101 Euphemisms for Dead, Death or Dying

Death's Finality Makes Us Uncomfortable, So We Use Terms Like These to Avoid It

EKG drawing
To "flatline" is a common euphemism meaning "to die.". Photo © Seth Joel/Getty Images

French writer and philosopher Voltaire said, "One great use of words is to hide our thoughts." This is a concise explanation of why people use euphemisms -- the substitution of an inoffensive word or phrase for something generally considered offensive or insensitively explicit. Because the reality of death and dying makes us feel uncomfortable, we often resort to various euphemisms to indirectly reference the inevitable end of the human condition.

Here, alphabetically, is a list of 101 common euphemisms used in the English language to refer to the "fate from which there is no escape," i.e. dead, death or dying.

  • Angels carried Him/Her away
  • Asleep
  • At room temperature
  • Awakened to eternal life
  • Before his/her time
  • Bereft of life
  • (The) Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler wrote a classic detective novel using this title)
  • Bit the dust
  • Bite the big one
  • Bought a one-way ticket
  • Bought the farm (the "farm" might refer to a cemetery plot)
  • Breathed his/her last
  • Called to Christ/Our Lord
  • Cashed in (or out)
  • Cashed in his/her chips
  • Ceased to be
  • Checked into the Horizontal Hilton
  • Checked into the Motel Deep 6
  • Checked out
  • Climbed the stairway to heaven
  • Croaked
  • Crossed over
  • Crossed the Great Divide
  • (A) Debt we all must pay
  • Deceased
  • Deep Six
  • Defunct
  • Departed
  • Destroyed (generally used with pets)
  • Dirt nap
  • D.O.A. (acronym for "dead on arrival")
  • Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (Monopoly anyone?)
  • Entered eternal rest
  • Entered the Pearly Gates
  • Entered the Sweet Hereafter
  • Expired
  • Faded away
  • Feeding the worms (or "became worm food")
  • Flatlined
  • Fragged (this term is popular with video gamers)
  • Gave up the ghost
  • Got his/her just reward
  • Got his/her wings
  • (The) Great Leveler
  • Hamlet sleep
  • His/Her number's up
  • Immortality-challenged
  • Is in a better place (don't say this to someone grieving a death)
  • Is kaput
  • Is no more
  • Joined his/her ancestors
  • Journey's end
  • Kicked the bucket
  • Kicked the can
  • Kicked the oxygen habit
  • Knocked on heaven's door
  • Laid down his/her life
  • Late (as in "the late Mr. Jones")
  • Launched into eternity
  • Leave/left this life
  • Left the building (often preceded by "Elvis has...")
  • Liquidated
  • Living-challenged
  • Lost his/her life
  • Met an untimely end
  • Met his/her maker
  • No longer counted in the census
  • Not going to shop at Walmart anymore
  • Out of business
  • Passed (probably the most common euphemism in use today)
  • Passed away
  • Passed the point of no return
  • Pass on
  • Pay/paid the piper
  • Pegged out (likely borrowed from the game of cribbage)
  • Perished
  • Playing a harp
  • Pushing up daisies
  • Relinquished his/her life
  • Resting
  • Resting in peace
  • Rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible (from the classic Monty Python sketch, "Dead Parrot")
  • Shuffled off the mortal coil (uttered most famously by Hamlet in Shakespeare's play)
  • Six feet under (the traditional depth at which a body is buried)
  • Sleeps
  • Sleep with the fishes
  • Slipped away
  • Substantive negative outcome
  • Succumbed
  • Surrendered his/her life
  • Snuffed out
  • Terminated
  • Toes up
  • Took a permanent vacation
  • Turn to dust
  • Walked the plank (argh, pirates be familiar with this one!)
  • Was called home
  • Went the way of all flesh
  • Went to be with the Lord
  • Went to Davy Jones' Locker
  • Went to the Happy Hunting Grounds

Sources
"Never Say 'Die': Euphemisms for Death" by Richard Nordquist. www.grammar.about.com. http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/Never-Say-die-Euphemisms-For-Death.htm

"Buy the farm" by Barbara Mikkelson, July 13, 2007. www.snopes.com. http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/farm.asp

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