Definition of mortal in US English:



  • 1(of a living human being, often in contrast to a divine being) subject to death.

    ‘all men are mortal’
    • ‘We will don our super outfits and walk amongst the mortal humans in town.’
    • ‘By using this material the artist both celebrated the beauty of a mortal woman and transformed her into a transcendent being.’
    • ‘To be sure, every human language is, in fact, mortal, subject to modification and change and destined at some point to perish.’
    • ‘No mortal human could heal as quickly as this one had.’
    • ‘It didn't matter that they were both mortal, both human, destined to die.’
    • ‘Earthly things were mortal - subject to change and transition - while the stars and planets were eternal and incorruptible.’
    • ‘Both are still completely mortal human, all subject to the grave.’
    • ‘The Olympics are a product both of our dreams and of our indomitable drive for perfection, the best of what the mortal human body can achieve.’
    • ‘All men are mortal.’
    • ‘Not a goddess, or a nymph, or some divine entity, just a mortal woman.’
    • ‘I'm interested in your view of how the abstract or ungraspable relates to the limitations of our physical lives-to the fact that we are material, mortal beings.’
    • ‘I also think that what she has done, through her death, is make people realize how mortal we all are.’
    • ‘Or rather, whereas gods and goddesses might freely penetrate the human world, mortal men and women could not become gods.’
    • ‘‘Humans are mortal, and that includes scientists, engineers, and teachers,’ says Yu.’
    • ‘Planets are old and slow creatures, not much subjected to the ills of mortal life.’
    • ‘His hold on power is even more reliant on personal loyalties and their reinforcement by material rewards and mortal penalties.’
    • ‘Each of these public figures attests in disturbing ways to the relentless passage of time and the danger of living mortal lives.’
    • ‘Like all secular humanism it puts its faith not in angels but in mortal, imperfect human beings.’
    • ‘Of all the mortal races, human beings were the most easily swayed, because of their lust for power.’
    • ‘Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.’
    • ‘They live in fear of any living, breathing mortal man.’
    • ‘But human beings are mortal creatures and subject to the whims of nature.’
    • ‘As mortal human beings we are very complex, and we have an essence.’
    • ‘It was a firm shake that told you, hey, you are mortal.’
    perishable, physical, bodily, corporeal, fleshly, corporal, earthly
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    1. 1.1 Relating to humanity as subject to death.
      ‘the coffin held the mortal remains of her uncle’
      • ‘Though dead, he still gives the impression of a free spirit, as if he is beyond mortal perceptions of life and death.’
      • ‘The mortal remains of Louis XVII have been laid to rest.’
      • ‘There were poignant scenes as his mortal remains were brought to the Church of the Immaculate Conception.’
      • ‘The wealth of evidence is startling, including the links to King Arthur and his descendants as the guardians of the grail, the guardians of Mary's mortal remains.’
      • ‘To kill a culture is to cast its individual members into everlasting oblivion, their memories buried with their mortal remains.’
      • ‘Even as the mystic poet is dying, some of his followers and admirers have begun to quarrel over what to do with his mortal remains.’
      • ‘I have no doubt, when the time comes, she will have given her own precise instructions for the disposal of her mortal remains.’
      • ‘Remorseful, Mona figures that the least she can do is find her boyfriend's mortal remains, so that his soul can be put to rest.’
      • ‘The mortal remains of the founder of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers rest at Mount Sion and it remains the principal site for the veneration of his relics.’
      • ‘His mortal remains were kept at St. John's Medical College mortuary for people to pay their last respects.’
      • ‘The indifference shown to the mortal remains of their own people did not bring any gains to the dictator or his country.’
      • ‘My mother's mortal remains were consigned to the fire with the chanting of mantras and her last rites were performed according to family tradition.’
      • ‘His son arrived here and returned with the mortal remains and the will, 13 years after Gama's death.’
      • ‘Of course, the Poles are probably more entitled than any to mourn their most famous countryman's mortal remains.’
      • ‘The mortal remains of King Richard II of England may be interred in a Scots mediaeval church and not in Westminster Abbey, as has been presumed for the past 600 years.’
      • ‘This is supposed to have arisen from the Saint's displeasure of his mortal remains being removed from his preferred place of rest.’
      • ‘Plus how about this for after you've died: have your cremated ashes blasted into space, from where after a few years your mortal remains will return to Earth as a shooting star.’
      perishable, physical, bodily, corporeal, fleshly, corporal, earthly
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  • 2attributive Causing or liable to cause death; fatal.

