List of expressions related to death

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Expression Definition Context Remarks
Assume room temperature To die Euphemistic slang Used frequently by talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh on The Rush Limbaugh Show, generally when a dictator or an avowed enemy of the United States has died. Originally used in his first book, The Way Things Ought to Be. See also Jargon of The Rush Limbaugh Show.
At peace[1] Dead Euphemistic
At rest[1] Dead Polite
Avada Kedavra Order to Kill Movie/Literary In the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, "Avada Kedavra" is one of three "unforgivable curses" and causes immediate, painless death. Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort are the only known survivors of this curse (though Voldemort's survival of the curse was due to the use of horcruxes.)
Beyond the grave[1] After death Neutral The preposition 'from' is often added before the phrase.
Beyond the veil[2] The mysterious place after death Neutral Originally used to refer to the 'veil' that hides the inmost sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sometimes refers to just a mysterious place.
Bite the dust[2] To be killed Informal Also means 'failed'
Bite the big one[2] To die Informal North American.
Blow someone's brains out To shoot someone in the head Slang
Born asleep Stillbirth Neutral
Breathe one's last[1] To die Literary
Brown bread[3] To die Slang Cockney rhyming slang for 'dead'.
Buy the farm[2] To die Informal A farm owner who had life insurance would effectively, upon dying, 'buy the farm'.
Cash in one's chips[2] To die Informal, euphemistic[4] This idiom refers to the counters in gambling called 'chips', which are exchanged for cash at the end of the game.
Candyman Supernatural suicide TV/Movie Say 'Candyman' 5 times while looking in a mirror, and the Candyman appears and kills you with his hooked right hand.
Charon Ferryman of Hades Neutral Crosses the rivers Styx and Acheron which divide the world of the living from the world of the dead
Come to a sticky end[1] To die in a way that is considered unpleasant Humorous British. Also 'to meet a sticky end'.
Count worms[4] To die Euphemistic
Croak[5] To kill Slang Also means to die.
Crossed the Jordan Dead Biblical/Revivalist The departed one has entered the Promised Land (i.e. Heaven)
Curtains Death Theatrical The final curtain indicates the end of the play - hence the term became synonymous with death.
Dead as a dodo[2] Dead Informal The term 'dodo' originally comes from the Portuguese word doudo, meaning simpleton. It was applied to the extinct bird because of their lack of intelligence led to their extinction. Therefore, it has been used as an old-fashioned or stupid person since 19th century.[2] Also 'dead as the dodo'.
Dead as a doornail[1] Obviously dead Informal Charles Dickens used this phrase at the beginning of A Christmas Carol.
Death by Misadventure Avoidable death Formal/Legal A death that could have been avoided with due diligence
Depart this life[1] To die Neutral
Destroyed/to be destroyed To be euthanized Neutral Usually refers to the unnatural death of a pet
Die with one's boots on To die while able, or during activity, as opposed to in infirmity or while asleep. Euphemistic Old West usage: To die in a gunfight, as with the film They Died with Their Boots On. Also connotes dying in combat.

British; cf. Iron Maiden's Die With Your Boots On.

Didn't make it Killed in Action (see below) Euphemistic
Done for[1] About to die Neutral Also means 'to be in a bad situation of which one cannot get out'.[2]
Drop dead[1] Die suddenly Neutral 'Just drop dead' is a rude way of telling someone to get lost.
Drop like flies[6] Dying in droves Simile This expression could also mean that they're simply just ill and not necessarily dying.
Euthanasia Assisted suicide Formal As slang, 'to euthanize'
Exterminate! Order to kill TV/Movie Spoken by Daleks (from Doctor Who) when under orders to kill
Fading away[1] To be thinner and weaker and close to death. Neutral Also 'to be fading fast' or 'sinking fast'
Fall off one's perch[7] To die Informal
Food for worms[2] Someone who is dead Slang Also 'worm food'
Free one's horses To die Neutral
Give up the ghost[2] To die Neutral Also means 'to stop working' or 'to give up hope'. The Old English meaning of the word 'ghost' is preserved in this idiom.
Go to a better place[8] To die Euphemistic Reference to going to heaven, which is perceived to be better than Earth.
Go over the Big Ridge[9] To die Unknown
Go bung[2] To die Informal Australian. Also means 'to fail' or 'to go bankrupt'.
