sar·coph·a·gus (sär-kŏf’ə-gəs)
n. pl. sar·coph·a·gi (-jī′) or sar·coph·a·gus·es A stone coffin, often inscribed or decorated with sculpture.
[Latin, from Greek sarkophagos, coffin, from (lithos) sarkophagos, limestone that consumed the flesh of corpses laid in it : sarx, sark-, flesh + -phagos, -phagous.]
Word History: Sarcophagus, our term for a stone coffin located above ground, has a macabre origin befitting a macabre thing. Its ultimate source is the Greek word sarkophagos, "eating flesh, carnivorous," a compound derived from sarx, "flesh," and phagein, "to eat." Sarkophagos was also used in the phrase lithos ("stone") sarkophagos to denote a kind of limestone with caustic properties from which coffins were made in the ancient world. The Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder says that this stone was quarried near the town of Assos in the Troad and describes its remarkable properties as follows: "It is well known that the bodies of the dead placed in it will be completely consumed after forty days, except for the teeth." The Greek term sarkophagos could also be used by itself as a noun to mean simply "coffin." Greek sarkophagos was borrowed into Latin as sarcophagus and used in the phrase lapis ("stone") sarcophagus to refer to the same stone as in Greek. In Latin, too, sarcophagus came to be used as a noun meaning "coffin made of any material." The first known attestation of the word sarcophagus in English dates from 1601 and occurs in a translation of Pliny's description of the stone. Later, sarcophagus begins to be used in English with the meaning "stone coffin," especially in descriptions of sarcophagi from antiquity.

Word Histories. 2014.

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  • SARCOPHAGUS — in Inscr. veter. apud Gruterum p. 689. L. Iulii Marcelli, qui vixisle dicitur ann. 5. diebus 31. Corpus. integrum. conditum. Sarcophago. et apud Iuvenalem Sat. 10. v. 172. ubi de Alexandro, Qui figulo postquam munito intraverit urbem, Sarcophago… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Sarcophagus — Sar*coph a*gus, n.; pl. L. {Sarcophagi}, E. {Sarcophaguses}. [L., fr. Gr. sarkofa gos, properly, eating flesh; sa rx, sa rkos, flesh + fagei^n to eat. Cf. {Sarcasm}.] 1. A species of limestone used among the Greeks for making coffins, which was… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sarcophagus — stone coffin, c.1600, from L. sarcophagus, from Gk. sarkophagos limestone used for coffins, lit. flesh eating, in reference to the supposed action of this type of limestone (quarried near Assos in Troas) in quickly decomposing the body, from sarx …   Etymology dictionary

  • Sarcophăgus — (v. gr.), so v.w. Sarkophagos …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • sarcophagus — ► NOUN (pl. sarcophagi) ▪ a stone coffin. ORIGIN Latin, from Greek sarkophagos flesh consuming …   English terms dictionary

  • sarcophagus — [sär käf′ə gəs] n. pl. sarcophagi [sär käf′əjī΄] or sarcophaguses [L < Gr sarkophagos < sarx, flesh (see SARCASM) + phagein, to eat (see PHAGOUS): because the limestone caused rapid disintegration of the contents] 1. among the ancient… …   English World dictionary

  • Sarcophagus — A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word sarcophagus comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning flesh , and φαγειν phagein meaning to eat , hence sarkophagus means flesh eating ; from the… …   Wikipedia

  • sarcophagus — [17] A sarcophagus is etymologically a ‘flesh eater’: the word comes via Latin sarcophagus from Greek sarkophágos, a compound formed from sárx ‘flesh’ (source of English sarcasm) and phágos ‘eating’. This originated as the term for a particular… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • sarcophagus — [[t]sɑː(r)kɒ̱fəgəs[/t]] sarcophagi, sarcophaguses (plural) N COUNT A sarcophagus is a large decorative container in which a dead body was placed in ancient times. Egyptian sarcophagus. Syn: casket …   English dictionary

  • sarcophagus — UK [sɑː(r)ˈkɒfəɡəs] / US [sɑrˈkɑfəɡəs] noun [countable] Word forms sarcophagus : singular sarcophagus plural sarcophaguses or sarcophagi a stone box, used in some ancient cultures for putting a dead body in …   English dictionary

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