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From Old French mortalite, from Latin mortālitās, from mortālis (relating to death), from mors (death); equivalent to mortal +‎ -ity.



mortality (countable and uncountable, plural mortalities)

  1. The state or quality of being mortal.
    1. The state of being susceptible to death.
      Antonym: immortality
    2. (archaic) The quality of being punishable by death.
      • 1681, John Dryden, The Spanish Fryar: Or, the Double Discovery. [], London: [] Richard Tonson and Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 6484883, Act II, page 28:
        [] actions of Charity do alleviate, as I may say, and take off from the Mortality of the Sin.
    3. (archaic) The quality of causing death.
      Synonyms: deadliness, lethality
      • 1685, Thomas Willis, Tract of Fevers, Chapter 15, in The London Practice of Physick, London: Thomas Basset and William Crooke, p. 626,[4]
        [] the Fevers of Women in Child-bed; to wit, both the Lacteal, and that called Putrid, which, by reason of its Mortality, deserves to be call’d Malignant.
  2. The number of deaths; and, usually and especially, the number of deaths per time unit (usually per year), expressed as a rate.
    1. Deaths resulting from an event (such as a war, epidemic or disaster).
      • 1722, Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, London: E. Nutt et al., p. 200,[5]
        [] the Mortality was so great in the Yard or Alley, that there was no Body left to give Notice to the Buriers or Sextons, that there were any dead Bodies there to be bury’d.
      • 1853, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruth, London: Chapman and Hall, Volume 3, Chapter 9, p. 242,[6]
        [] the doctors stood aghast at the swift mortality among the untended sufferers []
      • 1928, Virginia Woolf, chapter 1, in Orlando: A Biography, London: The Hogarth Press, OCLC 154641284; republished as Orlando: A Biography (eBook no. 0200331h.html), Australia: Project Gutenberg Australia, July 2015:
        The Great Frost was, historians tell us, the most severe that has ever visited these islands. Birds froze in mid air and fell like stones to the ground. [] The mortality among sheep and cattle was enormous.
    2. (biology, ecology, demography, insurance) The number of deaths per given unit of population over a given period of time.
      Synonyms: death rate, mortality rate, casualty rate
      Coordinate terms: case fatality rate, infection fatality rate, lethality
      • 1776, Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 8, p. 97,[7]
        In foundling hospitals, and among the children brought up by parish charities the mortality is still greater than among those of the common people.
      • 1798, Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, London: J. Johnson, Chapter 2, pp. 32-33,[8]
        Some of the objects of enquiry would be [] what was the comparative mortality among the children of the most distressed part of the community, and those who lived rather more at their ease []
      • 1918, Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, London: Chatto and Windus, “Florence Nightingale,” Chapter 3, p. 146,[9]
        And, even in peace and at home, what was the sanitary condition of the Army? The mortality in the barracks was, she found, nearly double the mortality in civil life.
      • 1962, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter 8, p. 114,[10]
        [] a drought year brought conditions especially favorable to the beetle and the mortality of elms went up 1000 per cent.
  3. (figuratively) Death.
  4. (figuratively, archaic) Mortals collectively.
    Synonyms: humankind, humanity, mankind
    • 1604, Michael Drayton, Moyses in a Map of His Miracles, London, Book 1, pp. 8-9,[13]
      It is not fit Mortalitie should knowe
      What his eternall prouidence decreed,
    • c. 1615, George Chapman (translator), Homer’s Odysses, London: Nathaniel Butter, Book 23, p. 359,[14]
      [] sleepe seiz’d his weary eye,
      That salues all care, to all mortality.

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