What is the Etymology of an Obituary? What does the Word Really Mean?

What is the history and meaning of the word Obituary? What is it's etymology and original meaning in Latin?

What is the Etymology of an Obituary? What does the Word Really Mean?

What is the etymology of obituaries?

The word "obituary" is derived from the Latin obitus, which means "death." The word originally referred to the record of a person's death, but it has come to be used more broadly to refer to a notice of a person's death, typically including a brief biographical sketch and a list of the person's survivors.

The use of obituaries dates back to the early modern period when newspapers first began to be published. In the past, obituaries were often brief notices that simply announced a person's death and provided a few basic details about their life and surviving family members. Today, obituaries are typically more comprehensive and personalized and can include detailed biographical sketches, photographs, and quotes or messages from surviving family members and friends.

What is the oldest obituary ever recorded?

It is difficult to determine the oldest obituary ever recorded, as obituaries have been published in various forms for centuries. However, here are a few examples of early obituaries or death notices that have been preserved:

  • The death of Emperor Augustus of Rome was recorded by the Roman historian Suetonius in the first century AD. Suetonius wrote a detailed account of Augustus' life and accomplishments, as well as the circumstances of his death.
  • The death of King Henry VIII of England was recorded in the London Gazette in 1547. The notice provided basic details about Henry's life and reign, and announced the succession of his son, Edward VI, to the throne.
  • The death of Sir Isaac Newton was recorded in the London Gazette in 1727. The notice provided a brief overview of Newton's life and scientific achievements and announced the date and location of his funeral.

It is worth noting that these examples are not what would traditionally be considered obituaries in the modern sense, as they do not include personal details or tributes. However, they do provide early examples of death notices and biographical sketches that have been preserved over time.