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’
    • ‘I also think that what she has done, through her death, is make people realize how mortal we all are.’
    • ‘Not a goddess, or a nymph, or some divine entity, just a mortal woman.’
    • ‘It didn't matter that they were both mortal, both human, destined to die.’
    • ‘By using this material the artist both celebrated the beauty of a mortal woman and transformed her into a transcendent being.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But human beings are mortal creatures and subject to the whims of nature.’
    • ‘His hold on power is even more reliant on personal loyalties and their reinforcement by material rewards and mortal penalties.’
    • ‘Or rather, whereas gods and goddesses might freely penetrate the human world, mortal men and women could not become gods.’
    • ‘All men are mortal.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Each of these public figures attests in disturbing ways to the relentless passage of time and the danger of living mortal lives.’
    • ‘Both are still completely mortal human, all subject to the grave.’
    • ‘Of all the mortal races, human beings were the most easily swayed, because of their lust for power.’
    • ‘We will don our super outfits and walk amongst the mortal humans in town.’
    • ‘It was a firm shake that told you, hey, you are mortal.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘Humans are mortal, and that includes scientists, engineers, and teachers,’ says Yu.’
    • ‘No mortal human could heal as quickly as this one had.’
    • ‘Planets are old and slow creatures, not much subjected to the ills of mortal life.’
    • ‘Earthly things were mortal - subject to change and transition - while the stars and planets were eternal and incorruptible.’
    • ‘To be sure, every human language is, in fact, mortal, subject to modification and change and destined at some point to perish.’
    • ‘Like all secular humanism it puts its faith not in angels but in mortal, imperfect human beings.’
    • ‘They live in fear of any living, breathing mortal man.’
    • ‘As mortal human beings we are very complex, and we have an essence.’
    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’
      • ‘I have no doubt, when the time comes, she will have given her own precise instructions for the disposal of her mortal remains.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘Of course, the Poles are probably more entitled than any to mourn their most famous countryman's mortal remains.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The mortal remains of Louis XVII have been laid to rest.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The indifference shown to the mortal remains of their own people did not bring any gains to the dictator or his country.’
      • ‘Though dead, he still gives the impression of a free spirit, as if he is beyond mortal perceptions of life and death.’
      • ‘To kill a culture is to cast its individual members into everlasting oblivion, their memories buried with their mortal remains.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His son arrived here and returned with the mortal remains and the will, 13 years after Gama's death.’
      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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She was attended at the scene by Italian emergency services, who described her as ‘not in mortal danger’.’
    • ‘The rain had delivered a mortal blow, and its last wisps of steam were seen around eleven.’
    • ‘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 latter, apparently, would cause possibly mortal damage to the institution of marriage.’
    • ‘She no longer wanted to kill or to put her life in mortal danger.’
    • ‘Such a move would nevertheless probably deal a mortal blow to the agency, already deeply in debt.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Though a bite from a rat can hurt, it's hardly a mortal danger.’
    • ‘The transfer of sovereignty, the election, they didn't deal a mortal blow to the insurgency.’
    • ‘Unexpectedly faced with detention in the post guardhouse, he made a desperate break for freedom and received a mortal bayonet wound.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Destroying the finance infrastructure of terrorism can strike a mortal blow at the network of terrorism but cannot prevent every individual terrorist act.’
    • ‘And what if she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that by revealing the threat, her own life would be in mortal danger?’
    • ‘It feels like a mortal blow to Jason, who was smitten the day he met her.’
    • ‘‘People are being sent into situations of mortal danger with no guarantee that their weapons will work,’ he said.’
    • ‘Fallen tree trunks toss about the stream, presenting mortal dangers to swimmers and bathers.’
    • ‘She ran at Dana, and without another thought, Dana's knife plunged into the woman's heart, striking a mortal blow.’
    • ‘Without his support the project will suffer a mortal blow.’
    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’
      • ‘Yet gladiators must frequently have met their intimate fellows in mortal combat.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Brawls between French and immigrant workers were common during this period, though not usually mortal.’
      • ‘Moreover, he often announced victory while his troops were still locked in mortal combat.’
      • ‘Gone are the days when I would have to defend myself in mortal combat.’
      • ‘You had an awful lot of people who wore swords, but who never actually drew them in mortal battle.’
      • ‘The best scene is Hector and Achilles in mortal combat.’
      • ‘And Kings that earn their crown rarely abdicate, they leave the building via mortal battle.’
      • ‘As soon as he entered the two-story stucco and brick building, Kasal found himself in mortal combat.’
      • ‘They build fences to stop the other from trespassing, violently attack each other's wives and children and, finally, destroy themselves in mortal combat.’
      • ‘James came running up the stairs and came into the horrific sight of his wife and child caught in mortal combat.’
      • ‘Marine Lance Corporal KC Moran was severely wounded in a mortal attack just six weeks ago.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He has been fighting mortal battles so long that it is hard to ascertain when the fatal blow was dealt.’
      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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Today, the men who were once mortal enemies were finding it much easier to be friends.’
      • ‘Apparently he and William Laud were mortal enemies.’
      • ‘The hyenas and lions appear to be mortal enemies.’
      • ‘That is not something I would wish on my most mortal enemy, let alone my friends.’
      • ‘His one mortal enemy is change, and he has yet to figure out how to beat it.’
      • ‘Reconciliation of mortal enemies is a dream of wimps and weenies!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But, in the area of management, we are only now beginning to recognise the mortal enemy.’
      • ‘Just three weeks in to the new term and I've already made myself a mortal enemy.’
      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’
      • ‘Ever since Margaret has disguised a mortal terror of birds.’
      • ‘The soloist nervously expresses mortal doubts and fears.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When I went up there, I asked about snakes as I have a mortal fear of them.’
      • ‘The pain and the clutch took away her breath leaving her in mortal agony.’
      • ‘She is also in mortal fear of her husband and brothers who might be looking for her.’
      • ‘It was like a particularly manic amusement park ride, with the amusement somewhat tempered by mortal fear.’
      • ‘I couldn't remember - but I still felt this sense of terror inside, the aftermath of a moment of extreme discomfort and mortal fear.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Now, my mother is a meek, sweet, tiny little Christian woman who has a mortal fear of driving in strange places.’
      • ‘Last year my back went into spasm and for a couple of weeks I was in mortal agony.’
      • ‘Rather, the region was often viewed as a preserve where savage wars were still fought, and where even Westerners could still experience mortal fear.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘My blood ran cold, and my mortal fright returned in full force.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘I had always lived in mortal terror of Abby, and now, here I was going to confront for the final time.’
      • ‘His eyes widened tremendously and his mouth opened in a scream of mortal terror at the sight of the creature within.’
      • ‘I don't know what motivated me since I lived in mortal fear of public speaking.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She waited over three hours to board a boat despite her mortal fear of doing so.’
      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
    • ‘If a priest says, ‘do not commit this mortal sin, or else…,’ he's not making a threat, he's giving a warning.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Catholics also reject the idea of second chances after death for those in mortal sin.’
    • ‘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.’
    unpardonable, unforgivable, irremissible
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  • 4informal Conceivable or imaginable.