    ‘a mortal disease’
    figurative ‘the scandal appeared to have struck a mortal blow to the government’
    • ‘The latter, apparently, would cause possibly mortal damage to the institution of marriage.’
    • ‘The rain had delivered a mortal blow, and its last wisps of steam were seen around eleven.’
    • ‘Without his support the project will suffer a mortal blow.’
    • ‘Though a bite from a rat can hurt, it's hardly a mortal danger.’
    • ‘If their unhappiness translates to a significant decline in ticket sales or an aggressive campaign against a new building, it could be a mortal blow to the franchise.’
    • ‘The battle itself was additionally notable because both opposing generals, Wolfe and Montcalm, received mortal wounds.’
    • ‘Blood was pouring out, and he knew that it was a mortal blow.’
    • ‘And what if she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that by revealing the threat, her own life would be in mortal danger?’
    • ‘Such a move would nevertheless probably deal a mortal blow to the agency, already deeply in debt.’
    • ‘Unexpectedly faced with detention in the post guardhouse, he made a desperate break for freedom and received a mortal bayonet wound.’
    • ‘Destroying the finance infrastructure of terrorism can strike a mortal blow at the network of terrorism but cannot prevent every individual terrorist act.’
    • ‘The transfer of sovereignty, the election, they didn't deal a mortal blow to the insurgency.’
    • ‘She no longer wanted to kill or to put her life in mortal danger.’
    • ‘It feels like a mortal blow to Jason, who was smitten the day he met her.’
    • ‘She ran at Dana, and without another thought, Dana's knife plunged into the woman's heart, striking a mortal blow.’
    • ‘Fallen tree trunks toss about the stream, presenting mortal dangers to swimmers and bathers.’
    • ‘It is ironic that the sun, long regarded as a source of health and vitality, is now depicted as a mortal danger to the unsuspecting British public.’
    • ‘But Abason had dealt him a mortal blow, for he didn't stand on his feet long and instead collapsed over onto the floor once again.’
    • ‘‘People are being sent into situations of mortal danger with no guarantee that their weapons will work,’ he said.’
    • ‘She was attended at the scene by Italian emergency services, who described her as ‘not in mortal danger’.’
    deadly, fatal, lethal, death-dealing, killing, murderous, destructive, terminal, incurable
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    1. 2.1 (of a battle) fought to the death.
      ‘from the outbuildings came the screams of men in mortal combat’
      • ‘Moreover, he often announced victory while his troops were still locked in mortal combat.’
      • ‘Some of the weapons they carry are replicas of those used in the days when Reformation and Counter-Reformation were locked in mortal combat, but that was then.’
      • ‘They build fences to stop the other from trespassing, violently attack each other's wives and children and, finally, destroy themselves in mortal combat.’
      • ‘The best scene is Hector and Achilles in mortal combat.’
      • ‘Gone are the days when I would have to defend myself in mortal combat.’
      • ‘Yet gladiators must frequently have met their intimate fellows in mortal combat.’
      • ‘Brawls between French and immigrant workers were common during this period, though not usually mortal.’
      • ‘And Kings that earn their crown rarely abdicate, they leave the building via mortal battle.’
      • ‘Marine Lance Corporal KC Moran was severely wounded in a mortal attack just six weeks ago.’
      • ‘You learn from history that although the young men from both sides threw themselves at each other in mortal combat, they could shake hands a generation later.’
      • ‘You had an awful lot of people who wore swords, but who never actually drew them in mortal battle.’
      • ‘As soon as he entered the two-story stucco and brick building, Kasal found himself in mortal combat.’
      • ‘He has been fighting mortal battles so long that it is hard to ascertain when the fatal blow was dealt.’
      • ‘James came running up the stairs and came into the horrific sight of his wife and child caught in mortal combat.’
      irreconcilable, deadly, to the death, sworn, bitter, out-and-out, implacable, relentless, unrelenting, unappeasable, remorseless, merciless
