Memento Mori

The Latin term memento mori has long served as a reminder of mortality. Literally meaning, "Remember you will die," the term has traditionally been linked with striking images and stories of dying.

Memorialization, Spontaneous

Spontaneous memorialization is a rapid public response to publicized, unexpected, and violent deaths, typically involving the accumulation of individual mementos to create a shrine at the death site. Most spontaneous memorials start within hours of death notification; someone leaves a candle or bouquet of flowers, which is followed quickly by contributions from others.

Memorial, Virtual

Virtual memorials, also called web memorials, are web pages or sites specifically dedicated to honoring the dead. Cyberspace tributes to the dead appeared shortly after the creation of computerbased communication.

Metaphors and Euphemisms

Twenty-first-century human beings live in a culture in which "dead" is a four-letter word. Because four-letter words have a reputation for being obscene, death is obscene to modern sensibilities; that is, to those in modern death-denying cultures who rarely have firsthand experiences with the dying and the dead.

Mind-Body Problem

What color is a thought? How much does a thought weigh?


Miscarriage, or in medical terminology spontaneous abortion, is the termination of a pregnancy from natural causes before the time the fetus can survive for even a few minutes outside the uterus. (Induced abortion is the term used for those expulsions of an embryo or fetus that are artificially induced by mechanical means or drugs.) Miscarriage generally occurs before the twentieth week of pregnancy.

Missing in Action

It is a value of possibly all known cultures that the remains of their fallen warriors be retrieved so that they can be buried with all the honor due those who sacrificed their lives for the group. It is also one of the greatest indignities for an enemy to deny such ritualization.

Moment of Death

Is there a moment of death? Millions of death certificates provide abundant evidence—or do they?

Mortality, Childbirth

Until the late twentieth century, and then only in developed countries, the mortality risks associated with childbearing were substantial. Although there are risks to infants, the following entry focuses on the mortality risks faced by mothers.

Mortality, Infant

Infant mortality refers to deaths of children under the age of one year. It is measured by the infant mortality rate, which is the total number of deaths to children under the age of one year for every 1,000 live births.


The term mourning is probably the single most inconsistently used term in thanatology. Traditionally it has been used to refer to the cultural and/or public display of grief through one's behaviors.


The word mummy comes from a procedure often used by families in the Middle East to prepare a corpse for burial. During this procedure, the body is washed and then wrapped in strips of linen.

Museums of Death

In Western Europe there are a variety of museums, and in several countries the scenery is enriched by special museums that are dedicated exclusively to the topics of death, dying, funerals, and remembrance. Because these entities are largely considered social taboos, the existence of such institutions appears to be anachronistic.

Music, Classical

Western classical music has commemorated death in ritual and pondered it in concert works. A deeper relationship to death exists in the very syntax of Western harmony.

Native American Religion

Because they lived so close to nature, all Native American peoples from the Stone Age to the modern era knew that death from hunger, disease, or enemies was never far away. The various death customs and beliefs, which first evolved during the invasions of Asians from Siberia to Alaska across a land bridge during the last Ice Age at least 12,000 years ago, gave them the means to cope with that experience.

Natural Death Acts

Natural Death Acts (also known as Death with Dignity Acts and Living Will Acts) are laws that determine in what situations, and how, people can refuse life-sustaining medical interventions. The purpose of these laws is to permit patients to choose a "natural" death, unencumbered by medical technology.

Near-Death Experiences

In Life After Life Moody discussed fifty individual cases of people who, when unconscious and apparently near death and then resuscitated, reported conscious social and psychological experiences. Some people reported sensations of traveling in a dark tunnel.


Necromancy (derived from the Greek nekros, meaning "dead," and manteia, meaning "divination") is the evocation of the dead to obtain omens about future events or secret facts. It is based upon the belief that the deceased, free of physical limits, holds the power to obtain information that is not accessible to the living.


The term necrophilia is mostly used as a psychiatric expression for a pathological sexual attraction to corpses. It is a very rare and poorly understood phenomenon.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Neonatology is a specialty within pediatric medicine that provides care for sick and/or premature infants. It is an area of medicine that is very young in comparison to other areas of medicine.

Notifications of Death

One of the most important messages communicated in human societies has always been the notification that one of their members has died. The news spreads outward—like ripples in a pond—from family members to friends, to employers, and to fraternal orders and other organizations to which the deceased belonged.

Nuclear Destruction

The Nazi death camps and the mushroom cloud of nuclear explosion are the two most potent images of the mass killings of the twentieth century. As World War II ended and the cold war began, the fear of nuclear annihilation hung like a cloud over the otherwise complacent consumerism of the Eisenhower era.