Quotes about death


Quotes about death provide food for thought, reflection, inspiration, humour. They can be helpful as a light way into talking more deeply. They can be helpful to add colour and flavour to funeral readings… can be a chance to impress too – dropping a Greek philosopher’s quote into a tribute or eulogy sets a certain tone. Genius by association. And they can help add the perfect words or sentiments to a condolence card when you struggle to find them.

Albert Einstein is reliable for profound quotes about death. Frank Sinatra’s a winner for popular appeal. Dennis Leary for telling it like it is. And of course no-one beats Spike Milligan for cocking a snook at respectability. Not only did he say he was glad when Harry Secombe, fellow comedian from The Goons died (“I didn’t want him to sing at my funeral”), he came up with the brilliant “I told you I was ill” for his own headstone. The local church wouldn’t go for it but allowed the Irish translation.

Our Top 3 quotes about death are:

Marcel Proust
“We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.”

David Hockney
“You would think death was an optional extra nowadays. Nobody wants to tick that box.”

Tom Lehrer
“It is sobering to think that when Mozart was my age he had been dead a year”

Woody Allen
“I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Albert Einstein
“Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.”


A-Z of quotes about death

Sorry librarians, we haven’t sorted by surname. It’s just not right to have: Day, Dorris or Aurelius, Marcus.

Aeschylus, Agamemnon

There’s nothing certain in a man’s life except this: That he must lose it.

Albert Einstein

Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.

Alice Walker

Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.

Ambrose Bierce

Embalm, v.:To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbour’s lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and the rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutaeus maximus.

Amelia Burr

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

Anais Nin

People living deeply have no fear of death.

Andrew A. Rooney

Death is a distant rumour to the young.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.

Arthur Schopenhauer

They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice… that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.

Ashley Montagu

The idea is to die young as late as possible.

August Strindberg, The Dance of Death

Death doesn’t bargain.

Austin O’Malley, Keystones of Thought

We are mere notes in a piece of music played by the angel Death–heard and lost.

Bertolt Brecht, The Mother

Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.

Bertrand Russell, Philosophical Essays

Brief and powerless is man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.

Bhartrhari, Time the Destroyer

Nothing is born which Death makes not subject of his state.

Bill Maher

Suicide is man’s way of telling God, “You can’t fire me – I quit.”

Carl Jung

To the psychotherapist an old man who cannot bid farewell to life appears as feeble and sickly as a young man who is unable to embrace it.

Charles de Gaulle

The graveyards are full of indispensable men.

Charles Hanson Towne

Thou art not dead! Thou art the whole
Of life that quickens in the sod.

Charles Sanders Peirce

If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every good fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does. In place of this we have death.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Death? Why this fuss about death. Use your imagination, try to visualize a world without death! … Death is the essential condition of life, not an evil.

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero.

Cindy Cheney, Death

As a dark Shadow
Beckons his prey
Into the unknown
By a soft whisper
In the soul

Cormac McCarthy, Suttree

How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.

David Sarnoff

We cannot banish dangers, but we can banish fears. We must not demean life by standing in awe of death.

Dean Koontz, The Husband

A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most people live in denial of Death’s patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside.

Denis Leary

Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ. I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a city bus and then you die. Maybe.

Don Delillo, Underworld

Dying was just an extended version of Ash Wednesday.

Doris Day

The really frightening thing about middle age is the knowledge that you’ll grow out of it.

E H Chapin, Living Words

Death is the condition of higher and more fruitful life

Edvard Munch

From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.

Edward Counsel, Maxims

Death aims only once, but never misses.
We live as we die, and die as we live

Edward Young, Night Thoughts

Our birth is nothing but our death begun.

Elbert Hubbard

Die, v.: To stop sinning suddenly.

Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality

Emily Bronte

Oh, for the time when I shall sleep

Without identity.


No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.
Death is a debt we all must pay.

F Forrester, Church

Religion is the human response to being alive and having to die.

Francis Bacon, essays

Men fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.

Frank Sinatra

You better get busy living, because dying’s a pain in the ass.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Expeditions of an Untimely Man

To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly. Death of one’s own free choice, death at the proper time, with a clear head and with joyfulness, consummated in the midst of children and witnesses~ so that an actual leave-taking is possible while he who is leaving is still there.

George Bernard Shaw

Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.

George Eliot, Adam Bede

Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.

Giovanni Falcone

He who doesn’t fear death dies only once.

H L Mencken

When I die I shall be content to vanish into nothingness…. No show, however good, could conceivably be good forever…. I do not believe in immortality, and have no desire for it.

Harvey Cushing

There is only one ultimate and effectual preventive for the maladies to which flesh is heir, and that is death.

Henry David Thoreau, letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident – It is as common as life.

Henry Fielding, Amelia

It hath been often said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible.

Henry Van Dyke

Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live.

Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Death is the dropping of the flower, that the fruit may swell.


Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men.

Homer, Iliad

Life and death are balanced on the edge of a razor.
And they die an equal death – the idler and the man of mighty deeds.


Years, following years, steal something every day;
At last they steal us from ourselves away.

Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice

You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.

Isaac Asimov

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.

J D Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.

J J Furnas

Death is a low chemical trick played on everybody except sequoia trees.

J K Rowling, The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Taunting Death … means pitting oneself against a wily enemy who cannot lose.

J M Barrie, Peter Pan

To die will be an awfully big adventure.

James F Bymes

Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem to be more afraid of life than death.

Jean Giraudoux, Amphitryon

I’m not afraid of death. It’s the stake one puts up in order to play the game of life.

