Epitaphs are inscriptions or engravings that have been etched onto a headstone. An epitaph can say about anything or include a poem or literary work. It could be a religious verse. It could be a saying or a simple sentiment. No matter the source of the words, they are intended to honor and pay tribute to the deceased.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Epitaph Examples for Parents or Grandparents
- Epitaph Examples for Husbands, Wives, or Partners
- Epitaph Examples for a Child or Grown Son or Daughter
- Funny Epitaph Examples
- Famous Epitaph Examples
Epitaphs are often touching and emotional, but they can be funny, too. Ultimately, they should say something about the kind of person the deceased was. Read on for some epitaph examples that are appropriate for a wide range of people.
Just as some are creating unique memorials in the form of alternatives like memorial diamonds from Eterneva, others are adding unique epitaphs to headstones. It's all a part of telling someone's story.
Epitaph Examples for Parents or Grandparents
Many people measure the success of their lives by their families. People are so proud to be parents and grandparents that it becomes a major part of their identity. Here are some epitaphs that appropriately honor those titles.
1. “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my mother.”
This quote from Abraham Lincoln is a lovely tribute to a mother. As an epitaph, it pays tribute to a woman who embodied qualities of leadership and grace.
2. “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”
This is part of a sweet quote about fatherhood from baseball player Wade Boggs. It is perfect for a biological father. It also works for a stepfather or adoptive father that stepped up to fill that special role.
3. “A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”
This old saying really captures the special relationship grandmothers have with their grandchildren. It also gives a nod to their role as a parent.
4. “More and more, when I single out the person who inspired me most, I go back to my grandfather.”
This quote from actor James Earl Jones is a sweet tribute to a grandfather who meant a lot. Grandparents can inspire you in a lot of different ways. This quote gives room to all of them.
Epitaph Examples for Husbands, Wives, or Partners
When your spouse or partner dies, an epitaph becomes one final love letter you can send. The right epitaph won’t only pay tribute to your partner, it also honors your relationship.
5. “Together again.”
This epitaph is inspired by artist Man Ray and his wife, Juliet. The two of them were together for 36 years before he passed away at the age of 86. When Browner passed away 25 years later, she was interred in her late husband’s tomb. The epitaph on her headstone reads simply, “Together again.” This is a lovely sentiment for a couple separated temporarily by death.
6. “Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.”
This is a quote attributed to Austrian composer Franz Schubert. It’s a sweet way to express the belief that romantic relationships should be rooted in a deep and trusting friendship.
7. “I couldn’t have dreamed you into existence because I didn’t even know I needed you. You must have been sent to me.”
This quote is from writer Kamand Kojouri. It sounds poetic because it’s a line from a poem. It also has an eternal feel to it, fitting for an epitaph.
8. “We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”
This quote from Henri Nouwen is the perfect fit for an epitaph. It is bittersweet. It alludes to the pain that comes from losing your love. But the ultimate message is that the joy is worth the pain.
Epitaph Examples for a Child or Grown Son or Daughter
Writer Stephen Adly Guirgis said, “No parent should have to bury a child.” It’s one of the most painful experiences possible. Selecting the right epitaph for your child can help soothe a small portion of the grief you feel.
9. “The soul is healed by being with children.”
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is known for his dense political novels. But this quote about children is surprisingly sweet and touching.
10. “Children see magic because they look for it.”
This quote is from writer Christopher Moore. It’s a sweet sentiment about the way children look at the world. Its innocence makes it a thoughtful choice for a child’s epitaph.
11. “You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.”
This quote is originally from the father of naval aviator and NASA astronaut Wally Schirra. It’s sweet because his son was an American hero. But his point is that our children will always be heroes in our eyes.
12. “I wish her a lucky passage.”
This is a line from the poem “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur. The poem portrays the relationship between a father and daughter. Specifically, it depicts the unique pain of having to let your child go.
Funny Epitaph Examples
Some people don’t take life very seriously. So why should they take death seriously? Honor a person who loved a good laugh with a humorous epitaph. It’s the best way to pay tribute to their spirit.
13. "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience."
This quote by Mark Twain is a great illustration of his dry wit. It’s an excellent quote for an epitaph for someone with a tongue-in-cheek approach to life and death. It’s especially appropriate for someone who appreciated literature.
14. "I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize that I’m listening to it."
This is a quote from the late comedian George Carlin. He was known for his salty and provocative sense of humor. This would be a great epitaph for someone who liked to push boundaries.
15. "I am prepared to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
Winston Churchill was another historical figure known for his wit and his willingness to incite a reaction. This humorous epitaph would be fitting for a history buff.
16. “I told you I was ill.”
Spike Milligan was an Irish poet and comedian. This phrase is actually written on his tombstone in the Irish language. This is a simple but hilarious epitaph, especially if the deceased had an illness and a hearty sense of humor.
Famous Epitaph Examples
Some famous people aren’t just renowned for their careers. They’re also well-known for their famous epitaphs. The following epitaphs are iconic because they do such a good job capturing the careers and personalities of the people they’re associated with.
17. Dylan Thomas (1914–1953)
“Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea...”
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote some beautiful poetry during his tragically short life. One of his most renowned poems, “Fern Hill,” was an autobiographical look at the idyllic innocence of his childhood. By the time the poem ends, that innocence has given way to bitter experience. The poem’s topic makes for a fittingly bittersweet epitaph.
18. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Like Thomas, Fitzgerald died young after a lengthy struggle with alcoholism. Also like Thomas, Fitzgerald’s epitaph is lifted from one of his most famous works. It is the closing line to “The Great Gatsby.”
The line encapsulates how we must continue struggling through life, even as our past drags at us. It pays homage to Fitzgerald’s career and to the way he lived his life.
19. Dee Dee Ramone (1951–2002)
“O.K… I gotta go now.”
Ramone was part of the iconic punk group, the Ramones. Their debut single, “Blitzkrieg Bop” was perhaps their most famous. It’s catchy “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” refrain is still frequently shouted out at sporting events.
This line is lifted from the song, which honors Ramone’s career. It’s also a cheeky message for a tombstone, which fits in perfectly with his punk-rock personality.
20. Jack Lemmon (1925-2001)
Lemmon’s epitaph is one of the shortest on record. But with just two letters, it honors his career and is a clever joke. Lemmon starred in over 60 films during his career and his epitaph call back to that.
His headstone simply reads “Jack Lemmon in” as an homage to how his name so frequently appeared in film credits. It’s simple and silly. As a bonus, an engraving this brief really saves on the cost of a headstone.
Tip: If you choose a cremation vs. burial, you can add customization to the urn itself with a service like Foreverence.
Epitaphs for Every Occasion
When our loved ones die, we have a few ways to honor them through the written word. We can write obituaries for the newspaper. We can craft eulogies for their funeral or memorial service, But an epitaph serves as the final sentence in summary of a life. In just a few words, we try and distill the essence of our loved one. The headstone sayings here can hopefully help inspire you to select the perfect epitaph for your loved one.
- “Famous Literary and Historical Epitaphs.” Web.cn.edu, Carson-Newman University, 24 April 2018, web.cn.edu/kwheeler/epitaphs.html.