Go for a Burton To die / break irreparably Informal British. From WWII (Gone for a Burton).
Go to Davy Jones's locker[2] To drown or otherwise die at sea Euphemistic Peregrine Pickle describes Davy Jones as 'the fiend that presides over all the evil sprits of the deep'.
Go to the big [location] in the sky To die and go to heaven Informal 'Location' is a fancied venue in the afterlife that parallels an earthly venue associated with the deceased, such as "Big ranch in the sky".[10]
Go home in a box[11] To be shipped to one's birthplace, dead Slang, euphemistic[4] Often exaggerated
Go out with one's boots on/with a bang/in style To die while doing something enjoyed Informal
Go to, or head for, the last roundup[9] To die Euphemistic Associated with dying cowboys, along with "Going to that big ranch in the sky."
Go to one's reward[2] To die Euphemistic This phrase comes from the idea that people get their just desserts after they die.
Go to one's watery grave[1] To die of drowning Literary The death is referred to as a watery grave.
Go to a Texas cakewalk[9] To be hanged Unknown
Go the way of all flesh[2] To die Neutral Also means to come to an end. In the Authorized King James Version of the bible 'all flesh' means 'all humans and animals'.
Go west[2] To be killed or lost Informal Refers to the sun setting at the west.
The Grim Reaper[2] Personification of death Cultural A skeleton with a scythe, often in a cloak
Hand in one's dinner pail[2] To die Informal A dinner pail is a bucket in which a workman used to carry his dinner. See 'kick the bucket' below.
Have bought it[1] See "buy the farm" above Slang
Have one foot in the grave[2] To be close to death because of illness or age Informal, sometimes humorous
Hop on the last rattler[4] To die Euphemistic
Hop the twig[2] To die Informal British. Also 'to hop the stick'. Also means 'to depart suddenly'. A stick is placed on the ground. Pagan beliefs say that to 'hop the stick', i.e. you stand on one side of the stick and jump to the other side, places you in the afterworld.
In Abraham's bosom[2] In heaven Neutral From the Holy Bible, Luke 16:22.
Join the choir invisible[12] To Die Neutral From an 1867 poem by George Eliot
Join the great majority[2] To die Euphemistic First used by Edward Young, but the phrase 'the majority' is extremely old.
Justifiable Homicide Homicide Formal aka Capital Punishment, Death Penalty
Kick the bucket[2] To die Informal One theory says that it comes from a method of suicide of the Middle Ages in which one stands on a bucket with a noose tied around their neck. Once they kick the bucket, they are hanged.[13] Another theory is the kind of beam from which a pig is suspended, which is also called a 'bucket' in the Norfolk dialect.[2] Also 'kick off' (American).[1]
Kick the calendar To die Slang, informal Polish saying. 'Calendar' implies somebody's time of death (kicking at particular moment of time)
Killed In Action (KIA) Death of a military person due to enemy action. Military language, official and informal use. Official military language brought to public attention by widespread use in media during the Vietnam War and later books and films on that war. Term continues to be used in connection with military deaths due to enemy activity.
King of Terrors[2] Personification of death Neutral Also can refer to death itself in that death is the scariest of all terrors.
Kiss that arse goodbye About to be killed Slang Popular in films
Live on a farm (upstate) To die Euphemism Usually referring to the death of a pet, especially if the owners are parents with children, i.e. "The dog went to live on a farm."
Lose one's life[1] To die in an accident or violent event Neutral
Make the ultimate sacrifice[1] To die while fighting for a cause Formal Also 'make the supreme sacrifice'
Meet one's maker[2] To die Euphemistic Comes from the Christian belief that a soul needs to see God, its 'maker', after his life for judgment.
Murder Death Kill (MDK) Homicide TV/Movie From 1993 film Demolition Man
Not long for this world[1] Will die soon; have little time left to live Old-fashioned Also not be long for this world
Not with us anymore Dead Euphemistic
Off on a boat[4] To die Euphemistic This means to die. Viking expression, back into fashion nowadays
Off the hooks[2] Dead Informal British. Not to be confused with 'off the hook' (no longer in trouble).
