When someone dies, do we say they expired or passed away?

Does the word expired give any more respect when used? Or less respect than passed away?

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    ’E’s not pinin’! ’E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ’E’s expired and gone to meet ’is maker! ’E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ’e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ’im to the perch ’e’d be pushing up the daisies! ’Is metabolic processes are now ’istory! ’E’s off the twig! ’E’s kicked the bucket, ’e’s shuffled off ’is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
    – tchrist
    Jan 18, 2012 at 12:44
  • OMG! - I really can't believe a nursing home, for example, would ring you up and say "I'm very sorry, but your father expired last night". I'd better remember to ask what their standard phrasing is if I ever find myself searching out such a place for my own father. It sounds on a par with "became an EX-FATHER". Jan 18, 2012 at 14:55
  • I was having a feeling like expired is used for objects rather than Humans. I feel @Barrie England is correct, if you don't please vote up other answers or express your own opinion. Thanks to all for your opinions / thoughts
    – Hari K T
    Jan 19, 2012 at 2:30

6 Answers 6


Pass away is a common, and respectful, euphemism for die. Expire has a jokey kind of connotation and needs to be used with care.

  • As for respect, I am not sure if either of the words conveys any more respect than the other.
    – Kris
    Jan 18, 2012 at 9:35
  • @Kris:I had in mind Hilaire Belloc’s Henry King who, you may recall, chewed little bits of string: `Oh, my Friends, be warned by me, / That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea / Are all the Human Frame requires...' / With that, the Wretched Child expires. Jan 18, 2012 at 9:54
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    We use expiry date when talking about fruits, so the joke with expired is like the man has had its own limitation time of life and his/her time has ended like a fruit. Am I correct ? P.S. Sometimes I am really slow in getting the jokes... Jan 18, 2012 at 13:02
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    @speedyGonzales: It's more that 'expires' is an unexpected word in the context and is used more because of the need for a rhyme for 'requires' than because it's appropriate. You really need to read the whole thing. Jan 18, 2012 at 13:23
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    Expire is equally a euphemism for die. Borrowed from Latin, it means literally to exhale, and figuratively to breathe one's last.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 18, 2012 at 16:57

As others have pointed out, "passed away" is a euphemism.

Its use is not so much about respect for the dead, but about consideration for the bereaved. It suggests that the person has gone to heaven (or whatever other afterlife you care to imagine).

We also use "gone to a better place", and we wish that the deceased "rest in peace". We sometimes see "eternal sleep".

Hence we avoid reminding the bereaved of the blunt finality of death, and concentrate on an analogy with something more comforting.

"Expired" is a very blunt direct term for death, which emphasises its finality and gives no hint of a continuation in the afterlife.

Use the euphemisms in situations where you want to be sensitive to the feelings of people who loved the deceased.

  • I would hesitate to use "gone to a better place" or anything that makes the assumption that you know more than the person grieving. I think it's OK use the word "death" when expressing condolences.
    – Julia
    Jan 19, 2012 at 0:08

Expire might have literary or technical usage as in:

Ophelia expires in Act IV of Hamlet.
The patient expired early this morning

but pass away is safe to use with a sense of "respect"

  • I always think of expired warrantees.
    – tchrist
    Jan 18, 2012 at 12:46
  • @tchrist Isn't it usually the warranties which expire rather than the warrantees? :) Nov 11, 2012 at 18:42

"Pass away" does not convey any meaning other than "die", while "Expire", in my opinion equals "expiration of life" or "a person coming to an end" in this context.

With this perspective, "pass away" does not include any synonyms of "death", "die", "end of life" or "end". It is a euphemism.

In usage, you'd be inclined to avoid directly mentioning "death" or "end", to sound more respectful. This is where "pass away" as a euphemism, seems appropriate to be used with a sense of respect.


There is nothing wrong or less respectful in using either expire or pass away to denote the death of a person. The issue with expire is that it is archaic usage in most parts of the world and might possibly be misunderstood. However, the term is perfectly normal and continues to be used in this capacity in many parts of the British Commonwealth from Kenya to Bangladesh (or India which is where the OP is from).


Expire is more formal than pass away.

The difference is not so much in the meaning or intensity of the implication as with context of usage.

By the way, in your sentence, it would be passed away corresponding to expired in the past tense.

  • Thank you for the answer. But I wonder how much respect the word expire shows than pass away.
    – Hari K T
    Jan 18, 2012 at 9:07
  • @HariKT I think You should have said "how much respect the word expire shows compared to pass away"
    – B Faley
    Jan 18, 2012 at 9:27
  • @HariKT I have edited to reflect the 'respect' part of the question. I do not think one shows any more respect than the other.
    – Kris
    Jan 18, 2012 at 9:34
  • Thank you for the edit, but @Kris may be this changes from person to person and place to place. But I have a feeling like expired suits more for objects, not for Human's .
    – Hari K T
    Jan 19, 2012 at 2:32
  • @HariKT Not at all. Expired is perfectly suitable for humans and recommended in appropriate contexts. Furthermore, the word does not have identical meaning applied to living and non-living things. In case of humans, it means death whereas in case of objects, it has a sense akin to 'elapsed' in terms of time. I don't think it is used in reference to other living beings than humans, though.
    – Kris
    Jan 19, 2012 at 6:50

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