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Is there a special word for a death anniversary? For example a birth anniversary would be a "birthday", but what would a death anniversary be?

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    Its a 'death anniversary'. Wikipedia. – Nigel J Mar 15 '18 at 1:41
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    Also Catholic, but for anyone - the month's mind is the month-iversary of their death. The anniversary of their death is what's used for the year; the phrase is in the Mass. – tmgr Oct 17 '18 at 12:50
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    @tmgr Some of us use "year's mind". – Andrew Leach Oct 17 '18 at 13:09
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    @AndrewLeach The combination did occur to me while writing the comment, but, in truth, I don't think I've actually heard it myself. Glad to know it exists! – tmgr Oct 17 '18 at 13:14
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    Like @tmgr, I am very familiar with a month’s mind and an ‘anniversary mass’ but not a year’s mind. BTW not sure if month’s mind is a international Catholic thing or a Irish Catholic thing. – k1eran Oct 17 '18 at 21:01
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The word for a death anniversary is... anniversary.

anniversary noun an·ni·ver·sa·ry | \ˌa-nə-ˈvərs-rē,-ˈvər-sə-\

the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event

In the instance of a death, you would modify it with a prepositional expression. An example would be:

There are plans to release a film about his life next year, which would mark the tenth anniversary of his death.

We usually associate anniversary with marriages or work tenure, but the term is etymologically agnostic to those distinctions. Much like there isn't a special word for "sports car" (outside of the actual names of cars, like Ferrari, or Lamborghini); it's just a car that's intended for the sport of driving.

English has not accommodated in wide use any of the other answers suggested so far (deathday*, deathiversary, heavenly birthday, yahrzeit). [*deathday, is a lazy portmanteau. Its history only attests to its obsolescence, and it is in the bottom 20% of looked-up words, and an uncommon expression. ]

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    Exactly. None of the proposed terms are commonly used, regardless of Christian denomination or branch of Judaism. – Lambie Oct 17 '18 at 12:54
  • "'deathday is a lazy portmanteau"? Like "birthday"? Hardly legitimate criticism. I agree anniversary is the most commonly-used word and the right answer and upvoted for those reasons but deathday has certainly had plenty of use, as a Google Books search shows. Perhaps there was more use for a shorter term in times of higher church attendance. Bit harsh, all round. – tmgr Oct 17 '18 at 13:12
  • Merriam-Webster's rating for looked-up words is only a measure of how many people have looked it up, and says little about its actual frequency of appearance in the wild. Just because a number of people can't remember what the meaning of a word is doesn't mean it is uncommon. – Mitch Oct 17 '18 at 13:54
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    That said, 'anniversary (of death)' is the most natural way of saying the concept the OP is describing. – Mitch Oct 17 '18 at 13:54
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    I think it doesn't actually answer the question. You have to add extra information to the word "anniversary" in order to be clear, so it's not one word that clearly means what the OP asked for. A Also, the fact that deathday is uncommon doesn't say anything about the word's suitability in describing something. Amortise isn't that common, we usually say "pay off (mortgage)". Also about the lazy portmanteau point, if it's lazy I think words like "stopgap" and "unfriend" are rather lazy too, though very well accepted. Sorry for all the criticism, just giving my opinion. – Zebrafish Oct 18 '18 at 0:35
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One word for this is deathday (a word which dates back to Old English, in fact):

the day or the anniversary of the day of a person's death.
Dictionary.com Unabridged. Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

One well-known example is the deathday party that Nearly Headless Nick has (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8: "The Deathday Party").

