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Death - Vocabulary Activator

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For the entire duration of the universe you did not exist. Then, one day, you came into existence at the moment of your birth. Now, you are growing older and one day you will die. It’s the one thing in this world that we can be 100% certain about. Is it morbid to think about death? I don’t think so. In fact, I often contemplate my own demise. There is no point in hiding from the fact that we will die. If you accept that death is a natural consequence of life, it will not come as a surprise to you when it inevitably arrives. This lesson will teach you about the language of death and dying.  

From The OED on CD-ROM

death, n. (dɛθ) 

[A Common Teut. n.: OE. déaþ= OFris. dâth, dâd (WFris. dead), OS. dôð, dôd (MDu. and MLG. dôt(d-), Du. dood), OHG. tôd, MHG. tôt (Ger. tod), ON. orig. dauðr, usually dauði (Sw., Da. död), Goth. dauþus, an OTeut. deriv. in -þu-z (= L. -tu-s) of the verbal stem dau- (pre-Teut. type dhau-, *ˈdhau-tu-s), whence ON. deyja to die. (Cf. also dead.) Of the ME. form ded, dede, usual in the northern dial. (but not confined to it), Sc. 4– deid (did), also spelt 6– dead, the history is not quite clear; the final d agrees with Sw. and Da., and suggests Norse influence, but the vowel regularly represents OE. éa: cf Sc. breid, heid, steid (brid), etc.).] 

I. 1.I.1 The act or fact of dying; the end of life; the final cessation of the vital functions of an animal or plant. a.I.1.a of an individual. 

b.I.1.b in the abstract. 

c.I.1.c as a personified agent. (Usually figured as a skeleton; see also death's-head.) 

2.I.2 The state of being dead; the state or condition of being without life, animation, or activity. death-in-life, life that lacks any satisfaction or purpose; living death. (Cf. quot. 1841 s.v. deathliness.) 

¶In preceding senses the death was frequent in Old and Middle English, and down to the 16th c. See also 7, 12 c, 13; to die the death: see die. 

3.I.3 transf. The loss or cessation of life in a particular part or tissue of a living being. 

†4.I.4 Loss of sensation or vitality, state of unconsciousness, swoon. Obs. rare. (Cf. dead a. 2.) 

5.I.5 fig. a.I.5.a The loss or want of spiritual life; the being or becoming spiritually dead. the second death: the punishment or destruction of lost souls after physical death. 

b.I.5.b Loss or deprivation of civil life; the fact or state of being cut off from society, or from certain rights and privileges, as by banishment, imprisonment for life, etc. (Usually civil death.) 

c.I.5.c Of a thing: Cessation of being, end, extinction, destruction. 

6.I.6 Bloodshed, slaughter, murder. 

7.I.7 Cause or occasion of death, as in to be the death of; something that kills, or renders liable to death; often hyperbolically; poet. a deadly weapon, poison, etc. 

†8.I.8 a.I.8.a A general mortality caused by an epidemic disease; a pestilence. Obs. exc. as in b. 

b.I.8.b Black Death, the name now commonly given to the Great Pestilence or visitation of the Oriental Plague, which devastated most countries of Europe near the middle of the 14th c., and caused great mortality in England in 1348–9; sometimes also including the recurrences of the epidemic in 1360 and 1379.

   The name ‘black death’ is modern, and was app. introduced into English history by Mrs. Penrose (Mrs. Markham) in 1823, and into medical literature by Babington's transl. of Hecker's Der Schwarze Tod in 1833. In earlier writers we find the pestilence, the plague, great pestilence, great death, or in distinction from later visitations the furste moreyn, the first pestilence; Latin chroniclers have pestis, pestilentia, epidemia, mortalitas. The distinctive magna mortalitas, ‘great mortality’ or ‘death’, and its equivalents, prevailed in many languages: Ger. das grosse sterben, LGer. de grote dot, Flem. de groete doet, Da. den store död or mandööth, Swed. (1402) store dödhin, later stordöden, digerdöden (thick or frequent mortality), Norweg. (14th c.) manndauði hinn mikli; cf. It. mortalega grande, F. la grande peste, etc. The epithet ‘black’ is of uncertain origin, and not known to be contemporary anywhere. It is first found in Swedish and Danish 16th c. chroniclers (swarta dödhen, den sorte död). Hence, in German, Schlözer in 1773 used der schwarze Tod in reference to Iceland, and Sprengel in 1794 took it as a general appellation. From modern German the name has passed into Dutch (de zwaarte dood) and English, and has influenced French (la peste noire). The quots. 1758 and 1780 below are translations from Danish and Swedish through German, and refer not to the pestilence of 1348, which did not reach Iceland, but to a later visitation in 1402–3, known at the time as plagan mikli (the great plague), but called by modern Icelandic historians, from 17th c., svarti dauði (black death). 