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    2. 2.2 (of an enemy or a state of hostility) admitting or allowing no reconciliation until death.
      • ‘In the old Scotch-Irish warrior tradition, Jackson regarded political opponents as mortal enemies to be crushed, if possible.’
      • ‘He had sworn for years that he was the mortal enemy of Bolshevism.’
      • ‘Today, the men who were once mortal enemies were finding it much easier to be friends.’
      • ‘Just three weeks in to the new term and I've already made myself a mortal enemy.’
      • ‘We are all expected to abide by the legal framework within which we all live, which does not countenance going out and destroying all those we suspect to be mortal enemies.’
      • ‘Reconciliation of mortal enemies is a dream of wimps and weenies!’
      • ‘But, in the area of management, we are only now beginning to recognise the mortal enemy.’
      • ‘Not even my mortal enemies deserve to suffer this much.’
      • ‘The only thing that made Brandon and, more specifically, his father want me was the fact that his father and mine had been near mortal enemies.’
      • ‘His one mortal enemy is change, and he has yet to figure out how to beat it.’
      • ‘That is not something I would wish on my most mortal enemy, let alone my friends.’
      • ‘Apparently he and William Laud were mortal enemies.’
      • ‘The hyenas and lions appear to be mortal enemies.’
      irreconcilable, deadly, to the death, sworn, bitter, out-and-out, implacable, relentless, unrelenting, unappeasable, remorseless, merciless
      unpardonable, unforgivable, irremissible
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    3. 2.3 (of a feeling, especially fear) very intense.
      ‘parents live in mortal fear of children's diseases’
      • ‘The pain and the clutch took away her breath leaving her in mortal agony.’
      • ‘She waited over three hours to board a boat despite her mortal fear of doing so.’
      • ‘Who doesn't remember the mortal fear that some sort of monster may be lurking under the bed, in the cupboard or in the shadows?’
      • ‘Last year my back went into spasm and for a couple of weeks I was in mortal agony.’
      • ‘Ever since Margaret has disguised a mortal terror of birds.’
      • ‘Rather, the region was often viewed as a preserve where savage wars were still fought, and where even Westerners could still experience mortal fear.’
      • ‘It was like a particularly manic amusement park ride, with the amusement somewhat tempered by mortal fear.’
      • ‘I had always lived in mortal terror of Abby, and now, here I was going to confront for the final time.’
      • ‘She is also in mortal fear of her husband and brothers who might be looking for her.’
      • ‘A few of those that don't agree sit in mortal fear, terrified one of these shrieking maniacs will tear their head off for having an opposing opinion.’
      • ‘The soloist nervously expresses mortal doubts and fears.’
      • ‘When I went up there, I asked about snakes as I have a mortal fear of them.’
      • ‘His eyes widened tremendously and his mouth opened in a scream of mortal terror at the sight of the creature within.’
      • ‘We talked about counseling again but that is something I cannot do, my mortal fear of being seen as weak and crying by people would stop me doing that.’
      • ‘I couldn't remember - but I still felt this sense of terror inside, the aftermath of a moment of extreme discomfort and mortal fear.’
      • ‘I don't know what motivated me since I lived in mortal fear of public speaking.’
      • ‘Now, my mother is a meek, sweet, tiny little Christian woman who has a mortal fear of driving in strange places.’
      • ‘My blood ran cold, and my mortal fright returned in full force.’
      • ‘His mortal fear of Jesse James led him to kill the famous outlaw, not just for the reward money, but as a preemptive strike to save his own life.’
      • ‘From one night to the next they lived in mortal anguish of what might happen to the man, the wife and the child that was waiting to be born.’
      extreme, very great, great, enormous, terrible, awful, dreadful, intense, severe, grave, dire, inordinate, unbearable, agonizing
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  • 3Christian Theology
    Denoting a grave sin that is regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace.

