved epitaphs ignore punctuation.
  • Most of us would prefer a more generous epitaph when we leave this world.
  • So this handsome book is both the biography of a remarkable German grandee and an epitaph for an era.
  • It will do as an epitaph until history comes up with something better.
  • But don't start chiseling that epitaph into granite.
  • It makes for a striking epitaph.
  • He died at 37 and will never have a proper epitaph until a cure is finally found for the disease that bears his name.
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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