I realize that the definition of "still" (used as an adjective) goes like this:

someone or something that is quiet, calm or not moving.


  • the still water of the lake
  • still wines (vs. sparkling wines)
  • The crowd cheered and then grew still.
  • be still, my beating heart!

My question is, do native speakers ever pick up an extra shade of meaning: something still "being motionless to the extent of being dead"?

I ask this because the following words exist in the language:

  • still life (a painting, drawing of fruit, etc)
  • a stillborn child (one who was born dead).

Thanks for answering!

  • All those examples mean not moving. However, in stillborn and still life, the extra meaning is dead. Compare still life to the French: une nature morte (dead nature) and for a child that is born dead: un enfant mort né (a child born dead). . – Lambie Feb 3 '16 at 19:26
  • It's funny you should use these examples: in French Still life=nature morte (Dead nature) and stillborn=mort-né (born dead) – P. O. Feb 3 '16 at 19:27
  • Many 'st..' words mean to stand firm: stile, stick, stake, stay, stone ... or to transition to/from stillness: start, stray, stop, staunch ... or to use a straight, firm or tense object: stab, stripe, strap, string ... – AmI Feb 3 '16 at 21:17

Probably the following saying suggests what you are referring to, but generally I'd say that "still" just suggest being immobile:

Still as death:

  • (Cliché) immobile; completely still. (The reference to death gives this expression ominous connotations. *Also: as ~.)

    • George sat as still as death all afternoon. When the storm was over, everything was suddenly still as death.

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

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Yes, certainly. The roots are archaic, going back to the distinction of animate vs. inanimate or the quick vs. the dead.

"Still" denotes motionless, but has, at the very least, poetic ties to death. I would not go so far as to say it has connotations of death without some sort of context indication like a reference to breath or body, or the addition of some magnifying modifiers.

"She was completely still." certainly brings death to my native-speaking mind, even though it's uncertain. "His chest stilled." or "The engine stilled." are likely evocative of death, too.

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