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


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈmɔːtɪfaɪ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈmɔɹtɪfaɪ/
  • (file)


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.
  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.]
    • 1626, Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum, Or, A Naturall Historie: In Ten Centuries
      Quicksilver is mortified with turpentine.
    • (Can we date this quote by Hakewill and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      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.
  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
  8. (intransitive) To lose vitality.
  9. (intransitive) To gangrene.
  10. (intransitive) To be subdued.



Related terms[edit]