There has been discussion here as to the proper way to indicate a birth-death range for a person still alive.

I would like to know what the the grammatical name of these dates.

For example, in the following sentence:

Albert Einstein (1879–1955) invented the theory of relativity.

What is the technical name for the string "(1879–1955)" ?

  • 1
    Birth and death dates are “personal data.”
    – user 66974
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 16:20
  • I edited your question so it uses the more appropriate single en dash (–), as pointed out in the accepted answer of the question you linked to, rather than two hyphens (--). Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 17:07
  • 3
    I'm a LaTeX person. two hyphens are an en dash!
    – vy32
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 17:20
  • @vy32 Feel free to roll back the edit to suit your own style. (Although I would find it ironic to link to a question about this and then not use the styling that's recommended there.) Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 17:24
  • Generically, it's a number range and, more specifically, a date range. It's also (since you include the parentheses when talking about the string) parenthetical information. Grammatically, it might be a noun phrase, or, semantically, it could be an elided adjective phrase. Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


In the art world, the artwork caption labels known as tombstones have what are formally known as "life dates." You can also find the term "life dates" applied descriptively in genealogy, biographical, encyclopedic, and other archival contexts.

Here's an excerpt from the Association of Art Editors style guide:

Life dates: Give in full. Examples:

       Arminius (c. 17 B.C.–A.D. 21)
       385–331 B.C. (All digits are given for all B.C. dates.)

Abbreviations may be used in text for life dates given in parentheses. Examples:

       born = b. (b. 1930) Note: this is preferable to the form (1930–)
       died = d. (d. 1538)
       about = c. or ca. (ca. 1489–d. 1538)
       flourished = fl. (fl. 1503–30) (fl. 1530s) (fl. 16th century)
       date known but unverified = ? (1489?–d. 1538)
       active = act. (or spell out) (act. 16th century or active 1711–16)

Rutgers Art Review's editorial style guide calls them, quite literally, "parenthetical life dates":

As an aid to the reader, please provide parenthetical life dates for historical figures, as well as publication dates for works discussed in the main text.


I don't know if there is a standardized technical term for it, but if I had to talk about the concept or if I had to propose easily understood terms, I'd go with lifetime or life span. After all, the terms work fine in general usage.

Halley's comet was visible to the naked eye just once during Albert Einstein's lifetime, 1879–1955.

  • Thanks! But I don't want to put the term in the text. I want to know what the name of the term is. For example, If I am writing a book on style. To rewrite your sentence, I want to say "Albert Einstein (1879-1955) overlapped with one apperance of Halley's comet."
    – vy32
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 21:33
  • Yes, I got that. I was making a different point with the example sentence, that the the term is well understood in common parlance. It will work just as well in a technical context too, because 1879–1955 was Albert Einstein's lifetime.
    – prash
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 21:58
  • Thanks. I appreciate the comment.
    – vy32
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 22:34

If you are talking about the year, month or season then it should be: Born in.

Example: I was born in 1980 (May, summer).

If you are talking about day of the week or a holiday then it should be Born on.

Example: I was born on Monday (Christmas day).

And about death:

  • Die in: Used to denote the situation at the time of death.

Example: She died in peace.

  • Die on: Used to denote the date of death.

Example: He died on 5 July this year.

  • Thank you for the usage information. However, what is the technical name for the pair of years after a person's name?
    – vy32
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 22:35
  • @vy32 generally it is called lifespan Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 23:10

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