The Complete Guide to Epitaphs (with examples)

Writing an epitaph may seem easy, but finding just a few words to capture the essence of a loved one can be a real challenge. Read on for some real examples to get you started.
The Complete Guide to Epitaphs (with examples)

An epitaph is a phrase written in memory of a person who has passed away. It’s often a short, meaningful tribute to a loved one inscribed on their tombstone. The word epitaph originates from the Greek phrase epitaphios, which means “upon + tomb”, but it’s thought that the oldest surviving epitaphs date back to ancient Egyptian times.

For those who visit a gravesite, an epitaph provides a sentiment by which to remember the deceased. For those who choose their own epitaph, it can be used as a way to share a final message with those left behind.

How to write an epitaph

An epitaph has three parts:

  1. The full name of the deceased. Be sure to triple check the spelling.
  2. The date of their birth and date of their death.
  3. A few words that capture who they were.

Although an epitaph is only a few words, its permanence means that most people will feel considerable pressure to make it unique. But, it doesn’t have to be. To help you get it just right, we have compiled a list of examples which might inspire you.

Examples of Epitaphs

Epitaphs for parents

  • Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
  • Even as the sun goes down, To end the light of day, It’s rising on a new horizon, Somewhere far away.
  • To know even one life breathed easier because he/she lived is to know she truly succeeded while here.
  • A true hero to all that knew him/her.
  • An inspiration to all who knew him/her.

Epitaphs for fathers

  • Father
  • Beloved father, son, and friend.
  • You toiled hard Dad, Now you rest, We are proud you are ours, One of the best.
  • A man who left an impact on all who met him.
  • We loved him.

Epitaphs for mothers

  • Mother
  • Beloved Mum, Wife, Sister, Gran and Nana. Forever missed.
  • Dear mum, we love you.
  • Your love and care will be remembered, always. 
  • Dearly loved by all who knew her.
  • Your warmth and wisdom left the world a better place.

Epitaphs for siblings

  • A man greatly loved, and greatly missed.
  • She appreciated every moment because she knew she might never be able to experience it again.
  • Loved beyond the stars.
  • Peace at last.
  • He found happiness and honour in being helpful to the world.
  • Loved by so many.

Epitaphs for domestic partners

  • Together Forever.
  • Beloved and dear in life. In death they are not divided.
  • They lived, and laughed, and loved, and left.
  • Life is not forever. Love is.

Religious Epitaphs

  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) 
  • The Lord is my shepherd.
  • May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
  • Allah is with those who are patient (Q. 2:153) 
  • Change is the Law of The Universe (Bhagavad Gita)

Wrap up

Selecting the perfect epitaph can be difficult. Just remember to be kind to yourself. Take the time and space to let the words come to you. Use this list to get started, but if none of these seem to fit quite right then you might find inspiration in the lyrics of a favourite song or poem.

If you have specific wishes around your epitaph, it’s a good idea to note them in your legal Will.

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