Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Something that is ultimately ruinous, destructive, or fatal: "Divorce was once a political kiss of death” ( Ellen Goodman).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A kiss on the cheek that signifies the death of the receiver, as delivered by a mob boss or one with such influence.
  • n. Something that may seem good and favourable but that actually brings ruin to hopes, plans, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. something that is ruinous

Etymologies

From the kiss by which Judas betrayed Jesus (Mark 14:44-46).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Biblical: Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • When a paint brush is placed so that its brush-end is down, and it is abandoned long enough so that its bristles are permanently bent, it is often called the kiss of death! (From ArtLex)

    June 5, 2008