Word of the Day


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a large stone with someone’s name and their birth date and death date on it that is put over the place where they are buried

Origin and usage

The word tombstone is a combination of the word ‘tomb’, from the Greek word ‘tymbos’ meaning ‘burial mound’, and ‘stone’, from the Greek word ‘stia’ meaning ‘pebble’. The use of the word tombstone first appeared in English around 1560, when it was used to describe the lid of a stone coffin. Its meaning as a grave marker is from 1711.


The word tombstone refers to a large stone that marks the place where a person is buried. Usually, a tombstone has the person’s name, the date they were born and the date they died. Sometimes, a tombstone may even list the names of close family members like the person’s father, mother, spouse or children.

Many tombstones include a short saying or quote called an epitaph. These sayings can be spiritual, humorous, thought-provoking – anything that holds meaning for the person who has died or their loved ones.

Well-known public figures and celebrities sometimes select epitaphs for their tombstones that fit their famous reputations.

American entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie’s tombstone reads: ‘Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself.’
Winston Churchill chose this epitaph for his tombstone: ‘I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.’

Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tombstone says: ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’

William Shakespeare’s tombstone reads, in part: ‘Blessed be the man that spares these stones, and cursed be he that moves my bones.’

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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