General English

Information & Library Science

  • noun a piece of writing about the character and achievements of somebody who has just died

Media Studies

  • noun an account of a prominent person’s life, published in a newspaper shortly after they have died.
  • abbreviationobit


  • noun an article in a newspaper about the life and work of a person who has recently died

Origin & History of “obituary”

Obituary goes back ultimately to a Latin euphemism for ‘die’, meaning literally ‘go down, make an exit’. this was obīre, a compound verb formed from the prefix ob- ‘down’ and īre ‘go’. From it was derived obitus ‘death’, which formed the basis of the medieval Latin adjective obituārius ‘of death’, source of English obituary. A parallel Latin formation was the adverb obiter ‘on the way, in passing along’, based on the noun iter ‘journey’ (a relative of īre and source of English itinerant (16th c.) and itinerary (15th c.)). English preserves it in obiter dictum (19th c.), literally a ‘statement in passing’.