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Headstone Epitaphs- 150 beautiful examples

Posted 13/10/14 in The Headstone Guide

Advice on choosing an epitaph

1)    "Less is more" - epitaphs are usually short and concise.  Even if you use the whole reverse of a headstone, you will be limited to a few lines.  They are a chance to sum up a person's life in just a few words, to give it shape and express real emotion.  

2)    Epitaphs often convey a strong feeling.  However,  the best epitaphs are timeless and not overly sentimental, and for this reason, I always advise waiting at least a year before choosing so that emotions have time to settle and you don't later regret your choice.

3)    Often, someone is speaking in the first person (a relative, a friend; the deceased). You might want to think about whose voice you want this to be.

4)    Consider whether you want the epitaphs to speak directly to someone.  This may be a passerby or the loved one themselves.

5) Take inspiration from literature, lyrics and poems. You might even use a few words from a poem which was read at the funeral.

epitaph for gravestone

Purpose of a headstone epitaph 

The headstone epitaph often includes a person's name and dates together with a headstone inscription.  This may take the form of a piece of prose or a reference from the Bible.  The aim is often to praise the humble virtues of the person who has died or to remind us of the bond between the living and the dead.  It may be a symbol or reminder of our mortality or indeed immoratility.  This is a very personal choice, one that should not be influenced by others.

Below is a list of headstone inscriptions and memorial quotes. I began with 150 but I keep adding more!  

Many of my favourites are ones that clients have made up themselves or have found in poems or even lyrics to songs.  For example, I recently saw an epitaph on a headstone saying "Give me the beat boys and free my soul", a lyric from a song by Mentor Williams.

The most important thing to bear in mind I think, is that the inscription will be there for hundreds of years.  Do not be hurried into choosing an epitaph straight away. I always encourage people to wait at least a year before choosing a headstone.  For examples of carvings you might also include see this post on headstone symbols.  You may also want to look at my list of beautiful funeral poems for inspiration.

 In many cases the simplest headstone epitaphs or inscriptions can be the most profound.

List of headstone epitaphs and quotes

Short openings and endings

Beloved.

Dearly beloved.

Adored.

So loved.

Into the sunshine.

Dearly loved.

Once met, never forgotten..

Uncompromisingly unique.

Remembered with love.

Love you always.

With a greater thing to do.

Love is enough

Peace perfect peace.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

Generous of heart, constant of faith.

Love you miss you.

So loved.

In everloving memory of.

Love is enough.

May his memory be eternal.

Always together.

Devoted in love.

Dance on...

Always loving, always loved.

Your love will light my way.

Asleep in Jesus.

Forever in our hearts.

Until we meet again.

Rest in Peace.

Here lies.

Ever loved.

Adored.

So loved.

An inspiration.

Loved and remembered.

In God's care.

An inspiration to all.

She walked in beauty

Together again.

Love is waiting.

Once met, never forgotten.

A long life well lived.

Remembered with love.

Great love lives on.

More times...

beautiful headstone quote

Love is eternal.

Love lives on.

Sleep till eternity.

Time passes, love remains.

We remember..... with open hearts.

A free spirit

Precious are the memories of

Modest and gentle of heart.

quote on headstone edge

Longer epitaphs and quotes

Your love will light my way

Speak your love still once again. (Edward Clinton)

Our love is love forever.

And the beauty of the soul revealed.

You are always in my head.

Ageless beauty, running wild.

He was one who followed dreams, stars and ships.

boat on headstone

She walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies. (Lord Byron)

Our brief partings on Earth will appear one day as nothing beside the joy of eternity together.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.(Gibran)  See this carved onto a headstone

What we keep in our memory is ours unchanged forever.

Speak your love still once again. (Edward Clinton)

Tears water our growth (William Shakespeare)

Dance, then, wherever you may be.  (Sydney Carter, from Lord of the Dance)

To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die. (Thomas Campbell)

I am I and you are you, whatever we were to each other that we still are. (Canon Henry Scott-Holland)

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. (Rossiter Worthington Raymond)

Good night, and you will dream of me (Maurice Sendak, My Brother's Book)

Blessed sleep to which we all return.

