English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What are someone's last words, spoken on their deathbed, called? What about those that are perhaps left written or scribed on paper?

share|improve this question
1  
"Someone's last words spoken on deathbed are called? May be left written or scribed on paper." "spoken" and "left written or scribed on paper" are different things. – T.J. Crowder Jan 8 at 13:23
2  
@T.J.Crowder Technically, a scribed message implies a scribe, so the message could be spoken by one and scribed by another. – Lawrence Jan 8 at 15:00
    
@Lawrence: Hah! Good one! :-) But remember that words have modern usages too. But you're quite right, in the question, that could indeed be how spoken and scribe coexist. – T.J. Crowder Jan 8 at 15:24
1  
I think you may be thinking of the word epitaph? Which is a final statement about someone, often left on a grave stone so isn't someone's final words... But maybe it's not the word you're thinking of. – RemarkLima Jan 8 at 19:24
    
@T.J.Crowder I suspect that the intent of the phrase "spoken on their deathbed" is just to emphasize that what OP is looking for is the last words of someone's life. – Kyle Strand Jan 8 at 23:09
up vote 34 down vote accepted

Last words is a fairly common term. There are numerous instances in movies where the antagonist asks the protagonist

"Any last words before I kill you?"

(.. Usually, the hero will make a pun and eventually manage to escape!)

You can also call it a person's

  • final words
  • dying words
  • ultimate words

(Note: The following is only applicable if the person commits suicide).

If it is in written form, it could probably be their death note or suicide note.

I am not sure if there exists an established term for the final written words of a person that died a natural death.

share|improve this answer
    
And plenty of lists of "famous last words". – Martin Smith Jan 8 at 11:53
    
This is clearly the answer: last words. – Drew Jan 8 at 21:56

You could call it their swansong (or swan song) if their final words were part of a notable performance or activity.

share|improve this answer

There is also the legal term dying declaration that could be appropriate in certain situations:

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a dying declaration is defined as a statement made by a declarant, who is now unavailable, who made the statement under a belief of certain or impending death, and the statement concerns the causes or circumstances of impending death. A dying declaration is admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule in any criminal homicide case or a civil case. -- Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School

share|improve this answer

I agree last words or final words are the most common and canonical answers, but since this is for all the English language ...

As a purely literary answer, the word envoi refers to an ending to a story or poem in which the author offers a summary or commentary on the work as a whole rather than simply "an ending." And with a little creative liberties this could be extended to someone's final statements where appropriate.

share|improve this answer

You could use valediction, which has the general meaning of words of farewell and is sometimes used in the context of last words before death (see examples below). Definitions include:

  1. The action of saying farewell
  2. A statement or address made at or as a farewell

It's more common to see it used in other contexts besides death. For example, a "valedictory speech," as when a high school valedictorian gives a speech during the school's graduation ceremony. Nevertheless, it is also sometimes used in the context of a person's "last words" before death. For example, in the movie L.A. Confidential, one of the characters shoots another man then says to him as he is dying:

Have you a valediction, boyo?

meaning "have you any last words?" The novel L.A. Confidential, on which the movie is based, also uses "valediction" in this sense, though in a different scene.

Here's a use of "valediction" in a newspaper article, published in 2015, about people's last words before dying:

Mortal valediction comes in more than one form. There are final declarations we can trust because the source is reliable, those heard publicly before the person dies, statements that sound or are now known to be imaginary and purely fictional examples from films and novels.

And one more example, from an article about the composer Bohuslav Martinu, published in 2009 (although it refers to a musical composition, rather than actual words):

Last and sweetest, the nonet that he wrote on his deathbed is the least regretful valediction in western music, fifteen minutes of smiling and fond farewell.

share|improve this answer
1  
As soon as I saw the question I thought of that line from LA Confidential :) – Robert Grant Jan 9 at 18:35
    
@RobertGrant Yes. A very memorable scene. A lesser writer might have gone with "Any last words, pal?" – eipi10 Jan 11 at 6:09

If it's a singular noun you're looking for, I propose peroration:

noun

  1. a long speech characterized by lofty and often pompous language.
  2. Rhetoric. the concluding part of a speech or discourse, in which the speaker or writer recapitulates the principal points and urges them with greater earnestness and force.

http://dictionary.reference.com/_browse/peroration

share|improve this answer
1  
There's nothing in the definition (or in any usage I've ever heard) to indicate that these are the last words of someone's entire life. Now "expiration peroration," though.... :D – Kyle Strand Jan 8 at 23:03

protected by tchrist Apr 24 at 7:13

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.