†9.I.9 Hunting. A blast sounded at the death of the game; = mort. Obs. 

10.I.10 As a vehement exclamation or imprecation. See also 'sdeath. 

II.II Phrases. 

†11.II.11 In ME. the genitive was occasionally (as in nouns of time) used adverbially = In the condition of death, dead; so lives (gen. of life) = alive. Obs. 

12.II.12 to death (Sc. to deid, occas. in Eng. to dead): a.II.12.a lit. following verbs as an adverbial extension expressing result, as to †slay, beat, stone, etc. to death; hence to do to (the) death (arch.), to kill, slay; to put to death, to kill, esp. in the execution of justice, to execute. 

b.II.12.b intensifying verbs of feeling, as hate, resent, or adjs., as sick, wearied: to the last extremity, to the uttermost, to the point of physical or nervous exhaustion, beyond endurance. 

c.II.12.c to the death formerly interchanged with to death in all senses; it is now used only in certain expressions, as to pursue, persecute, wage war to the death. 

d.II.12.d to do (a thing) to death, to overdo; to repeat too often or ad nauseam. 

13. a.II.13.a †to have or take the death: to meet one's death, to die. Obs. So to catch one's death: see catch v. 30. to be the death of: see sense 7. to be (or make it) death (for): i.e. to be (or make it) a matter of death of capital punishment. 

†b.II.13.b to go one's death (on or upon), to do one's utmost (for); to risk one's all (on). Obs. U.S. slang. 

14.II.14 death's door, the gates or jaws of death: figurative phrases denoting a near approach to, or great danger of, death. 

15.II.15 to be in at the death (in Fox-hunting): to be present when the game is killed by the hounds. Also fig. 

16.II.16 to be death on (slang): to be eminently capable of doing execution on, or a very good hand at dealing with; to be very fond of. orig. U.S. 

17. a.II.17.a In various other phraseological expressions; as as pale as death (see pale); and colloq. as sure as death, to ride, come on, hang on, etc., like death, or like grim death. 

b.II.17.b (a fate) worse than death, a misfortune, situation, etc., regarded as being worse than death; spec. loss of virginity; rape (formerly euphem., now usu. jocular). 

c.II.17.c like death (warmed up), colloq. phr. indicating a feeling or appearance of extreme illness or exhaustion. 

d.II.17.d in the death, in the end; finally. slang. 

III.III Combinations. 

18.III.18 General combinations of obvious meaning.

   These may be formed at will, and to any extent: examples are here given. The use of the hyphen is mainly syntactical; it usually implies also a main stress on death-, as in ˈdeath-grasp, ˈdeath-ˌsickness, ˈdeath-poˌlluted. 

a.III.18.a attrib. [As with other names of things, employed instead of the genitive death's (see note below). In this construction already freely used in OE., as in déaþ-béam, -bedd, -cwealm, -dæᴁ, -denu, -spere, -stede, etc.] Of death; belonging or pertaining to death; as death-agony, death-angel, death-camp, death-cart, death-chamber, death-chime, death-cry, death-cult, death-dew, death-dirge, †death-door, †death-fall, death-fever, death-flower, death-grapple, death-groan, death-hour, death-knell, death-march, death-note, death-pang, death-pill, death-sentence, death-shot, death-shriek, death-sleep, death-song, death-stab, death-stiffening, death-terror, death-token, death-train, death-vacancy, death-wraith, etc.; also objective, as death-control (after birth-control), death-dealer, death-worship. 

b.III.18.b objective, with pres. pples. [already in OE., as déaþ-berende], as death-bearing, death-boding, death-braving, death-bringing, death-counterfeiting, death-darting, death-dealing, death-defying, death-giving, death-subduing, death-threatening, etc., adjs. 

c.III.18.c instrumental, with pa. pples., and parasynthetic, as death-begirt, death-dewed, death-divided, death-laden, death-marked, death-polluted, death-shadowed, death-sheeted, death-slain, death-winged, death-wounded, etc., adjs. 

d.III.18.d adverbial relations of various kinds, with adjs. and pples., rarely verbs. [With adjs. already in OE., as déaþ-fǽᴁe, -scyldiᴁ, -wériᴁ.] In, to, unto, of, like, as death; as death-black, death-cold, death-dark, death-deaf, death-deep, death-devoted, death-doomed, death-due, death-great, death-pale, death-still, death-weary, death-white, death-worthy, etc., adjs.; death-doom vb. See also death-sick. 

