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Epitaph

Definition of epitaph

An epitaph is a small bit of text placed on a person’s grave to honor or commemorate them. Some epitaphs are actually written by the deceased person before their death; other epitaphs are written by friends, family members or other loved ones. Many epitaphs are simply brief accounts of family records, or career choices, as well as “beloved (insert relationship here) of (insert name here).” For example, “Beloved mother of three,” or “Beloved husband of Eleanor” are simple epitaphs found on many graves.

Etymology of epitaph

Epitaph originated from the Greek epitaphion, a combination of epi-, meaning “at,” or “over,” and taphos, meaning “tomb.”

History of epitaph

Although epitaphs have existed for a long time, they became most lengthy and prominent in the Renaissance, when the elite became more enthusiastic at the idea of having a long description of their family history, career, accomplishments, and the like listed at their gravesite. Many even had the messages translated into Latin. Some of the epitaphs were taken from holy books, and some warn the readers of their own deaths.

Notable or Famous Epitaphs

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare
Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
And curst be he yt moves my bones.
-Epitaph of William Shakespeare

Looking into the portals of eternity teaches that
The brotherhood of man is inspired by God’s word;
Then all prejudice of race vanishes away.
-Epitaph of George Washington

Alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken ern,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
-Epitaph of Oscar Wilde

I am ready to meet my Maker.
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal
of meeting me is another matter.
-Epitaph of Winston Churchill

She did it the hard way.
-Epitaph of Bette Davis

The body of
B. Franklin,
Printer,
Like the cover of an old book
its contents torn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding,
lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be wholly lost,
for it will, as he believed, appear once more,
in a new and more perfect edition,
corrected and amended
by the Author.
-Epitaph of Benjamin Franklin

Free at last
Free at last
Thank God almighty I'm free at last.
-Epitaph of Martin Luther King, Jr.