    ‘punishment out of all mortal proportion to the offense’
    • ‘The things I can do are beyond your mortal imagination.’
    • ‘And if I laugh at any mortal thing.’
    • ‘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.

    • ‘Yet for most mortals, the sight of loved ones suffering or dying prematurely is not ennobling.’
    • ‘There are a few times, however, when a transformation takes place in order to save a mortal from death.’
    • ‘I cannot kill you, we deities are not permitted to kill mortals.’
    • ‘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!’
    • ‘The three novels deal with the basic and at the same time universal existential questions that mortals face on a daily basis.’
    • ‘Sooner or later you're bound to realize that you're just another human being, nothing special, just an ordinary mortal like everyone else.’
    • ‘"You didn't even try to kill that mortal, " he said calmly.’
    • ‘This harsh image, fearsome and ugly to mortals, is seen as beautiful to the gods.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Now he was desperately in need of calm, which he got in being together with other such mortals who were also equally scared.’
    • ‘He killed all the mortals so there wouldn't be any witnesses.’
    • ‘Very rarely and very few blessed mortals are clasped by death in a peaceful embrace.’
    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’
      • ‘That's about as close as it gets to celebrities mucking in with ordinary mortals.’
      • ‘She has understood that ordinary mortals like us need the inspiration of heroes.’
      • ‘The 27-year-old collects world and Olympic titles like we mere mortals collect stamps.’
      • ‘Rarely does the maestro make a statement that is comprehensible to the ordinary mortal.’
      • ‘He showed no signs of jet lag, again something lesser mortals complain of.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To understand the contents would probably take half a dozen accountants six months of reading, so what chance have we mere mortals got?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It might look great on supermodels, but, frankly, it's an insult to lesser mortals.’
      • ‘We are mere mortals, who are we to say there are not creatures living in the deep silts below.’
      • ‘That 88 billion is such an enormous figure that it is impossible for mere mortals to grasp it.’
      • ‘It is too much for us lesser mortals to understand fully what we are supporting and why.’
      • ‘If maths professors cannot work out how mortgage rates are calculated what chance do we lesser mortals stand?’
      • ‘After 50, most ordinary mortals aren't up to a major career change.’
      • ‘Polo has long been a favourite among the royals and their coterie, but it is increasingly accessible to mere mortals, too.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Given that even the experts cannot agree on the economic arguments, what hope have we ordinary mortals?’
      • ‘You can just about detect what he might have been driving at here, but lesser mortals may not quite get the subtle nuances.’
      • ‘Further, the tone of the column may have portrayed the writer as some high priest sitting in judgment of lesser mortals.’


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