Grace to be born and live as variously as possible.

No one spread more love in one lifetime.

Sadness is a wall between two gardens.

To unpathed waters, undreamed shores (Shakespeare)

Even as the sun goes down,
To end the light of day,
It's rising on a new horizon,
Somewhere far away.

Life is not forever. Love is.

Where there is great love there are always miracles.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away. (Cant. ii:17)

Where He leads me I can safely go. (Millay)

The song is ended but the melody lingers on…  (Irving Berlin)

Real love stories never have endings.

My barque is wafted to the strand by breath Divine and on the helm there rests a hand other than mine.( Henry Alford)

Whither thou goest, I will go. (Ruth i:16)

Today she dances with angels.

The song is ended but the melody lingers on. ( Irving Berlin)

For all we know this might only be a dream,
we  come and go like ripples in a stream. (Nat King Cole)

No one thinks of winter when the grass is green. (Rudyard Kipling)

Be still.
Close your eyes.
Breathe.
Listen for my footfall in your heart.
I am not gone but merely walk within you.    From "The Smoke Jumper" by Nicholas Evans  See this epitaph on a headstone

'Tis not the whole of life to live, nor all of death to die. (J. Montgomery)

Far Away, There In The Sunshine Are My Highest Aspirations (Louise May Alcott)

Now twilight lets her curtain down and pins it with a star. (L.M.Child)

headstone quote

As I was so are ye  As I am so shall ye bee. Thy life a floure Thy breath a blast  (from a gravestone in Waterstock St Leonards)

Non hodie  Quod heri  (I am not today what I was yesterday)

They flash upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude. (Wordsworth)

Step softly, a dream lies buried here. (Yates)  See these words on a headstone.

Your calm is in the trees.

Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I'll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me

(Bruce Springsteen)

Et vive la musique que nous tombe du ciel. (Carmen, Bizet)

Say not in grief that she is no more
but say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come. (Tagore)

The sun on my face, even on the shortest day.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind? ( Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Be sure, wherever I may roam, my heart is with your heart at home.

Death is only a shadow across the path to heaven.

Strive not, my soul, for an immortal life, but make the most of what is possible.(Pindar)

We come whirling out of nothingness scattering stars like dust. The stars made a circle and in the middle we dance.(Rumi)

Sorrows are like tall angels with star-crowns in their hair. (Margery Eldredge Howell)

I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days. (Keats)

Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
         And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
         I change, but I cannot die.

(Percy Bysshe Shelley, from The Cloud)         
 

For all we know
This might only be a dream
We come and we go
Like the ripples, like the ripples in the stream  (Nina Simone)

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours. (The Life That I Have by Leo Marks)

Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us every day.

Always in our thoughts, forever in our hearts.

Dance, then, wherever you may be.  (Sydney Carter, from Lord of the Dance)

Sweet are the memories that never fade.

By the whispering shady trees. I will find my sanctuary in the Lord. (Van Morrison)

His life a beautiful memory, his absence a silent grief.

For everything exists and not 
one sigh nor smile nor tear, 
one hair nor particle
of dust, not one can pass away.

(William Blake)

There was grace in her steps, love in every gesture.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky. (Amelia Josephine Burr)

He who binds to himself a joy,  Does the wingéd life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies, Lives in eternity’s sunrise. (William Blake)

She touched everyone with special love and kindness.

May the countryside and the gliding valley streams content me.(Virgil)

Blessed To Us Is The Memory Of Your Unselfish Love

Lost now but loved forever.

Whoever brought me here
will have to take me home. (Rumi)

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

She would be half a planet away, floating in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to flamenco guitar. (Janet Fitch, White Oleander)

A star on Earth and a star in heaven.

An angel on Earth and an angel in heaven.

