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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. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sarcophagus
  • The plan is to eventually dismantle the sarcophagus and the exploded reactor inside the new shelter.
  • One thing the paintings don't reveal is who lurks inside the sarcophagus.
  • Fortunately she had trained herself to sleep in the supine pose of a marble saint on a sarcophagus lid.
  • One sarcophagus has provided a family with a smooth surface for washing clothes.
  • The sarcophagus had long been believed buried beneath the church's main altar.
  • The find contains five burials, including a large vaulted grave and a stone sarcophagus.
  • Rai was honored with a splendidly decorated cremation tower and noble bull sarcophagus.
  • The team first removed the stone lid from his sarcophagus.
  • The new sarcophagus, to be moved into place on rails by remote control.
  • We found ourselves standing there awkwardly on either side of the sarcophagus trying to decide whether or not to smile.
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
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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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