Words for death

Sunday, January 28 2024

🌱 This article is a work in progress

Words for death

Polish has three words for death:

  1. Umarł ' is for the death of a person
  2. Zdechł ' is for the death of an animal
  3. Zwiędł ' is for the death of a plant or flower.

Growing up I would be castigated if I said that a ptak umarł, a bird had died. It made me feel that my words were rude: it was rude to give an animal the privilege that comes with being human, even if that were my beloved pet dog.

I believe that humans and animals are discretely different; would I be more likely to treat animals and people as equal if there was one word that both could experience: death? I feel like it would.

Lithuanian has a specific verb ‘mirÅ¡ti’ meaning ‘to die’, only used for humans and bees. I would love to collect more such linguisitic oddities, please email me. I specifically don’t mean euphemisms like the English-broadsheet-war term ‘passed away’.