Definition of postmortem in English:



  • 1An examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death.

    • ‘He insisted that following his death his post-mortem should be performed in front of his own medical staff and published in the local weekly journal.’
    • ‘The doctor who performed the post-mortems on the bodies of the family is due to testify on Tuesday.’
    • ‘A post-mortem is due to be held today, but last night the cause of death remained unclear.’
    • ‘The post-mortems showed that their deaths were all due to arsenic poisoning.’
    • ‘If they get proper consent, then nothing prevents pathologists from carrying out post-mortems.’
    • ‘The officer being interviewed by reporters said that they wouldn't know the exact time of death until a post-mortem was performed, but their best guess was some time in the last few hours.’
    • ‘The post-mortem revealed that death was due to powerful electric shock, not because of burns.’
    • ‘Some hospital deaths, however, must be reported to the Procurator Fiscal whether there is clinical interest in the post-mortem examination or not.’
    • ‘Days after the discovery a post-mortem was performed, toxicology and DNA tests ordered.’
    • ‘A post-mortem on her body has ‘proved inconclusive’, said a spokeswoman.’
    • ‘We can't speculate as to the cause of death and a post-mortem is yet to be scheduled.’
    • ‘People can object, but if the coroner considers that any delay may limit the ability to determine the cause of death, then the post-mortem will go ahead.’
    • ‘His body was brought to Sligo General Hospital where a post-mortem was carried out yesterday, Monday.’
    • ‘A post-mortem on her body revealed that she was four months pregnant at the time of her death.’
    • ‘A post-mortem revealed that he died as a result of complications from head injuries.’
    • ‘A post-mortem revealed that the dead man had been hit on the side of the head with a blunt instrument before being strangled and dismembered.’
    • ‘But there was heartbreak for other families where organs were taken from dead children following coroners' post-mortems.’
    • ‘A post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death was due to be carried out today by a Home Office pathologist.’
    • ‘There were no signs of injury on the his body and a post-mortem examination failed to establish a cause of death.’
    autopsy, post-mortem examination, pm, dissection, necropsy
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 An analysis or discussion of an event held soon after it has occurred, especially in order to determine why it was a failure.
      ‘an election postmortem on why the party lost’
      • ‘Els, though, exhibited the fortitude to hold his own when others were holding post-mortems.’
      • ‘If vote-splitting is not an issue for discussion in the election post-mortem, then proportional representation should be.’
      • ‘The players huddled together here after a match for a post-mortem of the game, analysing and discussing, striving to iron out the flaws.’
      • ‘He's quite right, and indeed my post-mortem analysis gave White a small edge.’
      • ‘When I agreed to do a post-mortem on the Saskatchewan provincial election, I initially thought I would just do a ‘report.’’
      • ‘If they don't we'll be holding this same post-mortem in 2006.’
      • ‘As I remarked in my post at the time, if anything is to be learnt in the post-mortems, it is that there is plenty of failure all round for all sides to digest.’
      • ‘The festival is planned for this year only; a post-mortem will decide if an annual event is feasible.’
      • ‘The party is continuing its election post-mortem, and one area under scrutiny is its media policy.’
      • ‘Then why this grand spectacle, starting from titillating anticipation to frenzied post-mortems after the budget is unveiled?’
      • ‘And with everyone back safely from the first run of the event, the post-mortems continue.’
      • ‘His performance quickly became the subject of ridicule in media post-mortems of the event.’
      • ‘Since 9 October we have had the usual stream of election post-mortems.’
      • ‘The party will hold its post-mortem on the election and the loss of support in its traditional heartlands.’
      analysis, evaluation, assessment, appraisal, examination, review, investigation, breakdown, critique, study
      View synonyms


  • 1[attributive] Relating to a postmortem.