¶The genitive, now used (as a possessive) only in poetry or when death is personified, was formerly freely used where we should now use of, or death- in combination, as in death's evil, death's sorrow, death's sting; death's bed, death's day, death's wound (see death-bed, etc.). See also death's-face, -head, -herb, -ring. 

19.III.19 Special combs.: death-adder, a name for the genus Acanthophis of venomous serpents, esp. A. antarctica of Australia; also erron. f. deaf-adder, deaf adder: see deaf a. 1 d, 7; death-baby (U.S.), see quot.; death-bill (Eccl.), a list of dead for whom prayers were to be said (see quot.); death-blast, (a) a blast of a horn, etc. announcing or presaging death; (b) a storm or wind of destructive or deadly character; death-bone Austral., a bone pointed at a person and intended to cause his death (cf. bone n. 1 e); death camas(s) = death quamash; death cap = death-cup; death-chair, the electric chair; death-cord, the rope used for hanging, the gallows-rope; death-cup, the poisonous fungus Amanita phalloides; death-dance, a dance at or in connexion with death; the Dance of Death; death-doing a., doing to death, killing, murderous (see also dead-doing); death-drake (Angling), a kind of artificial fly (see drake); death-duty, a duty levied on the devolution of property in consequence of the owner's death; legacy, and probate and succession duties; †death-evil (dede-, deed-), a mortal disease; also, the name of a specific disease (quot. 1559); death-feigning, the feigning of death, esp. by an animal; death-feud, a feud prosecuted to the death; death-flame = death-fire 1; death-flurry (Whale-fishery), the convulsive struggles of a dying whale after being harpooned (see flurry); also fig.; death grant, a State benefit payable towards the expenses, esp. of a funeral, incurred in connection with a person's death; †death-head = death's-head; death-house, (a) a place where a person dies; (b) colloq., that part of a prison where persons awaiting execution are housed; also, the execution shed; †death-ill (Sc. †dede-ill), mortal illness; death-instinct [tr. G. todestrieb (Freud 1920, Jenseits des Lustprinzips vi)], a destructive or self-destructive tendency postulated by Freud (cf. death-wish); death-mask, a cast of plaster or the like, taken from a person's face after death; death-moss (see quot.); death-moth, the Death's-head Moth; death-or-glory attrib. phr., (a) (with capital initials) a regimental nickname (see quot. 1890); (b) transf.; death-penalty, the penalty of death, capital punishment; death-penny, the obolus placed in the mouth of a corpse, with which to pay the ferryman in Hades; death-pile, a funeral pile; death quamash, a plant of the western U.S., the bulb of which is poisonous to animals; death-rate, the proportion of the number of deaths to the population of a country, town, etc., usually reckoned at so much per thousand per annum; death-rattle, a rattling sound in the throat of a dying person, caused by the partial stoppage of the air-passage by mucus; death-ray, (chiefly in Science Fiction) a ray that causes death; death-ring, a finger-ring constructed to convey poison in shaking hands (W. Jones, Finger-rings 1877, 435); death-roll, a list of the names of those who have been killed in an accident, battle, etc.; death-rope, a gallows-rope; death-ruckle, -ruttle (Sc.) = death-rattle; death-sough (Sc.), ‘the last inspiration of a dying person’ (Jam.); death squad, an armed paramilitary group formed to murder political enemies, suspected subversives, etc.; death-tick = death-watch 1; death-trance, a trance in which the action of the heart, lungs, etc. is so reduced as to produce the semblance of death (Syd. Soc. Lex. 1882); death-trap, applied to any place or structure which is unhealthy or dangerous without its being suspected, and is thus a trap for the lives of the unwary; death-wave (see quots.); death-weight, a small weight placed on the eyelids of a corpse to keep them closed. 

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 Draft partial entry June 2002

 ▸ death futures n. Business colloq. (chiefly U.S.) life insurance policies belonging to the terminally ill, bought by a third party at less than the mature value, thus affording the policy-holder financial benefits while alive and the investor a return upon the death of the policy-holder; cf. viatical settlement n. at viatical adj. and n. Additions a. 

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 Draft partial entry June 2007

 ▸ death match n. (a) Wrestling a match in which many of the normal rules do not apply, typically leading to a more violent and dangerous bout; also in extended use; (b) a multi-player mode in a video game in which the aim is to kill the characters controlled by other players. 

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Draft partial entry June 2002

 ▸ death metal n. a form of heavy metal music characterized by lyrics preoccupied with suffering, destruction, and death, and often a deep, growling vocal style. 

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