Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. a structure built to remind people of a famous person or event

2. something created to honour someone who has died

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun and adjective memorial are borrowings from Latin ‘memorialis’ (ultimately from ‘memoria’, memory,) and French. Both were first used in English in the late 14th century.


Yesterday was a holiday in both the UK and the US. In the UK it was the late spring bank holiday formerly known as the Whitsun bank holiday, while in the US people were marking Memorial Day. A memorial is something physical or non-physical that recalls an event or honours someone who has died; in the case of Memorial Day the occasion is a commemoration of those who died on active service. Memorial Day is by its nature more sombre than the spring bank holiday, which is normally associated with trips outdoors and the anticipation of summer after the rigours of winter. The great English poet Philip Larkin famously associated Whitsun with weddings, as many couples took the occasion of an extra day off work to start their honeymoons. Weddings, like many other things, are casualties this year of the Covid pandemic. Brits were also urged to stay at or near home over the bank holiday weekend and to avoid both public transport and beauty spots despite widespread fine weather.


“Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere/ Not scorn’d in heav’n, though little notic’d here.”
(William Cowper, On the Receipt of My Mother’s Picture out of Norfolk)

Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay.”
(Barack Obama)

Related words

cenotaph, monument, obelisk, pantheon

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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