Jean de La Fontaine

Death never takes the wise man by surprise; He is always ready to go.

Jerome Crabb

Dying is like getting audited by the IRS–something that only happens to other people … until it happens to you.

Jim Morrison, An American Prayer

Death makes angels of us all
& gives us wings
where we had shoulders
smooth as raven’s

Joanne Harris, Chocolat

Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.

John Ashbery, A Last World

Death is a new office building filled with modern furniture,
A wise thing, but which has no purpose for us.

John Donne

God himself took a day to rest in, and a good man’s grave is his Sabbath.

John Muir

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Old persons are sometimes as unwilling to die as tired-out children are to say good night and go to bed.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

For what is it to die,
But to stand in the sun and melt into the wind?

Kenneth Patchen

There are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter which of them is death.

Leonardo Da Vinci

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.

Lord Byron

‘Tis very certain the desire of life prolongs it.

Ludwig Büchner, Force and Matter

Death is the surest calculation that can be made

Madame de Stael

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.

Marcel Proust

People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were travelling abroad.

We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Death is a release from the impressions of sense, and from impulses that make us their puppets, from the vagaries of the mind, and the hard service of the flesh.

Maurice Maeterlinck

All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than animals that know nothing.

Mark Twain

All say, “How hard it is that we have to die” – a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Michael Marshall, The Upright Man

Death’s gang is bigger and tougher than anyone else’s. Always has been and always will be. Death’s the man.

Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook

The death of someone we know always reminds us that we are still alive – perhaps for some purpose which we ought to re-examine.

Mortimer Collins

Death a friend that alone can bring the peace his treasures cannot purchase, and remove the pain his physicians cannot cure.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Note-books

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream: it may be so the moment after death.

Norman Cousins

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.

Paul E Tsongas, New York Times

No one on his deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time on my business.

Percival Arland Ussher

A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man.

Philip Dow

Death is patiently making my mask as I sleep. Each morning I awake to discover in the corners of my eyes the small tears of his wax.

Pierre Maganan, The Messengers of Death

When a house has just lost its soul, a stricken silence falls over the sudden emptiness that no one will fill again. And all the noises that may be made later in that house will be like a scandalous din, ugly echoes from one room to another, from one corridor to another, sharp and discordant as if the walls are no longer able to absorb any music once the source of harmony has been taken away. But this strange detail about the power of death can only be picked up by ears that are very attentive to the smallest murmurs of life. Rational people go through these empty spaces with the serenity of a lawyer, and their indulgent smiles categorise you if you decide to point out in their presence that there is something lacking in the atmosphere.


No one knows whether death is really the greatest blessing a man can have, but they fear it is the greatest curse, as if they knew well.

René Francois Regnier

Gaily I lived as ease and nature taught,
And spent my little life without a thought,
And am amazed that Death, that tyrant grim,
Should think of me, who never thought of him.

R Geis

I wouldn’t mind dying – it’s the business of having to stay dead that scares the shit out of me.

Robert Alton Harris

You can be a king or a street sweeper,
but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.

Robert Fulghum

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge — myth is more potent than history — dreams are more powerful than facts — hope always triumphs over experience — laughter is the cure for grief — love is stronger than death.

Roseanne Barr, from the TV show Roseanne

If you spend all your time worrying about dying, living isn’t going to be much fun.


Someday I’ll be a weather-beaten skull resting on a grass pillow,
serenaded by a stray bird or two.
Kings and commoners end up the same,
No more enduring than last night’s dream.

Salman Rushdie, The Satantic Verses

With death comes honesty.

Samuel Butler

To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.


The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.

Sigmund Freud

The goal of all life is death.


Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.

Spike Milligan: gravestone

Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite. (I told you I was ill – translates from Irish) 

Stephen King, Salem’s Lot

Death is when the monsters get you.

Steven Stiles

God made death so we’d know when to stop.

Steven Wright

I intend to live forever. So far, so good.

Stewart Alsop

A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.

Susan Ertz, Anger in the Sky

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Tennessee Williams, The Rose Tattoo

Time rushes towards us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal operation.

Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The human animal is a beast that dies but the fact that he’s dying don’t give him pity for others, no sir.

Theognis of Megara, Sumptuous Obsequies

A couch of thorns, or an embroidered bed,
Are matters of indifference to the dead.
From this world hath no wisdom in his heart.

Thomas Browne, An Essay on Death

I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death.

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

Toni Morrison

Birth, life, and death — each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.

Victor Hugo, Intellectual Autobriography

Our life dreams the Utopia. Our death achieves the Ideal.

W Somerset Maugham

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

Wellins Calcott, Thoughts Moral and Divine

How dreadful is the prospect of death, at the remotest distance! how the smallest apprehensions of it can pall the most gay, airy, and brisk spirits! even I, who thought I could have been merry in sight of my coffin, and drink a health with the sexton in my own grave, now tremble at the least envoy of the king of terrors. To see but the shaking of my glass makes me turn pale … all the jollity of my humour and conversation is turned on a sudden into chagrin and melancholy, black as despair, and gloomy as the grave.

Wilfred Sheed, The Good Word

Suicide is… the sincerest form of criticism life gets.

Willa Cather

I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived.

William Penn

For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.

Wilson Mizner

I want a priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant clergyman. I want to hedge my bets.

Winston Churchill

I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

Witter Bynner, The Patient to the Doctors

Name me no names for my disease,
With uninforming breath;
I tell you I am none of these,
But homesick unto death.

Woody Allen

I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens. 

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