Life is a dream walking, death is going home.(Chinese Proverb)

What you seek is seeking you. (Rumi)

Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

(Rumi)

yeats epitaph

He longest lives, who most to others gives, himself forgetting.

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

Her works were kindness, her deeds were love.

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Death is not the extinguishing of the light, but the putting out of the lamp, because Dawn has come. (Rabindranath Tagore)

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.(from More Fruits of Solitude by William Penn)

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.  (Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII)

Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory. (Shelley)

In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be. (Ben Jonson)

Love is not changed by death And nothing is lost And all in the end is harvest.(Edith Sitwell)

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

A life, like any other, completely unlike any other. (Neil Gaiman)

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

his absence a silent grief epitaph

Yet in this heart's most sacred place, thou, alone, shall dwell forever (Moore)

God gives us love. Something to love He lends us. (Tennyson)

VITA MUTATUR NON TOLLITUR
(Life is changed, not taken away)

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. (Moore)

I know I am deathless.
I know this orbit of mine
cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass.
All goes outward and nothing collapses,
and to die is different
from what anyone supposed...and luckier.
~ Walt Whitman

God is and all is well. (Whittier)

From my body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity (Edvard Munch)

We sail the beautiful and invisible ocean, where none have ever really drowned. (Brian Pattten)

 How many times do I love thee, dear?
   Tell me how many thoughts there be
         In the atmosphere
         Of a new-fall’n year,
Whose white and sable hours appear
   The latest flake of Eternity:—
So many times do I love thee, dear.  (Kelsall)

He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present, than the living man.(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

The heart of man is restless until he finds rest in Thee. (St Augustine)

Mutual love, the crown of all our bliss. (Milton)

They loved each other and taught us that love.

Till the master of all good workmen shall set us to work anew (Kipling)

Peace is thine, and sweet remembrance is ours.

Whither tho goest I will go.

You will hear thunder and remember me, 
And think: she wanted storms.
The rim 
Of the sky will be
the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart,
as it was then,
will be on fire.

(Unknown source)

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven. (H. W Beecher)

He did not lose his place in the minds of men because he was out of their sight. (John Henry Newman, Sermons)

Heaven, the treasury of everlasting joy. (Shakespeare)

The acts of this life are the destiny of the next. (Eastern proverb)

Even the angels
Forget their services and about her fly
Oft peering on her face that seems more fair
The more they on it stare

When you are sorrowful, look again. (Gibran)

In His will is our peace. (Dante)

Let me return to my home town entombed in grass as in a warm and high sea.  (Giorgio Bassam)

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…. it's about learning how to dance in the rain.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. (Gaelic blessing)

The kingdom of Heaven is within you.

Death is not a foe, but an inevitable adventure. (Sir Oliver Lodge)

It is not length of life, but depth of life. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

My second self and best earthly companion (Charlotte Bronte)

To reach a great height a person needs to have great depth.

For death begins with life's first breath, and life begins at the touch of death. (John Oxenham)

The heart of him who truly loves is a paradise on Earth. (Lamennais)

Pendant que je restais en bas dans l’ombre noire
d’autres montaient cueielir le baiser de la gloirie
                                               ~ Cyrano de Bergerac

While I remained at the bottom in dark shadow
others ascended to know the kiss of glory  (translation)

To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground. (Stephen R. Covey)

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched, but are felt in the heart. (Helen Keller)

Remember friend as you pass by 
As you are now so once was I
As I am now you will surely be 
Prepare thyself to follow me.  (Gazis-Sax 2001)

Never born, Never died: visited the planet earth between December 11, 1931 and, January 19, 1990. (Osho)

Generous of heart, constant of faith.

