An epitaph is a meaningful tombstone tribute to someone who has died. Here are 100 of the best.
By: Jessica Campbell
1 month ago
Gravestones remember the dead by honoring life. That is why tombstones typically feature names, family relationships, dates of birth and death — to make it clear to all who come after that here lies a person who lived, who loved, and who matters to those left behind. The most personal gravestone memorials also include a little something more, a favorite quote perhaps, or a symbol reflecting an affinity the deceased had. Often this extra something on a headstone is an epitaph, a phrase written in memory of a person who has died.
Epitaphs allow us to share a little of ourselves and our loved ones with future generations. An epitaph can impart wisdom, sum up one’s life experiences, or get in one last punch line. Whether you are planning a funeral or simply looking for a little inspiration, here are some of the best epitaphs we’ve encountered. Scroll down for all 100 of the best epitaph examples.
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“Truth to your own spirit” is the English translation of the epitaph engraved in Greek on rock star Jim Morrison’s tomb in Paris.
James Douglas Morrison
ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ
Inscribed on the back of Shackleton’s gravestone, this quote by poet Robert Browning captures the spirit of the famed British explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic.
To the dear memory of
Ernest Henry Shackleton
Born 15th Feb. 1874
Entered life eternal 5th Jan. 1922
“I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize.”
Known as “The Gentleman of Boxing,” Floyd Patterson won an Olympic gold medal and twice was heavyweight champion of the world during two decades in the ring.
In Loving Memory of
Jan. 4 1935 - May 11, 2006
Husband, Father, Grandfather and Friend
A Champion Always
Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but his epitaph speaks more to his gracious demeanor than his skill with a bat.
Joseph Paul DiMaggio
November 25, 1914
March 8, 1999
Grace, Dignity and Elegance Personified
Blond bombshell Betty Hutton was a triple threat entertainer who sang and danced her way to Hollywood stardom before personal demons derailed her career.
Loved by All
2-26-1921 – 3-12-2007
Natalie Wood was one of the biggest movie stars of her generation when she died tragically in a mysterious drowning at age 43.
Natalie Wood Wagner
Beloved Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother & Friend
“More Than Love”
A simple epitaph for Thin Lizzy rocker Gary Moore (1952–2011).
Robert William Gary Moore
4th April 1952 – 6th February 2011
Loved beyond the stars
The grave marker for Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis (1956–1980) pays tribute to the band's classic song.
Love will tear us apart
The epitaph on the grave of Rat Pack actor-singer-comedian Dean Martin is taken from one of his signature songs.
June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995
Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime
You can feel the love when you look at the heart-shaped grave of blond bombshell movie star Jayne Mansfield, who died tragically young.
April 19, 1933
June 29, 1967
We live to love you more each day
The married comedy duo of Gracie Allen and George Burns performed together for 36 years in vaudeville, radio, and television. After her death in 1964, it would be another 30+ years before they were reunited.
Gracie Allen (1902–1964) and George Burns (1896–1996)
The epitaph on the Vermont gravestone of Robert Frost is taken from his poem “The Lesson for Today.”
Robert Lee Frost
Mar. 26, 1874 – Jan. 29, 1963
“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
In an industry that celebrates ingénues and lovable leading ladies, film icon Bette Davis took on a string of unsympathetic, unlikable characters, breathing life into each role.
April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989
“She did it the hard way”
The British prime minister was also a Nobel laureate for literature, so it's no wonder he wrote his own epitaph. While it doesn't appear on his tombstone, it is a fitting self-tribute.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
This well-known epitaph for the ancient conqueror (356 BC–323 BC) sums him up well but good luck finding his tomb — Alexander’s final resting place is the subject of much debate.
A marker at Poe’s original gravesite in Baltimore includes this quote from his famous poem.
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore’
Original burial place of
Edgar Allan Poe
October 9, 1849
November 17, 1875
Mrs. Maria Clemm, his mother-in-law, lies upon his right and Virginia Poe, his wife, upon his left, under the monument erected to him in this cemetery.
The Ramones’ prolific songwriter and bassist has two epitaphs on his tombstone: “I feel so safe flying on a ray on the highest trails above” (from his song “Highest Trails Above”) and “OK...I gotta go now” (possibly a call-out to his song “Blitzkrieg Bop”).
I feel so safe flying on a ray on the highest trails above
Douglas Glenn Colvin
Sept. 18, 1951
June 5, 2002
DEE DEE RAMONE
O.K...I gotta go now.
For a guy who made his living telling jokes, comedian Lenny Bruce has a decidedly un-funny epitaph.
Lenny “Bruce” Schneider
Beloved Father - Devoted Son
“Peace at last”
The grave pioneering rock ‘n’ roll singer Ritchie Valens shares with his mother pays tribute to two of his hit songs: “La Bamba” and “Come on Let’s Go.” The gravestone even includes the opening bars of each song.
Beloved Mother & Sister | Beloved Son & Brother
Concepcion Reyes | Richard Steven
“Concha” | “Ritchie Valens”
Oct. 6, 1915–Oct. 18, 1987 | May 13, 1941–Feb. 3, 1959
“La Bamba” | “Come on Let’s Go”
Frank Sinatra’s epitaph speaks to having faith that a better place awaits and pays homage to one of his many hit songs.
The Best Is Yet to Come
Francis Albert Sinatra
Beloved Husband & Father
Playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1850) joked that this would make a good epitaph.
Comedian Spike Milligan (1918–2002) of “The Goon Show” got one last laugh on his tombstone. The Irish inscription “Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite” translates to “I told you I was ill.”
Writer and wit Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) quipped that this would make a good epitaph for her.
The funny epitaph of filmmaker Billy Wilder (1906–2002) is a nod to the funny final line of his classic comedy “Some Like It Hot.”