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    +1 because "deathday" is the logical antonym of "birth+day", it has its own dictionary entry, and it's easy enough to remember. – Mari-Lou A Oct 17 '18 at 5:00
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    I have never seen this one anywhere ever. But I that it is in the dictionary. Funny thing, usage is one thing; dictionary entries another... – Lambie Oct 17 '18 at 13:05
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    I have never heard anyone use this ever, and it sounds horrible. Where I come from we say 'anniversary'. – k1eran Oct 17 '18 at 13:07
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In informal contexts, the word that's generally used is deathiversary (also sometimes spelled death-iversary):

the anniversary of someone's death

I am eating neapolitan ice cream all day today in honor of my dad's 2 year deathiversary.
Urban Dictionary (definition by Miss Jaimie)

Although the entry on UD doesn't have a lot of upvotes, the word is easy to understand. It's also fairly widespread. Here are some examples:

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    I see the top definition on Urban Dictionary was posted in 2007 but has only received confirmation by 6 visitors, whilst the second definition has 12 thumbs up but also four thumbs down, which suggests that the term, deathiversary, is extremely rare. I would still not recommend it to non-native speakers. – Mari-Lou A Oct 16 '18 at 21:59
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    This sounds ... horrible. – Mitch Oct 16 '18 at 22:44
  • This is not a word in wide use – Carly Oct 17 '18 at 1:05
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    The Urban Dictionary suffers horribly from urban mythology. But even so, it is pretty horrible but very useful to see these usages. The idea that any single answer to this question would cover the entirety of what one could say about it is just silly. So, thank you Laurel. I now know what to eschew. :) – Lambie Oct 17 '18 at 13:01
  • It may grate like nails down a phonic blackboard (and in its singular lack of solemnity) but people say it - and even write and publish it - as this answer shows. I'm convinced. What else does it take to make a word? – tmgr Oct 17 '18 at 14:06
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The only word I know that matches this is very specific:

yahrzeit

(pronunced 'yar tsayt' = /'jar tsait/) is an anniversary of someone's death, usually a close relative. But it is specifically used only in the context of a Ashkenazi Jewish memorial. The word is from Yiddish (close to German) for 'year time'.

There is no similarly on-point word in English for an anniversary of a death outside of the Jewish tradition.

  • Is this an English word? Is it commonly heard among AmEng speakers who are not of the Jewish faith? – Mari-Lou A Oct 17 '18 at 4:58
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    @Mari-LouA Yes, it is an English word, borrowed from Yiddish. It is a word used by English speaking people when speaking English. The particular people doing that are usually Ashkenazi Jews. It is on par with 'eucharist' for non-Catholics; it's 'inside-baseball' but those outside but nearby might have heard it in passing. Google for 'yahrzeit' and you'll see lots of hits in English sites describing Jewish practices. – Mitch Oct 17 '18 at 12:41
  • I have never heard this word myself. Maybe all my friends have been Sephardic or Ladino speakers. [joke] – Lambie Oct 17 '18 at 12:57
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One term which is used, particularly in some forms of Christianity, is heavenly birthday — the day the person appeared in heaven — to contrast the day with the earthly birthday when they appeared on earth.

If it was a birthday celebration, it was Christ's heavenly birthday, not his earthly one, which was being celebrated ...

Revelation: from Metaphor to Analogy, Richard Swinburne, 1992

For example, young children may commemorate a sibling's ''heavenly birthday'' by lighting candles and sharing memories of the deceased.

Children and Loss: a practical handbook, Pomeroy/Garcia, 2012

The Assumption is important to many Catholic and Orthodox Christians as the Virgin Mary's heavenly birthday (the day that Mary was received into Heaven).

Wikipedia

This wouldn't necessarily be appropriate for in all religions, and not all branches of Christianity either. And humanists would disagree about an afterlife at all.

  • See my comment under Laurel's answer. This is one more piece that can be used to answer this question. – Lambie Oct 17 '18 at 13:04
  • A theological quibble: in Catholicism it's at least an open doctrinal question whether Mary died when received into heaven. I, for one, was taught in school that she did not. Only pointing this out as the exceptional circumstances of Mary's death or non-death has a direct bearing on the relevance of the last example sentence! – tmgr Oct 17 '18 at 13:30

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