Oh fair enough are sky and plain
But I know fairer far   (A.E.Housman)

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

I am the sailor of eternity whose voyage is not gone. (Shannon L. Alder)

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. (Henry Van Dyke)

That best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love (William Wordsworth)

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
(William Wordsworth)

Coelorum perrupit claustra.
He broke through the barriers of the skies. (Herschel)

Once in a lifetime epitaph

Beyond is the infinite morning of a day without tomorrow. (W.S. Abbott)

From joy all beings have come and unto joy they all return. (Upanishads)

Thou tun'st this World below, the Spheres above,
Who in the Heavenly Round to their own Music move (Purcell)

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience. ( Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

Death is the golden key that opens the palace of Eternity. (Milton)

The acts of this life are the destiny of the next. (Eastern proverb)

What seems to us but dim funeral tapers may be heaven’s distant lamps. (Longfellow)

Saved by grace alone!
This is all my plea:
Jesus died for all mankind,
And Jesus died for me.  (lyrics from Grace 'tis a charming sound)

We all shine on...like the moon and the stars and the sun...we all shine on...come on and on and on...  (John Lennon)

I used to measure the skies, now I measure the shadows of Earth.
Although my mind was sky-bound, the shadow of my body lies here. (Johannes Kepler)

People living deeply have no fear of death. (Anais Nin)

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief. ( Aeschylus)

A Gentle Man and a Gentleman. (Jack Dempsey)

Lights will guide you home (Coldplay)

The life given us, by nature is short; but the memory of a well-spent life is eternal. (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

She filled every second of her life with laughter, love and happiness.

Their greatest peace was found in nature.

If you can remember me, I will be with you always. ( Isabel Allende)

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…. it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

She is not far away.

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." (From "The Old Astronomer" by Sarah Williams)

Softly the leaves of memory fall,
Gently I gather and treasure them all.
Unseen, unheard,
You are always near,
So missed, so loved, so very dear.
(from a poem by Colin Godon-Farleigh)  See this epitaph on a headstone
 

God could not have made earthly ties so strong to break them in eternity.

Safe in the hallowed quiets of the past. (Lowell)

Too well loved to be ever forgotten.

Let your soul stand cool and composed
before a million universes. (Walt Whitman)

Frolic in the land of forever with me.  (Rae Hachton)

We only part to meet again (Gay)

May she be remembered as she remembered others.

Say not in grief  "She is no more", but live in thankfulness that she was. ( Rabindranath Tagore)

Heaven, the treasury of everlasting joy. (Shakespeare)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul   (Spafford)

headstone epitaph

In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing. (Robert Ingersoll)

Where there is much light, the shadows are deepest.  (Goethe)

Turn me loose from your hands, Let me fly to distant lands, Fly away skyline pigeon fly, Towards the dreams you've left so very far behind. (Elton John)

Truth to your own spirit. (Jim Morrison)

Life's race well run,
Life's work well done,
Life's victory won,
Now cometh rest. (Edward Parker)

He hath awakened from the dream of life. (Shelley)

I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. 
(Jack London)

Dare to be different. Represent your maker well and you will forever abide in the beautiful embrace of his loving arms.  (Jaachynma N.E. Agu, The Prince and the Pauper)

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind    (Eloisa to Abelard, Alexander Pope)

You are my sun, my moon,and all my stars.  (E E Cummings)

headstone epitaph in slate

Epitaphs for children and babies

Many of the epitaphs above would be suitable for a child, but here are a few special ones for a child.  I encourage parents to try to write their own epitaphs or to search for inspiration in poetry and lyrics. Below is an example of a song by Alvin and the Chipmonks, which has several lines you could use on a headstone for a child.    I have also created a separate list of epitaphs and ideas for children's headstones.

God's garden needs flowers.

Thrice happy Child, for surely she was borne on purpose to be translated to eternitie  (St Michael,Cumnor , on headstone for Frances Peacock who died in 1689 aged 11)

Oh, for boyhood's time of June, crowding years into one brief moon. (Whittier)

One brief moment and all will be as it was before 
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!  (Canon Henry Scott-Holland)     

The child is the father of the man. (Wordsworth)

Called by one who loves him dearly.

Children are the keys of paradise. (R.H. Stoddard)

Her Fearless Buoyant Youth Will Always Live, Revealing Love And Truth And Radiant Joy.