    ‘a postmortem report’
    • ‘It was not about the clinical post-mortem measurement of her cerebral functionality.’
    • ‘A post-mortem report records that she died from pulmonary barotrauma, which causes air bubbles to circulate in the arterial system.’
    • ‘There are no tests to confirm it in living cows or humans; the only reliable way is to conduct a post-mortem exam.’
    • ‘We suspect septicemia because of the maggot bites and the conditions in which he was found but we can only tell once the post-mortem results are in.’
    • ‘An example would be Alzheimer's disease, for which there is no good test but highly reliable post-mortem findings.’
    • ‘A postmortem examination revealed she had taken a cocktail of paracetamol and sleeping tablets.’
    • ‘Depending on the strain of virus and how it reacts, post-mortem findings are very variable.’
    • ‘When the police brandished a post-mortem report which exonerated the cops from point-blank range killing, didn't we react by saying that the autopsy must have been fixed?’
    • ‘The minister said the first report would deal with post-mortem issues in paediatric hospitals.’
    • ‘This difference is probably attributable to the fact that the abdomen can undergo post-mortem telescoping.’
    • ‘Irish hospitals have only apologised for the trauma caused by media disclosures about post-mortem practices.’
    • ‘Routine post-mortem testing did not rule out BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called mad cow.’
    • ‘The post-mortem test revealed that one of her sons was suffering from an infection.’
    • ‘The results of forensic post-mortem tests showed the babies died from septicaemia caused by enterobacter bacteria.’
    • ‘The post-mortem toxicological report confirmed the 45-year-old's cause of death was a drug overdose of morphine and fluoxetine prescribed for her anxiety.’
    • ‘In October he issued a report to the police estimating a post-mortem interval of 24 hours.’
    • ‘They said clinical and post-mortem studies were needed to look at the causes of this kind of bleeding in the eye and how it could be linked to abusive head injury.’
    • ‘A post-mortem report revealed she had drowned.’
    • ‘It is recorded in my post-mortem notes that he had been shot twice.’
    • ‘A post-mortem study of the animals showed a robust growth of neurons and an increase in neurotransmitters in the spinal cords of rats that received the transplanted neuronal cells.’
    1. 1.1 Happening after death.
      ‘postmortem changes in his body’
      [as adverb] ‘assessment of morphology in nerves taken postmortem’
      • ‘A third controversy concerns attempts to show that even if the dead cannot be harmed, the harm thesis is correct, since death, and some post-mortem events, harm the living.’
      • ‘The in situ position of many of these jaws is of considerable interest and suggests that post-mortem disturbance of the ammonite was not great.’
      • ‘Few sporadic reports describe post-mortem changes in human brain of heat stress victims.’
      • ‘A post-mortem declaration of genius, by its very nature, falls on the deafened ears of the one who wishes to hear it the most.’
      • ‘Second, the tissues that have been through programmed senescence and death, instead of disappearing through post-mortem decay, persist as mummified corpses - namely as wood.’
      • ‘Many of the specimens show contraction and coiling that is probably a post-mortem feature caused by dehydration in the brine and subsequent contraction of ligaments.’
      • ‘The blobs correspond to vacuities in the dentine and are probably due to calcite or some other post-mortem infilling.’
      • ‘Researchers verified blood vessels and other markings to make sure they were relevant brain components and not simply artifacts left by a post-mortem impact.’
      • ‘Many of the interior molds exhibit evidence of post-mortem distortion prior to preservation and solution of the carapace.’
      • ‘Thurlbeck and Muller quantified the extent of emphysema by imaging the post-mortem lung.’
      • ‘Besides, it is necessary to assess post-mortem colonization of the shells or movement of the hosts once the animal died.’
      • ‘However, this morphological pattern might result from post-mortem muscle contraction.’
      • ‘And when we were diagnosing them clinically one quarter of all children were actually dead and diagnosed post-mortem one way or another.’
      • ‘On the other hand it is often difficult to tell whether the chemical and structural changes observed during the various types of cell death are pre- or post-mortem events.’
      • ‘This could result from the compaction of curved or partially enrolled individuals, or possibly peri-mortem or post-mortem muscle contraction.’


Mid 18th century: from Latin, literally after death.