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

  • n. Muscular stiffening following death.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Temporary stiffness of a body's muscles and joints following death.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. death stiffening; the rigidity of the muscles that occurs at death and lasts till decomposition sets in. It is due to the formation of myosin by the coagulation of the contents of the individual muscle fibers.

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

  • n. muscular stiffening that begins 2 to 4 hours after death and lasts for about 4 days
  • n. temporary stiffness of joints and muscular rigidity occurring after death


Latin : rigor, stiffness + mortis, genitive of mors, death.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • It was spreadeagled with rigor mortis and the body had swelled enough in decomposition so that buttons had started to pop off the shirt, which the night before had been pajama-loose.


  • The pathologist uses various time-dependent processes to estimate the time of death: the body cools at a characteristic rate, rigor mortis sets in at a particular time, and so on.


  • A quick cut; then Pretty Boy Christopher, naked and hard, pointing his thing at the camera, the head nearly eclipsing the screen like a giant battering ram, white background borders looking just like parted lips and teeth holding the image intact through rigor mortis —

    The Big Nowhere


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