Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. a large structure built to remind people of soldiers, sailors etc who died in war

2. the structure like this in Whitehall, London

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun cenotaph comes from Greek words meaning ’empty tomb’. It was first used in English in early 17th century.


Today is Armistice Day, also called Remembrance Day in the UK and Canada, the anniversary of the ending of World War I in 1918. In the US the day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. We have written previously on the blog about the word armistice, as well as the rather unusual term ‘remembrance‘. In the UK the main focus of the commemoration is on the closest Sunday to 11 November. In normal times, veterans and serving members of the armed forces gather with local and national leaders and members of the public at locations around the country, including the Cenotaph in Whitehall, to lay wreaths and remember those who died in World Wars I and II and other conflicts. While there are many cenotaphs in many difference places, the definite article and capital letter denote the principal cenotaph in a country, including the one in London, which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and erected in 1920. On Remembrance Day as well as on Remembrance Sunday, many people around the country observe two minutes’ silence at 11 am, the time when hostilities formally ended on 11 November 1918.


The Cenotaph, made from Portland stone, was unveiled in 1920. The inscription reads simply “The Glorious Dead”.

Related Words

memorial, monument, obelisk, pantheon

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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