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PIE word
An obituary (sense 1) of the Chilean author Baldomero Lillo which appeared in the La Nación newspaper on 11 September 1923.
An obituary (sense 2) of Susannah Maxwell published in The Globe newspaper on 12 February 1923. At the time of her death at 117 the previous day, she was said to be Canada’s oldest citizen.

Learned borrowing from Medieval Latin obituārius (obituary) + English -ary (suffix denoting something relating to another thing or used in a place). Obituārius is derived from Latin obitus (act of approaching or going toward, an approach; act of going down, setting; of the sun: sunset; death; destruction, downfall, ruin) + -ārius (suffix forming adjectives and agent nouns); while obitus is a noun use of the perfect passive participle of obeō (to go to meet, go towards; (figurative) to die, pass away, perish; (astronomy) to set), from ob- (prefix meaning ‘toward’) + (to go, move), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁ey- (to go).[1]





obituary (plural obituaries)

  1. A brief notice of a person's death, especially one published in a newspaper or other publication; also (obsolete), the section of a newspaper where notices of deaths are published.
    (notice): Synonym: (colloquial) obit
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “The Affidavit”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 228:
      [N]ot one in fifty of the actual disasters and deaths by casualties in the fishery, ever finds a public record at home, however transient and immediately forgotten that record. Do you suppose that that poor fellow there, who this moment perhaps caught by the whale-line off the coast of New Guinea, is being carried down to the bottom of the sea by the sounding leviathan—do you suppose that that poor fellow's name will appear in the newspaper obituary you will read to-morrow at your breakfast?
    • 1862, [William] Wilkie Collins, “VIII. Chronicle for April and May.”, in No Name. [], volume II, London: Sampson Low, Son, & Co., [], →OCLC, between the scenes (Chronicle of Events: Preserved in Captain Wragge’s Despatch Box), page 21:
      The newspaper came in, as usual, after breakfast. I looked it over, and discovered this memorable entry, among the obituary announcements of the day:— "On the 29th inst., at Brighton, Michael Vanstone, Esq., formerly of Zurich, aged 77."
  2. (by extension) A brief biography of a person (especially one who is well-known) who has recently died, usually describing their life and achievements, particularly in the form of an article in a news publication or an item in a news broadcast.
    • 2001 September 13, Marc Klein, Serendipity, spoken by Dean Kansky (Jeremy Piven):
      You know the Greeks didn't write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: "Did he have passion?"
    • 2007, Bridget Fowler, “The Social Value of Death: The Microworld of the Editors”, in The Obituary as Collective Memory (Routledge Advances in Sociology; 27), New York, N.Y., Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, →ISBN, part I (Theoretical, Historical and Quantitative Studies of the Obituary), page 105:
      Obituary editors are confronted daily with the need to make delicate hermeneutic interpretations of the social meaning of individuals' deaths and to express these powerfully to their readership. [] [I draw] attention to a discrepancy that appears to exist between, on the one hand, the editors' subjective avowals about the openness of the obituary columns and, on the other hand, the objectively highly restricted origins and trajectories of the obituary subjects.
  3. (figurative) An announcement or description of the end of something.
  4. (historical) A register of deaths, especially one maintained by a religious institution; a necrology.

Derived terms




See also



  1. ^ obituary, n. and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023; obituary, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading