to die, death (euphemism/expressions)


Somehow gloomy topic but interesting, nonetheless. Since I've encountered many weird euphemisms for dying in Finnish, I started wondering what kind of periphrases are there in other languages. Here are the most common words for death and to die:

kuolema "death"
kuolla "to die"

And here are some euphemisms:

heittää lusikka nurkkaan "to throw a spoon in the corner"
heittää veivinsä "to throw one's crank handle"
heittää henkensä "to throw one's life" (henki can also mean breath or spirit)
kupsahtaa "to fall over" (used also as normally falling over, not necessarily meaning dying. Like the English "bite the dust")
potkaista tyhjää "to kick empty space"
saada surmansa "to get one's kill" (surma means actually a sudden death, it comes from the name of Finnish mythological beast Surma, the guardian of the gate of Tuonela (the Underworld). Similar to Cerberus in Greek mythology)
siirtyä ajasta ikuisuuteen (more solemn than the ones above) "to move from time to eternity"
  • tirare le cuoia to scretch the skin
    andarsene to go away
    passare a miglior vita to pass to better life
    andare all'altro mondo to go to the other world
    aver smesso di soffrire to have finished to suffer

    (Well, after all we Italians seem to be optimistics. :D)
    I know one or two in French:

    Passer l'arme à gauche: To put the weapon on the left-side
    S'en aller: To go
    Partir dans l'autre/dans un autre monde: To leave for another world
    Etre parti: To be gone
    Manger les pissenlits par la racine: To eat roots of dandelions. (Which can also be translated as: 'To be pushing up the daisies'). It is used for someone who is already dead and buried. Whereas the other ones are used rather for someone who is dying or had just died.
    to kick the bucket
    to go belly up
    to go to one`s forefathers/to be gathered to the forefathers
    to hand in one`s chips (that`s a bit BrE, I don`t know whether our brothers Americans use it)
    to snuff it (the same doubt)
    to peg out

    I know a few in German as well:
    ins Grass beissen
    Germans, correct me, if I am wrong!!

    In Russian:
    Отправиться к праотцам - to go to the forefathers
    Загнуться - euphemism for "perish"
    Испустить дух - to give off one`s spirit
    Скапуститься - the origins or rather reasons for appearing are unknown to me but it is definitely derived from the word "капуста"- "cabbage"
    Окочуриться - euphemism for "perish"
    Отбросить копыта- (my favourite) - cast off one`s hooves
    Скопытиться- the same
    Дать дуба - lit. "to give the oak"
    Протянуть ноги - to stretch one`s legs
    Приказать долго жить - to order to live long (evidently implying that a dying person on his/her deathbed usually wishes everybody around a long and happy life).
    Уйти в мир иной/в лучший из миров - to pass into the other world/to the better of the two worlds
    Thanks for the answers!

    And, I just remembered another one:

    mennä manan majoille "to go to the huts of the abode of the dead" (maja means a hut in modern Finnish, but since the verb majailla means to dwell or to live, the word has probably once meant a dwelling place)
    In addition to Setwale Charm's offerings, we have

    to buy the farm
    to pass away
    to cash in one's chips (variation on BE version)
    to go to the Happy Hunting Ground (dated)
    to croak

    In Spanish, a couple which I really like are:

    hacerse calaca - to become a skeleton
    colgar los tenis - hang up one's sneakers

    You might enjoy this thread on euphemisms as well.
    I've never heard "hacer calaca" in spanish...

    Some euphemisms are:

    Estirar la pata : to strench one's leg
    Irse (se ha ido): sb's gone
    Pasar a mejor vida : to pass to a better life
    Pasar a un mejor mundo: to pass to a better world
    haber acabado de sufrir: to have finished suffering

    I can't remember more at the moment..
    ir desta para melhor: to go from this to a better one
    esticar o pernil: to stretch one's leg
    I know a few in German as well:
    ins Grass beissen
    Germans, correct me, if I am wrong!!
    They aren't euphemisms, but rather pejorations.

    das Zeitliche segnen
    von uns gehen
    in die ewigen Jagdgründe eingehen
    den Tod erleiden
    uns verlassen
    The normal Dutch verbs for to die:


    The euphemisms:

    De pijp aan Maarten geven - To give the pipe to (Saint) Martin
    Het loodje leggen - To lay down the small lump of lead (also means: to give up)
    Om het leven komen
    Verongelukken - to 'accident away' (or something, if translated litterally)
    Ons verlaten - to leave us
    Het leven laten - to leave life
    Vertrekken - to leave, to depart
    Naar de eeuwige Jachtgronden trekken - to go to the eternal hunting grounds
    Het rijk der levenden achter zich laten - to leave the kingdom of the living behind oneself
    Het leven achter zich laten - to leave life behind
    Het opgeven - to give up
    Op de hemelpoort kloppen - to knock on heaven's door

    The possibilities are endless...

    Please note that some bear in them the cause of death or apply only in specific situations (like severe illness before death)

    death: ölüm
    to die: ölmek


    eks olmak: to become ex (widely used by doctors. Expression probably comes from exitus letalis.)
    -Hastanız eks oldu. (Your patient has become ex.)

    hayatını kaybetmek: to lose his/her life (possibly one of the most popular euphemisms in Turkish)
    -Dedem hayatını kaybetti. (My grandpa lost his life.)

    kaybetmek: to lose
    -Onu kaybettik. (We lost him.)

    rahmetli olmak: to become sainted
    -Geçen hafta rahmetli oldu. (He/she became sainted last week.)

    son uykusuna yatmak: to go to his/her last sleep
    -Adam son uykusuna yattı yatacak. (The man is about to go to his last sleep.)

    X'e kavuşmak: to meet X (X could be anyone died before)
    -Sevgili karısına kavuştu. (He met his beloved wife.)

    ebedi istirahata dalmak:
    to sail in eternal rest
    -Kadın çok acı çekiyor. Edebi istirahata dalması onun için en iyisi olur. (The woman has suffered a great deal. To sail in the eternal rest would be the best for her.)

    I'm sure there's still more of that.
    In addition to Setwale_Charm's list of Russian euphemisms, I'd like to add these nice expressions:
    Сыграть в ящик - literally, "to play into a box". I wonder myself where does this expression come from!
    Гигнуться is the same as окочуриться.

    In Piedmontese, there's a beautiful expression - Andé a la vritá. It means 'to go to the Truth', i.e. 'to be dead'.
    In Portuguese (Brazil especially):
    bater com as dez - to finish (one's game) with the ten cards (I think that's the origin)

    And there was a comedy show, Sai de Baixo, some years ago that introduced alguém subiu no telhado - someone went up the roof.
    But I don't hear this very often any more.
    Hendryk, I want to translate your suggestions, so that everyone understands them:
    das Zeitliche segnen - to bless the time (= to depart this life)
    von uns gehen - to leave us
    in die ewigen Jagdgründe eingehen - to enter the eternal hunting grounds
    den Tod erleiden - to suffer death (= to meet one's death)
    dahinscheiden - to pass away
    uns verlassen - to leave us
    I've never heard "hacer calaca" in spanish...

    Some euphemisms are:

    Estirar la pata : to strench one's leg
    Irse (se ha ido): sb's gone
    Pasar a mejor vida : to pass to a better life
    Pasar a un mejor mundo: to pass to a better world
    haber acabado de sufrir: to have finished suffering

    I can't remember more at the moment..

    Some others:
    irse al otro mundo: to go to the other world.
    dormirse para siempre: to fall asleep forever.
    entregarse al dencanso eterno: to surrender oneself to the eternal rest
    In Serbian (not necessarily euphemisms):

    umreti - to die
    preminuti - to pass away
    otegnuti papke - to stretch out hoof (it translates: to kick the bucket)
    riknuti (slang) - to roar
    riknjavela (slang) - variation of "riknuti"
    odapeti (colloq.) - to shoot (an arrow) / to fire (a rifle) / to release (a bow)

    there may be more...
    I know another two in Hokkien (a Chinese dialect): 虾米 (dried shrimp) or 虾 (shrimp / prawn)

    E.g. Mr. Smith has died = Mr. Smith 虾了 / Mr. Smith 虾米了 = Mr. Smith has already died
    Greek (all "i"s as in ink, all "a"s as in ant, all "o"s as in omnipresent, th as in theatre)

    έχασα, χάσαμε (ehassa, hassame) I lost, we lost

    πήγε στα θυμαράκια (pige sta thymarakia) he went to the thymes

    πήγε στα κυπαρίσσια (pige sta kyparissia) he went to the cypress trees

    πήγε καλία του (dialect) (pige kalia tou) he went to his good (bad english there but there you have it)

    βλέπει τα ραδίκια ανάποδα (vlepi ta radikia anapoda) he sees the chicories upside down (of the radicchio kind)

    τίναξε τα πέταλα (tinaxe ta petala) he kicked his horseshoes
    τα τίναξε (ta tinaxe) (probably abbr of the one above) he kicked them (it in English I suppose)

    πήγε στον άλλο κόσμο (pige ston alo kosmo) he went to the other world

    είναι μακαρίτης (ine makarιtιs) he is a blessed one

    μας άφησε χρόνους (mas afisse hronous) he left us times (go figure this one!)

    κοιμήθηκε (kimithike) he slept (usually used for saints and such)

    έφυγε από τον μάταιο τούτο κόσμο (efyge apo ton mateo touto kosmo) he left that vain/futile world

    έσβησε το καντήλι του (esvisse to kandili tou) his candle was extinguished

    κόπηκε το νήμα της ζωής του kopike to nima tiw zois tou The thread of his life was cut
    逝世(shi shi), for a prominent person, similar with 去世(qu shi).
    仙逝(xian shi), litarally die and become saint, for a very great person who lives a reclusive life.
    升天(sheng tian), literally rise to the heaven.
    葬身(zang shen), literally bury one's body, generally used with a place, e.g., 葬身鱼腹, die in the abdomen of fishes, means die drowning.
    辞世(ci shi), literally say goodbye to the world.
    牺牲(xi sheng), sacrifice, for people who died in the battlefield or for their country.
    圆寂(yuan ji), for a Buddhist monk or nun.
    就义(jiu yi), for a hero/heroine who was killed in execution ground.
    翘辫子(qiao bian zi), literally the pigtail heads toward. a humorous phrase for the death of infamous people.
    挂了(gua le), a very humorous expression.
    There are many more....

    umreti - to die
    preminiti- to pass away
    večno zaspati - to iternally fall asleep
    izgubiti poslednjo/zadnjo bitko - to loose last fight (after a long or fatal illness)
    oditi na drugi svet - to leave for the other world
    za vedno smo ga/jo izgubili - we, who are still alive have lost him/her forever

    Matilda je prišla ponj/ponjo - Matilda has come for him/her
    gospa s koso ga/jo je obiskala - the lady with a scythe has visited him/her
    (the last two must have come from some European mithology, where a lady with a scythe called Matilda, portaited like a woman skeleton walks around and cuts people.)

    crkniti - to kick the bucket;
    stegniti se - to stretch oneself
    pobralo ga/jo je - he/she was picked up/collected

    So much I remember now....
    κόπηκε το νήμα της ζωής του kopike to nima tiw zois tou The thread of his life was cut
    This one is also known here in Slovenia, but it's very literary, for necrologs. Of course, it comes from the old Greek mithology: Kloto who spins thread of life and one day cuts it off.

    Življenja nit se mu/ji je pretrgala. The life thread of his/hers has cut off.
    To shuffle off this mortal coil
    To snuff it (colloquial)
    To buy it ("He bought it when a ME-111 crept up on his tail and opened fire" - sorry to talk about the War and all that!)
    To go to the big [insert word] in the sky
    To conk out (very colloquial)
    To breathe one's last
    There are some more in Spanish:

    In the sense of going to "heaven":
    - Ir a ver a San Pedro => Go meet St. Peter.
    - Irse al piso de arriba => Go to the upper floor.
    - Pasar a mejor vida => Go to a better life.
    - Irse a la gloria => Go to the glory/heaven.
    - Seguir la luz => Follow the light.

