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From Anglo-Norman mortifier, Middle French mortifier, from Late Latin mortificō (cause death), from Latin mors (death) + -ficō (-fy).



mortify (third-person singular simple present mortifies, present participle mortifying, simple past and past participle mortified)

  1. (transitive) To discipline (one's body, appetites etc.) by suppressing desires; to practise abstinence on. [from 15th c.]
    Some people seek sainthood by mortifying the body.
    • Harte
      With fasting mortified, worn out with tears.
    • Prior
      Mortify thy learned lust.
    • Bible, Col. iii. 5
      Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.
  2. (transitive, usually used passively) To embarrass, to humiliate. To injure one's dignity. [from 17th c.]
    I was so mortified I could have died right there; instead I fainted, but I swore I'd never let that happen to me again.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 5, in The Celebrity:
      Then we relapsed into a discomfited silence, and wished we were anywhere else. But Miss Thorn relieved the situation by laughing aloud, and with such a hearty enjoyment that instead of getting angry and more mortified we began to laugh ourselves, and instantly felt better.
  3. (obsolete, transitive) To kill. [14th–17th c.]
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To reduce the potency of; to nullify; to deaden, neutralize. [14th–18th c.]
    • Francis Bacon
      Quicksilver is mortified with turpentine.
    • Hakewill
      He mortified pearls in vinegar.
  5. (obsolete, transitive) To kill off (living tissue etc.); to make necrotic. [15th–18th c.]
  6. (obsolete, transitive) To affect with vexation, chagrin, or humiliation; to humble; to depress.
    • Evelyn
      the news of the fatal battle of Worcester, which exceedingly mortified our expectations
    • Addison
      How often is the ambitious man mortified with the very praises he receives, if they do not rise so high as he thinks they ought!
  7. (transitive, Scotland, law, historical) To grant in mortmain
    • 1876 James Grant, History of the Burgh and Parish Schools of Scotland, Part II, Chapter 14, p.453 (PDF 2.7 MB):
      the schoolmasters of Ayr were paid out of the mills mortified by Queen Mary



Related terms[edit]