shed / shuffle off this mortal coil

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Senior Member

I have found that " to shuffle off this mortal coil" means " to die", but it is literary... and I think it sounds antiquate to say it nowdays.

Googling I have found the following English expression: to shed this mortal coil, for example:

Untill we shed this mortal coil, we must live to its fullest.--> Does this sound literary too?

I assume that "to shed this mortal coil" is a modern way of saying " suffle off this mortal coil"

Oh..I have also been trying to understand "mortal coil" and the dictionaries say:

1.-Life as we know it; often looked upon with negative connotations.
2.- The troubles of daily life. From Shakespeare's Hamlet

3.- the physical body of man (containing the spirit inside)
Note. The phrase alludes to a snake shedding its skin

I understand "mortal coil" as "restos mortales" in spanish, refering to a "dead body" but the definitions 3 implies "an alive body":confused:

How do you use "mortal coil" expression?

for instance:
I do not know why you don't know,
I cannot reap what you have sown
Beneath this blanket of loose soil,
wrapped around my mortal coil.

By Christian Death

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Cheers! :)
  • JillN

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I always thought "mortal coil" referred to DNA. I see no difference in "shed" or "shuffle off" - neither are common expressions and I don't think I've ever heard someone say either of them in everyday conversation. They both sound literary.


    Senior Member
    English, UK
    if you quote Shakespeare it makes a bad impression (as well as bad poetry) if you paraphrase it: keep shuffle off.
    Englishmen are always quoting "the bard" both in conversation and writing, being careful to use the exact words of the original text. For instance, if you say "All that glitters is not gold" to a group that includes a well-educated Englishman, he may well correct you by saying the archaic word "glisters".


    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    And Mark Twain used the expression "shed this mortal coil" in a humorous piece called the San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle Earthquake Almanac. Here's an excerpt:

    Nov. 1. – Terrific earthquake. This is the great earthquake month. More stars fall and more worlds are slathered around carelessly and destroyed in November than in any other month of the twelve.
    Nov. 2. – Spasmodic but exhilarating earthquakes, accompanied by occasional showers of rain and churches and things.
    Nov. 3. – Make your will.
    Nov. 4. – Sell out.
    Nov. 5. – Select your "last words." Those of John Quincy Adams will do, with the addition of a syllable, thus: "This is the last of earthquakes."
    Nov. 6. – Prepare to shed this mortal coil.
    Nov. 7. – Shed!
    Nov. 8. – The sun will rise as usual, perhaps; but if he does, he will doubtless be staggered some to find nothing but a large round hole eight thousand miles in diameter in the place where he saw this world serenely spinning the day before.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    But Mark Twain couldn't have used "shuffle off" even if he'd wanted to. The resulting: "Nov. 7. - Shuffle off!" sounds like 'the sixth age' in Shakespearean terms:

    The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
    His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound.
    source: W.Shakespeare

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