    More like "down to earth":
    - Enfriarse => Get cold. It is more often used when referring to a murder: "lo enfriaron".
    - Salir con los pies por delante => Hard one! It's like "to come out of the room with his/her feet forwards/in front"... See, when people die, they are taken out horizontally, so... :confused:
    - Tirarse tres (pedos) <vulgar> => Literally, fart three times. (Sorry, that's the expression :eek: ) Here they have this odd belief, that when people die, they actually "break winds" three times...
    - Colgar los chanclos/tenis => Hang up the sandals/tennis shoes.
    - Yacer 4 metros bajo tierra => Rest/lie 6 feet under.
    - Dar el último suspiro => Let out the last breath.
    - Apagar la luz => Turn off the light.
    - No figurar/matricular (en el año nuevo) => Hard to explain, sorry.

    People also say "El señor José ya no se encuentra entre nosotros..." => "Mr. Smith is no longer with us..."

    There must be some more, but I just can't remember (luckily! :p)
    I love the Persian language because it's really humorous. Very, very, very, VERY informal ways to elude to death:

    Yegtarafa šowi
    (May you flip over)

    Zamin cokšowa y bofti
    (May the ground split open and you fall in)

    Zira zamin goršowi
    (May you be buried underground)

    Zira zamin bofti
    (May you fall underground)

    Asmân sarit tâ šowa (May the sky fall on you)
    Qoda tura bobora
    (May God take you away)
    It seems that I can't edit my post. So....
    More Chinese:
    上西天(shang xi tian) or 去西天(qu xi tian), literally go to West Heaven(it's from Buddhism).
    见上帝(jian shang di), to meet the God.
    见阎王爷(jian yan wang ye),to meet the hell God.
    去黄泉(qu huang quan), literally go to the yellow spring, it's a symbol of the hell.
    见马克思(jian ma ke si), to meet Karl Marx. This is a quotation of Mao Tzetung, and has become a humorous way to describe a death of communist party member.
    没了(mei le), literally to disappear.
    To be continued..
    We can add a few to Turkish ones:

    "Öbür tarafa gitmek/ Öbür tarafı boylamak": Go to the otherside

    A very informal one

    "Nalları dikmek": to kick the bucket

    I cannot remember more..
    The direct way to say "he/she died" in Cherokee is ᎦᎵᏬᎩ - galiwogi. You'd say this about an animal, for example, but it can also be used for people. The euphemism that's typically used is ᎤᏰᏲᎱᏎᎴᎢ - uyeyohusele'i: "he/she lost it (his/her life)"
    Others in Spanish, in my country:
    • Está a 3 metros bajo tierra / he is 6 feet under
    • Se petateó / Petate is a bedroll made of palm fibers, and also before the use of coffins people would be rolled in one them and buried.
    • Se nos fue / He left us
    • Está tiruto / He is dead
    • Era / He was
    • Se llamaba / He used to have a name
    • Se fue al cielo / He went to heaven
    • Cuando en vida / When he was alive
    • Pasó a major vida / he pass to a better life.
    (да) умра/ умирам - to die
    - (да) почина - "to rest"
    - (той) вече не е срeд нас - (he) is no longer among us
    - (той) вече не е сред живите - (he) is no longer among the living
    - (той) ни напусна - (he) left us
    And others.
    Informal: (той) хвърли топа/ ритна камбаната - (he) kicked the bucet
    In Arabic you have several words for death:

    مات = maata = to die (general).
    نفق = nafaqa = to die (for animals only).
    توفي = towoofiiya = to die (polite)
    هلك = halaka = to die (implying a bad ending, so it's not very polite)

    As for Euphemisms, there is also quite a few of them:

    لفظ أنفاسه الأخيرة = lafaTHa anfaasahu il-akhiira = he extracted/exhaled his final breaths
    نام نومته الأبدية = naama nawmatahu il-abadiyya = he slept his eternal sleep
    قابل\لقي ربه = qaabala/laqiiya rabbahu = he met his god
    تلقى حسابه = talaqqa Hisaabahu = he recieved his final judgement.
    رحمه الله = raHimahu Allah = God has given mercy on him or may God have mercy on him.
    أسلم الروح = aslama ar-rooH = he surendered his soul.
    فاضت روحه = faaDat rooHuhu = his soul departed from him.
    ذهب إلى الآخرة = thahaba ila al-aakhira = he went to the final (other) world.
    ذهب إلى دار حقه = thahaba ila daari Haqqih = he went to his rightful/true home (in the other world, either heaven or hell).

