Euphemisms for Death

Last week I was speaking at a conference of Retirement Community Chaplains.  My thesis was that people who deal with the vicissitudes of life best tend to deal best with the reality of death.  There are seventy-year-old men and women who seem to be surprised when their ninety-year-old parent dies.  Death happens.  Living beings have a 100% mortality rate.

 One of the sidebar conversations initiated by the chaplains concerned the euphemisms people use to distance themselves from the certainty of death.  I think I would prefer to kick the bucket or croak rather than merely to pass on or cross over.  My list is not exhaustive, but long enough to demonstrate our resistance to acknowledging that human life has a termination point.  Interestingly, medical and religious people may be the worst at avoiding the obvious.

 Asleep in Jesus

Breathed his/her last

Came to his end

Communing with the angels

Crossed over

Departed this life

Didn’t make it

Entered eternal rest

Entered into his reward


God called him home

His hour had come

In Abraham’s bosom

Laid to rest

Lost her life

Made her last curtain call

Met his Maker

Negative patient care outcome

No longer with us

Out of her misery


Passed away

Passed on

Resting in peace

Slipped away

Stopped breathing



Went to the Happy Hunting Grounds

With God now

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Euphemisms for Death

  1. Gerald Aldridge

    Punched his last ticket, went through the final turnstile, boarded the Glory Train, boarded his last flight, crossed the bar, followed the light, is singing in a new choir, played his final 18 (that one is for me), emceed his last dinner, told his last joke, and the old favorite–kicked the bucket. Hmmm, this is fun. Should make for a good contest, don’t you think?

  2. Gail

    I have only one addition which appeared in our Albuquerque news(?)paper: “He assumed room temperature”.

  3. Negative patient care outcome is my favorite.

    • Kelly Belcher

      Went on his trip to Paradise, sneaked away in the night, and a favorite I hear constantly, “was assessed for signs and symptoms of death.”


  4. Lee Barker

    I like best what Jesus told the thief on the cross. ” Today you will be with me in Paradise”
    Assuredly, ” Oh Death where is thy sting?” Many folks do live like this is the end. It is appointed unto man and woman once to die. Still ” to Live is Christ and to die is gain.” Every day above ground here on earth is a good day with God and the Holy Spirit. With no fear of Death, there is no fear of Life.

  5. Jeannie Phillips

    I hear “no longer in pain,” often, here in the Mid-South. In the mid-west, “playing ( fill in the blank here of favorite sport or game,) with the Angels.”

    A Non verbal one: Shake of the head. Very rarely do we hear various forms of the act of dieing, “died, dead.”

    The southern Baptists of the Mid-South look to death as a release to something better, and that death is not death at all. Just part of the bigger picture of reaching the heavens, where joy is abundant, and the negatives of life, banished. “In a better place.”

    Anyway, the euphemism I dislike the most, “expired.” Like the shelf life is capput.

  6. Mike Greer

    In Kentucky the favored euphemism is “He bought the farm.” I guess this is an allusion to the reality that one has to forever be slaving away day and night to just to keep the farm operational. And then it finally goes to someone else in the will.

    • I think “bought the farm” originated among soldiers, perhaps in WW II. When a soldier died in action, the insurance would pay off the mortgage on the family farm.

      • Mike Greer

        Fascinating. Thanks for the insight into the phrase “He bought the farm.”

  7. Marion,
    In the case of this “old” coach…he has called his last time-out!

  8. J. Earl

    What is you preference? In most churches it is “passed on” or “passed”

    • Earl, It’s all about context. I think the word “dead” probably needs to be said. I have watched TV movies in which the bearer of bad news never gets around to the word “dead,” and the recipient of the bad news keeps wondering how bad the news is. Makes for good TV drama but awful communication. If I ever had to make a middle of the might visit to someone about a husband’s death, I said, “Mrs. Smith, I have some bad news. Mr. Smith died tonight.” Then I can get into details. It’s possible that they start crying when you open the door and say, “Oh no.” I still think it is important to communicate the fact. I have heard of circumstances when that was not done and after 30 minutes of tears and conversation about whether to make tea or coffee, the family of the deceased actually said, “Oh, I didn’t realize he had died.” Clear communication is important.

  9. Robert King wrote a letter to me in December 2014 with an additional sixty terms. Here is what I wrote on Facebook:

    One of the interesting things about being a writer is the randomness of response. Last week I received a letter from an old man (I can tell by the handwriting) I don’t know in Texas with a list of “60 Other Euphemiisms for Death.” It was a response to a blog I wrote a few months ago about the subject which was then picked up by a magazine. Some of his were more violent terms: axed, blown apart, blotted out. Others were more religious: welcomed home to God, received up to heaven and safe in the arms of Jesus. Great list.

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