It's hard to think of a better epitaph for stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921–2004), known for his self-deprecating humor and “I don’t get no respect” schtick.
As a popular television talk show and game show host, Merv Griffin (1925–2007) went to commercial countless times. But there was one commercial break he couldn’t come back from.
During his lifetime, Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon (1925–2001) starred in more than 60 films and had his name in lights on theater marquees. Now he has one starring role for eternity.
RIP on a tombstone typically means “rest in peace.” But for actor Leslie Nielsen (1926–2010), who made generations laugh as the star of “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” movies, it was one final fart joke.
A fitting and funny epitaph for Mel Blanc (1908–1989), the man of a thousand voices who gave life to Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, and countless classic animated characters.
A fitting epitaph for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) who led the struggle for African American civil rights and dreamed of a world where all were free and equal.
The epitaph of U.K. poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972), father of award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis, comes from his poem “Is It Far to Go?”
Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say.
Ask my song.
This profound epitaph can be found on the tombstone of best-selling horror writer James Herbert (1943–2013).
Poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) wrote this epitaph for himself. It can be found on his gravestone in Ireland.
Fairwell vain world I’ve known enough of thee
and now am careles what thou sayes of me
thy smiles I cort not now thy frowns I fear
my cares are past my head lieth quiat here
what falts thou sawest in me now strive to shun
there is worke enough within thee to be done
Astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) composed this epitaph for himself a few months before he died.
Sacred to the Memory of Eliza Crowhurst
A devoted mother who carved the headstone
on this grave and wheeled it in a barrow
from Percydale to the cemetery
to erect it thereon.
This fitting tribute to English cricketer Harry Bagshaw (1859–1927) is followed by “For when the one Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He writes not that you won or lost but how you played the game.”
The tombstone for footballer Billy Ayre (1952–2002) pays homage to his career as a player and manager with multiple clubs in England. It also shows how much he meant to his family.
The epitaph of English writer Laurie Lee (1914–1997).
Epitaph on a monument marking the burial place of 31 unidentified persons who died in the Windsor Hotel fire of 1899.
Martin Guy White (1944–1999) had the rare privilege of seeing the world while doing something that he loved. Twice he was honored with the Polar Medal, awarded to citizens of the United Kingdom for service in the Arctic and/or Antarctic.
We don’t know much about Eleanor Crum. But we do know that she loved bamboo, thanks to the epitaph on a plaque at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.
An epitaph on the tombstone of an English farmer.
Epitaph on the tombstone of English politician John Frost (1784–1877).
Born into slavery, George Washington Carver (c. 1860s–1943) was a prominent scientist who promoted agricultural methods that were environmentally sustainable and would improve the health and well-being of poor black farmers.
A common epitaph, this Latin phrase roughly translates to “this person went about doing good.”
The epitaph for Fred Korematsu (1919–2005) pays tribute to the deceased and provides a history lesson about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Born in Oakland, Fred wanted only to be treated like every other American. Defying the 1942 order for the internment of Japanese Americans, he stood strong against anti-Asian prejudice in the United States during World War II. He challenged our nation's conscience, reminding us that we must uphold the rights of our own citizens even as we fight tyranny in other lands. A true hero and civil rights activist, Fred was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 1998.
It doesn’t get much more profound than the epitaph for “gay Vietnam veteran” Leonard Matlovich (1943–1988), the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight their ban on homosexuals.
Never Again | Never Forget
6 July 1943 | 22 June 1988
A Gay Vietnam Veteran
“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
In loving memory of RAF pilot officer Sir Christopher Albert de Bathe, killed on active service 3 June 1941.
A brutally honest epitaph for two heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Walter Peart, driver, and Harry Dean, fireman of the Windsor Express
Whilst being scalded and burned sacrificed their lives in saving the train
Pioneering publicist, travel writer, and newspaper editor Anne Royall (1769–1854) was by some accounts the first professional woman journalist in the United States. Born just before America claimed independence from Great Britain, Royall had the success of the young nation on her mind when she died just half a decade before the onset of the Civil War.
John Minor Botts (1802–1869) was a prominent Unionist in Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War. His gravestone includes an epitaph and a quote, both of which highlight his love of country.
He was under all circumstances an inflexible friend of the American Union.
“I know no North, no South, no East, no West. I only know my country, my whole country, and nothing but my country.”
On death and remembrance, iconic artist Andy Warhol (1928–1987) had this to say: “I never understood why when you died, you didn’t just vanish, everything should just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn’t be there. I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say ‘figment’.”
The epitaph of poet John Drinkwater (1882–1937) is taken from his poem “Amaranth.”
In some new brain the sleeping dust will waken;
Courage and love that conquered and were done,
Called from a night by thought of man forsaken,
Will know again the gladness of the sun.
The epitaph on the tombstone of English Green Party politician Mike Woodin (1965–2004) is followed by “Love you, miss you, love you, miss you, love you, miss you.”
The epitaph on the tombstone of British musician Mike Taylor (1938–1969) of the band Cream:
I dive from a springboard
into cool clear water
and yet I furnish my springboard
with my experience
so that my life is more than my action.
The headstone for musician Mean Gene Kelton (1953-2010) highlights important family relationships.
You were the sweetest and the greatest of any woman God created
You've been our friend and our Mother, always helped us, always loved us
You tried so hard to guide us, and Mother you never once denied us
So our love for you isn't easily expressed, for in our eyes, you'll always be best
Though you lie here as asleep, as each day passes we cry and weep
Because we hold you in our memory forever, we know there will never be another
To take the place of you, our precious Mother
She has soared away to a better land
She has left us here a broken band
Our Mother has gone never to return