    There are others, but I suppose these are the most important.
    Hello, there are also many idioms in Hungarian as well, I'd list the most common and most interesting ones:

    feldobja a talpát = throw up one's sole
    beadja a kulcsot = hand in the key
    fűbe harap = bite the grass
    my favourite: alulról fogja szagolni az ibolyát = he's going to smell the violet from below
    They aren't euphemisms, but rather pejorations.

    You're right, but then we call them dysphemisms, I believe. But the fun part of all this is the metaphors, isn't it, and/ or the imagination.

    (This is a huge success. I have collected all those expressions and ordered them. If interested, you can get the Word version by sending me a PM containing your e-mail address; I consider studying them a little and finding out the main kinds of metaphors, but not now...)
    Last edited:
    One more from Dutch :
    - de geest geven
    See give up the ghost, Finnish heittää henkensä "to throw one's life" (henki can also mean breath or spirit), which are probably all referring to spirit, i.e., breath etymologically (or am I mistaken?), as in spirometer, inspiration, ...

    In the meantime I focussed on those expressions and tried to draw some conclusions (maybe too much of a personal interpretation, additions welcome )
    - Sleeping, resting
    o C.q. to become cold
    o Stopping (playing cards, ...)
    - Disappearing
    o C.q.: no longer among us, being missed, emptiness
    - Being buried, simply, or being buried into ... (Chinese)
    o Falling, biting the dust, the grass, ...
    - Leaving (vanity, ...)
    o (for another World) sometimes implying the ultimate, final world (eternity, home, hunting grounds ?), sometimes suggested by metonymy (thymes, cypresses, ...), often up
    o Judgment, often resulting in a new status (holiness, ...)
    - and then meeting new people (God, God of hell, ...), knocking at a door
    - Breaking off something (thread, candle extinguished, ...)
    - Losing/ giving up things (body but s’times other things, in special ways, by kicking off, kicking away, ..) throwing, giving away, ...), even a name
    o C.q. losing breath, stopping breathing, losing one’s soul (probably related)
    o C.q. being reduced to ... (ashes, a shrimp)
    o C.q. Cashing in, buying, ...
    - the World turned upside down: inversion (sword on the wrong side, looking from below)
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    One more Russian:
    Склеить ласты (To glue the flippers together).

    Russian euphemisms, not slang: most common: скончаться (to finish, only in the sense of dying), представиться (to present oneself, here: as to God), отдать богу душу (to give away (one's) soul to God), приказать долго жить (to order to live long), почить в бозе (to sleep in God, old grammar)

    There are some more but I can't think of right now.

    den Löffel abgeben - give away the spoon
    in Gras beißen - bite into the grass
    über den Jordan gehen - cross the river Jordan
    die letzte Reise antreten - start the last journey
    dran glauben müssen - have to believe in it
    sich die Radieschen von unten ansehen - look at the radish from below
    in the ewigen Jagdgründe gehen- go to the eternal hunting grounds
    vor den Schöpfer treten - step in front of the creator
    die Gardinen zuziehen - close the curtains
    flöten gehen - go piping (not sure if the German comes from the instrument)
    das Leben aushauchen - exhale life

    These are the most common ones, I think.
    Bought the farm(my personal favorite, previously mentioned by chaska) I guess his number was up.
    He bit the dust.
    He threw in the towel.
    He went six foot under
    He went deep six.
    Gone to the deep.
    He gave up the ghost.
    He took his last breath.
    The sun set on him yesterday.
    Saw his last sunset.
    Rode off into the sunset.
    His ticker stopped ticking.
    He gave up the ship.
    Took his last breath.
    Said his last goodbye
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    Russian euphemisms, not slang: most common: скончаться (to finish, only in the sense of dying), отдать богу душу (to give away (one's) soul to God).
    Some questions
    - is дух the same as душу (I suppose these are different cases of a word, because the latter was mentioned and translated as 'spirit', here you refer to 'soul' - which would not be astonishing)
    - how can you use скончаться in other contexts, or what is the precise meaning of 'finish' here ?