On one's deathbed[1] Dying Neutral
On one's last legs[2] About to die Informal
One's hour has come[1] One thinks he's going to die Literary
One's number is up[1] One is going to die Slang
Pass away[1] To die Polite Also 'to pass on'
Pass in one's alley[2] To die Informal Australian
Pay the ultimate price[1] To die because of something one has done Neutral Often applied to a moral reason, similar to "To make the ultimate sacrifice"
Peg out[1] To die Slang British. Also means 'to stop working'
Pop one's clogs[2] To die Humorous,[1] Informal[2] British. In English slang, the word "pop" means the same as "pawn." A 19th century working man who is mortally ill or at the point of death might apocryphally tell his family to take his clothes to the pawn shop to pay for his funeral; especially his clogs which would be his most expensive/valuable items. Sometimes used in the third person, "they've popped his clogs."
Promoted to Glory Death of a Salvationist Formal Salvation Army terminology.
Push up daisies[2] To have died and be under the ground Humorous,[1] Euphemistic[4] This idiom dates back to the early 20th century. Also 'under the daisies' and 'turn one's toes up to the daisies, which date back to the mid 19th century. See 'to turn up one's toes' below.
Put down/put to sleep To be euthanised Euphemism Usually referring to the unnatural death of a pet
Put one to the sword To kill someone Literary
Rainbow Bridge Dead Euphemism Usually referring to the death of a pet, i.e. "Crossing the Rainbow Bridge."
Ride the pale horse[4] To die Euphemistic In the Biblical passage Revelation 6:8, a pale horse is ridden by Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The expression "behold a pale horse" has been used as the title of a 1964 film by Fred Zinnemann and a 1991 book by ufologist William Milton Cooper.
Send one to Eternity or to the Promised Land To kill someone Literary
Sent/go to the farm To die Informal Usually referring to the death of a pet, especially if the owners are parents of young children i.e. "The dog was sent to a farm."
Shuffle off this mortal coil[1] To die Humorous, Literary[2] Quoted from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Sometimes used as 'this mortal coil' to refer to the fact that one is alive in a troublesome way.[2]
Six feet under[2] Dead Informal Six feet is the traditional depth of a grave
Sleeps with the fishes Murdered, then disposed of in water. Slang Popularized by The Godfather
Snuff it[1] To die Informal British
Struck down[1] To be killed by an illness Neutral Usually passive
Suicide To take one's own life Formal Don't do it.
Swimming with concrete shoes Murdered Slang Gangster
Take a dirt nap[14] To die and be buried Slang
Take a last bow[4] To die Euphemistic
Take the last train to glory.[2] To die Euphemistic Comes from the Christian belief that a heaven or greater life exists after death for the faithful.
Take one's life[1] To kill yourself Formal To take one's own life means to commit suicide.
Tango Uniform Dead, irreversibly broken Military slang This is "T.U." in the ICAO spelling alphabet, an abbreviation for Tits Up.
Top yourself Commit suicide Informal
Turn up one's toes[2] To die Informal An alternative of 'turn one's toes up to the daisies' (See 'push up daisies' above.)
Until one's dying day[1] As long as one lives Neutral
Up and die To die, usually before doing some sort of important task Euphemistic
Wearing a pine overcoat (i.e. a wooden coffin) Dead Slang Idiom used by American gangsters of the early 20th century.
Wiped out...way up.. Dead, usually if multiple individuals die Neutral
With one's last breath[1] Before one dies Literary

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 Oxford Dictionary of Idioms
  3. "Cockney Rhyming Slang".
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Terry Deary, Horrible Histories: Wicked Words p. 52-53
  5. "The Free Dictionary: Croak". The Free Dictionary.
  6. "The Free Dictionary: Drop like flies". The Free Dictionary.
  7. Michael McCarthy, Felicity O'Dell. English Idioms in Use. In Use. Cambridge University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-521-78957-5.
  8. "Dead People Go To A Better Place". Archived from the original on July 24, 2008.
  9. 1 2 3 "How did the expression kick the bucket come about when someone dies?".
  10. Associated Press (Oct 10, 2006). "Bevo XIII, longest-tenured Longhorns mascot, dies". ESPN.
  11. "The Free Dictionary: Go home in a box". The Free Dictionary.
  13. Terry Deary, Horrible Histories: Wicked Words, p. 56
  14. "The Free Dictionary: Take a Dirt Nap". The Free Dictionary.
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