I really dislike the expression “Passed away” and would like to know where it came from. I am not keen on “deceased” either. Died seems gentle enough.

This from a Low Episcopalian.....

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    The majority probably thinks otherwise. "Passed away" is viewed as a gentler euphemism and derives from the notion that it is comforting to think of the person as not having died and ceased to exist but to have "passed on" or away to a different place (heaven for example). – Jim Nov 9 '14 at 1:53
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    If your question is just about the origin of these two terms, then make that clear by removing all of the commentary about what you like and dislike. As it is now, your question is not asking for alternative terms or whether other people like this or that term - it asks only about etymology. – Drew Nov 9 '14 at 4:59
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/55146/… – user66974 Nov 9 '14 at 8:12

Pass was once more common than it is now for 'go, move'. OED 1, s.v. Pass, verb, cites pass alone, with no preposition, to mean 'die' (sense 11.) from about 1300.

Pass away, meaning depart, has been used in the sense 'die' (60.) since about 1375; Lay Folks Mass Book (MS. B) 112: “God lord graunt .. rest and pese Þat lastis ay to christen soules passed away.”


That is difficult to answer without context. When talking about death, we have to consider the requisite deference the situation might call for.

When speaking about death hypothetically or figuratively, I imagine you can use any metaphor your creativity allows for that implies an end or moving on. Euphemisms like "kick the bucket", "bite the dust", "cash in", "croak", and so on, are examples.

When speaking about someone specifically, there are only a few words that are going to be widely appropriate considering the differences among us in regards to sensitivity, religion, etc. Maybe you can say "succumbed" or "relinquish life", or reference a "culmination", "loss", "repose", or "departure".

In a detached context, you can use "fatality", "termination", or something to reference "mortality".

When in doubt however, maybe it's better to stick with "deceased", "died", or "passed away"...which might explain why those terms seem so overused.

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    Poster actually didn't ask for an alternative to 'passed away'; he asked where the expression came from. He states he does not have a problem with using the word 'died'. – DJ Far Nov 9 '14 at 2:10
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    Hi Lou, and welcome to ELU. While this reflects your valid feelings about the phrase, this doesn't actually address the OP's question. This is a question and answer site, not a site for discussion (comments can include some discussion). Since you're here, please have a look at the site tour and visit the help center for guidance on how to use this site. Again, welcome! – anongoodnurse Nov 9 '14 at 7:03

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