    Often contrasted with venial
    • ‘They believed priests were Christ's representatives on earth and that missing Mass was a mortal sin, and they made sure the rosary was said every night.’
    • ‘Even the most extreme threat of eternal damnation in hell which Christianity preaches does not deter their believers from committing mortal sins.’
    • ‘If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.’
    • ‘Catholics also reject the idea of second chances after death for those in mortal sin.’
    • ‘If a priest says, ‘do not commit this mortal sin, or else…,’ he's not making a threat, he's giving a warning.’
    unpardonable, unforgivable, irremissible
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  • 4informal Conceivable or imaginable.

    ‘punishment out of all mortal proportion to the offense’
    • ‘And if I laugh at any mortal thing.’
    • ‘The things I can do are beyond your mortal imagination.’
    • ‘And don't you imagine he ever buys anything; every mortal thing is home grown’
    conceivable, imaginable, perceivable, possible, earthly
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    1. 4.1 Very great.
      ‘he was in a mortal hurry’
      • ‘What is the mortal hurry in the hearing of the application seeking withdrawal of the case?’
      • ‘She was already seated and since class hadn't started yet she decided to socialize at a mortal speed.’
    2. 4.2dated Long and tedious.
      ‘for three mortal days it rained’
      • ‘Here I've been shut up in this confounded house for four mortal days!’
      • ‘For six mortal hours I sat in the office without once leaving my chair!’


  • 1A human being subject to death, often contrasted with a divine being.

    • ‘You've taken on too big a task for an ordinary mortal, or any collection of mortals.’
    • ‘James has to set himself apart from other mortals and purify himself from normal appetites in order to perfect his art.’
    • ‘There are a few times, however, when a transformation takes place in order to save a mortal from death.’
    • ‘Very rarely and very few blessed mortals are clasped by death in a peaceful embrace.’
    • ‘Now he was desperately in need of calm, which he got in being together with other such mortals who were also equally scared.’
    • ‘This harsh image, fearsome and ugly to mortals, is seen as beautiful to the gods.’
    • ‘The three novels deal with the basic and at the same time universal existential questions that mortals face on a daily basis.’
    • ‘Yet for most mortals, the sight of loved ones suffering or dying prematurely is not ennobling.’
    • ‘I cannot kill you, we deities are not permitted to kill mortals.’
    • ‘He killed all the mortals so there wouldn't be any witnesses.’
    • ‘Sooner or later you're bound to realize that you're just another human being, nothing special, just an ordinary mortal like everyone else.’
    • ‘The heroes in both films were ordinary mortals destined to fight the afflictions of life.’
    • ‘"I don't think you in the position to make threats foolish mortal!’
    • ‘"You didn't even try to kill that mortal, " he said calmly.’
    human being, human, person, man, woman, being, creature, individual
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    1. 1.1humorous A person contrasted with others regarded as being of higher status or ability.
      ‘an ambassador had to live in a style that was not expected of lesser mortals’
      • ‘We are mere mortals, who are we to say there are not creatures living in the deep silts below.’
      • ‘I always felt that science as the preserve of people from Oxbridge or Ivy League universities - and not for the common mortal - was a very bad idea.’
      • ‘Rarely does the maestro make a statement that is comprehensible to the ordinary mortal.’
      • ‘To understand the contents would probably take half a dozen accountants six months of reading, so what chance have we mere mortals got?’
      • ‘It might look great on supermodels, but, frankly, it's an insult to lesser mortals.’
      • ‘That 88 billion is such an enormous figure that it is impossible for mere mortals to grasp it.’
      • ‘You can just about detect what he might have been driving at here, but lesser mortals may not quite get the subtle nuances.’
      • ‘She will not talk to ordinary mortals, her feet won't touch the ground and she won't venture out of her palace more than a handful of times a year.’
      • ‘Polo has long been a favourite among the royals and their coterie, but it is increasingly accessible to mere mortals, too.’
      • ‘If it's good enough for them it should be good enough for us mere mortals.’
      • ‘It is much easier to hurl accusations from above and demand that lesser mortals do the actual work.’
      • ‘The 27-year-old collects world and Olympic titles like we mere mortals collect stamps.’
      • ‘Further, the tone of the column may have portrayed the writer as some high priest sitting in judgment of lesser mortals.’
      • ‘It is too much for us lesser mortals to understand fully what we are supporting and why.’
      • ‘Given that even the experts cannot agree on the economic arguments, what hope have we ordinary mortals?’
      • ‘That's about as close as it gets to celebrities mucking in with ordinary mortals.’
      • ‘After 50, most ordinary mortals aren't up to a major career change.’
      • ‘She has understood that ordinary mortals like us need the inspiration of heroes.’
      • ‘If maths professors cannot work out how mortgage rates are calculated what chance do we lesser mortals stand?’
      • ‘He showed no signs of jet lag, again something lesser mortals complain of.’


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin mortalis, from mors, mort- ‘death’.