Definitions

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

  • n. A reminder of death or mortality, especially a death's-head.
  • n. A reminder of human failures or errors.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Lit., remember to die, i.e., that you must die; a warning to be prepared for death; an object, as a death's-head or a personal ornament, usually emblematic, used as a reminder of death.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A decorative object, usually an ornament for the person, containing emblems of death or of the passing away of life: common in the sixteenth century.

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

  • n. a reminder (as a death's head) of your mortality

Etymologies

New Latin mementō morī, be mindful of dying : Latin mementō, sing. imperative of meminisse, to remember + Latin morī, to die.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

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  • "The perversion of feminism that Ensler represents — turning Valentine’s Day, the one holiday celebrating romantic harmony between the sexes, into a grisly memento mori of violence against women — has been well demonstrated by the ever-alert" ~Camile Paglia on The Vagina Monologues.

    February 1, 2008

  • "Ah, what was the question?
    Oh yeah, 'Memento Mori'
    It means remember it's inevitable that we will all die
    It sounds quite depressing when said so raw and direct
    But it means don't hang yourself on a material life
    But that gets dropped when I'm bop on shopping day
    Am I shallow, am I hung up on such wrong ways?"

    — "Memento Mori" by The Streets

    December 24, 2006