famous last words

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famous last words pl (normally plural, singular famous last word)

  1. A notable final utterance before death, especially one made by a celebrity or historical figure.
    • 1908, "“Don't Give Up The Ship.”," New York Times, 5 Jan. (retrieved 2 Oct 2010):
      Lawrence died defending his vessel and his famous last words, "Don't give up the ship," have been familiar to every schoolboy.
    • 1996, Jane Irwin (editor), George Eliot's Daniel Deronda Notebooks[1], →ISBN, page 367:
      When Arria's husband was hesitating to kill himself, she stabbed herself with his dagger, to demonstrate to him how to accomplish a noble suicide. Her famous last wordsPaete, non dolet ["Paetus, it does not hurt!"].
  2. (figuratively, expressing sarcasm) A statement which is overly optimistic, results from overconfidence, or lacks realistic foresight.
    • 1986, Janice Castro et al. "The Price Was Finally Right," Time, 9 June:
      Says one Sperry product executive: "As a manager, there is almost nothing you can do to get fired here." Considering the new circumstances, those could be famous last words.
    • 1989, Danielle Steele, Season of Passion[2], →ISBN, page 246:
      "But Nick—I'm never getting married again. I'm serious about that."
      "Famous last words."
    • 2007, Suzanne Brockmann, Into the Storm[3], →ISBN, page 417:
      "Lindsey and Tess are both armed. And Stella and Robert are here. We're ridiculously safe."
      "Those sound like such famous last words," Dave said.