Held for a moment, loved for a lifetime.

Budded on Earth to bloom in Heaven.

May you find comfort in the Arms of An Angel.

A painter of rainbows.

I held you your whole life.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched, but are felt in the heart. ( Helen Keller)

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...I could walk through my garden forever (Tennyson)

Time cuts down all, Both great and small.

May you touch
Dragonflies and stars,
Dance with fairies,
And talk to the moon

There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

As long as I can I will look at this world for both of us.  As long as I can I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us. (Sascha)

Born into the arms of the Angels.

Waft her, angels, through the skies. (Handel)

If every tear we shed for you became a star above, you'd stroll in Angels' garden lit by everlasting love.

Tread carefully, here lies our world.

Whoever brought me here
will have to take me home.  (Rumi)

Watch us as the earth becomes smaller
Smell as the breezes wind
Gently by... isn't it grand?
We are miles from sea
And years from land...
Look at the space that surrounds us
Feel as we glide through
A pure white cloud
Floating so free. What is up ahead...
We'll see

[Chorus]
We're flying with the eagles now
We've just begun our sail
We've got our mission all mapped out
It will be a wondrous tale
We'll land on every foreign shore
Though we've not long to stay...
We're headed toward
The rainbow's end
Where the sun is shining...
Flying with the eagles now
And we must be on our way...

Up here we're free from all troubles
Up here it seems that life's all so clear
As we're in flight and we glide
Into the dark still night...
Look now the stars are appearing
So close we almost can touch
Their soft glistening eyes
They are angels in disguise

[Repeat Chorus]    Flying with The Eagles  by Alvin and the Chipmunks

As snug as a bug in a rug.

Gone to be an angel.

But Still I Dream That Somewhere There Must Be The Spirit Of A Child That Waits For Me.(Bayard Taylor)

Each new life... No matter how fragile or brief... Forever changes the world.

So small, so sweet, so soon.

An Angel visited the green Earth, and took a flower away.(Longfellow)

Hush, my dear, be still and slumber; Jolly angels guard your bed. (Watts)

Little Boy Blue has gone away. (Field)

Sleep, my little one, sleep. (Harrington)

A little soul takes wings.

I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.” 
― Jack London

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

Loved with a love beyond telling, 
Missed with a grief beyond all tears.

Sometimes love is for a moment.
Sometimes love is for a lifetime.
Sometimes a moment is a lifetime.

Ours for a little while.

And As The Evening Twilight Fades Away The Sky Is Filled With Stars, Invisible By Day (Longfellow)

 Warm summer sun, shine kindly here, Warm southern wind, blow softly here, Green sod above, lie light, lie light, Good-night, dear heart, good-night, good-night.  (Olivia Susan Clemens)

Children are the keys of paradise. (R.H. Stoddard)

A little soul scarce fledged for earth Takes wing with heaven again for goal, Even while we hailed as fresh from birth A little soul. (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (Walt Whitman)

Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.
(Walt Whitman)

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.
(Walt Whitman)

Visit my gallery of children's headstones for more inspiration.

 

Biblical Epitaphs

I am my beloved's and his desire is for me.  Song of Solomon 7:10

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

That whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:15

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings,  Psalm 17

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

They can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. Luke 20:36

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. John 4:13

Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:15

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. Psalm 121:1

Sleep on now, and take your rest. Matthew 26:45

In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility. Titus 2:7

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away. Cant. ii:17

Whither thou goest, I will go. Ruth 1:16

He shall receive in the world to come eternal life. Mark 10:30

Blessed is the man who maketh the Lord his trust. Psalms 40:4

Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Matthew 25:21

I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. Psalm 55:8

Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits. Song of Solomon 4:16 

The Lord watch between me and thee, while we are absent, one from the other. Genesis 31:49

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine– "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"

Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. 1 Corinthians 10:24 

gravestone quote

Please visit my gallery of headstones for more inspiration.

headstones inspiration advice wording