20
Dec

On words – death

I am back to reading about bereavement and revising before the end of my Cruse course this January. Today I am researching the word “death” because I start to realise how hard it is for us to talk about those concepts. I read a few true stories written by bereaved people and I start to see a theme here: when talking to a bereaved person people tend to avoid the word “dead” – they would use synonyms, for example, “passed” instead thinking it is making matters easier, but actually oftentimes avoiding being specific can be more painful. So wondering what is it really that we have in English for those three terms, I had a quick look. It wasn’t easy to compile this list and I warn you: you might find many of the below listed words upsetting, but that’s the point: we find those words upsetting but oftentimes the facts are easier to handle for the people affected by loss than metaphors.

Google results:

 

 

Visualised:

 

Synonyms (134 words collated from here, here and here):

Achilles’ heel
afterlife
Angel of Death
annihilation
assassination
bane
behead
bereavement
bloodbath
bloodletting
bloodshed
blow away
butchery
carnage
casualty
cessation
close
conclusion
collapse
crucify
curtains
curse
Dark Angel
darkness
decapitate
decimation
demise
demolishing
departure
departure from life
destroy
destruction
devastation
dispatch
discontinuance
dispersion
dissolution
do away with
doom
do to death
downfall
dying
electrocute
eliminate
end
ending
eradication
eternal rest
euthanasia
exit
execution
expiration
expiry
extermination
extinction
extinguishing
fatality
fate
final exit
finis
finish
foul play
gas
genocide
grave
great divide
Grim Reaper
guillotine
halt
hang
heaven
holocaust
homocide
ice
kicking the bucket
killing
knock off
lapse
loss
loss of life
manslaughter
massacre
martyrdom
mortality
murder
necrosis
obliteration
paradise
parting
passage
passing
passing over
put before a firing squad
pogrom
quietus
release
repose
rub out
ruin
ruination
scrag
self-destruction
self-murder
self-slaughter
send tot he gas chamber
send to the chair
send to the electric chair
send to the gallows
send to the gibbet
silence
shoot
shutdown
shutoff
slaughter
slaying
sleep
smoke
string up
stone
stone to death
stop
stoppage
suicide
surcease
take the life of
take out
termination
tomb
torment
tragic flaw
undoing
waste
whack
wipe out
I also looked at the word in other European languages:
But let’s also look at metaphors for comparison, in English, and in few other languages:

English

  • Met his Maker
  • Bought the farm
  • Kicked the bucket
  • Bought the big one
  • Is pushing up daisies
  • Went on to his reward
  • Shuffled off this mortal coil

French

  • Passer l’arme à gauche – to put the weapon on the left-side
  • N’avoir plus mal aux dents – to have no more toothache
  • Fermer son parapluie – to close one’s umbrella

Spanish

  • Irse al otro barrio – to move to the other neighbourhood
  • Seguir la luz – to follow the light
  • Está a 3 metros bajo tierra – to be three metres under

Italian

  • Svegliarsi sotto a un cipresso – to wake up under a cypress 
  • Andare a sentir cantare i grilli – to go listen to the crickets sing
  • Lasciarci le penne – to leave one’s feathers

German

  • Das Gras/die Radieschen) von unten betrachten — to look at the grass/the radishes from below
  • Den Löffel abgeben – to give away the spoon
  • In Gras beißen – to bite into the grass

Portugese

  • Esticar o pernil – to stretch your leg
    Bater a bota – to kick the boot
    Vestir pijama de madeira — to wear wooden pajamas

Polish

  • Kopnąć w kalendarz—to kick the calendar
  • Skończyć swoje dni – to finish one’s days
  • Zgasnąć jak świeca – to go out like a candle

Hungarian

  • Csókot vált a halállal – exchange kisses with Death
  • Kileheli a lelkét – exhale one’s soul
  • Beadja a kulcsot – hand in the key
If you want to find out more about metaphors in English, this is a good follow up article too.

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