Etymology
Advertisement
mortuary (n.)

late 14c., mortuarie, "customary gift due to the minister of a parish on the death of a parishioner," from Anglo-French mortuarie (early 14c.), from Medieval Latin mortuarium, noun use of neuter of Late Latin adjective mortuarius "pertaining to the dead," from Latin mortuus, past participle of mori "to die" (from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm," also "to die" and forming words referring to death and to beings subject to death).

Selden says that the usage anciently was, bringing the mortuary along with the corpse when it came to be buried, and to offer it to the church as a satisfaction for the supposed negligence and omissions the defunct had been guilty of, in not paying his personal tithes; and from thence it was called a corse-present; a term which bespeaks it to have been once a voluntary donation. [Sir Thomas Edlyne Tomlins, "The Law Dictionary," London, 1835]

From mid-15c. as "a funeral service." Meaning "place where bodies of the dead are kept temporarily" is recorded by 1865, a euphemism for earlier deadhouse.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
mortuary (adj.)

1510s, "of or pertaining to the burial of the dead," from Late Latin mortuarius "of the dead," from Latin mortuus "dead" (see mortuary (n.)).

Related entries & more 
mortician (n.)

1895, American English, coined from mortuary + -ician, as in physician.

An undertaker will no longer be known as an "undertaker and embalmer." In the future he will be known as the "mortician." This was decided on at the second day's meeting of the Funeral Directors' Association of Kentucky, which was held in Louisville. [The Medical Herald, July 1895]
Related entries & more 
*mer- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to rub away, harm." Possibly identical with the root *mer- that means "to die" and forms words referring to death and to beings subject to death.

It forms all or part of: amaranth; ambrosia; amortize; Amritsar; immortal; manticore; marasmus; mare (n.3) "night-goblin, incubus;" morbid; mordacious; mordant; moribund; morsel; mort (n.2) "note sounded on a horn at the death of the quarry;" mortal; mortality; mortar; mortgage; mortify; mortmain; mortuary; murder; murrain; nightmare; post-mortem; remorse.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit mrnati "crushes, bruises," mriyate "to kill," martave "to die," mrta- "died, dead," mrtih "death," martah "mortal man," amrta- "immortal;" Avestan miriia- "to die," miryeite "dies," Old Persian martiya- "man;" Hittite mer- "to disappear, vanish," marnu- "to make disappear;" Armenian meranim "to die;" Greek marainein "to consume, exhaust, put out, quench," marasmus "consumption," emorten "died," brotos "mortal" (hence ambrotos "immortal"); Latin mors (genitive mortis) "death," mori "to die;" Armenian merani- "to die;" Gothic maurþr, Old English morþ "murder;" Old Irish marb, Welsh marw "dead;" Lithuanian mirti "to die," mirtis "death;" Old Church Slavonic mreti "to die," mrutvu "dead;" Russian mertvyj, Serbo-Croatian mrtav "dead."

Related entries & more 
morgue (n.)

"mortuary, place where bodies of persons found dead are taken to be claimed by family or friends," 1821, from French Morgue, originally a specific building in Paris where bodies were exposed for identification:

There is, in the most populous part of the French metropolis, an establishment entitled La Morgue, destined for the reception and exposition of bodies drowned in the Seine, and caught in nets, which are placed in different parts of the river for that purpose. The object of this exposition is, that the deceased may be recognised by their friends or relatives, and receive the rights of sepulture accordingly. The Morgue is open at all hours of the day, to passengers of every description, and often displays at a time, five or six horrible carcasses stretched, without covering, on an inclined platform, and subjected to the promiscuous gaze of the mob. ["American Review," January 1811]

Before that it was the place where new prisoners were displayed to keepers to establish their identification. Thus the name is believed to be probably from French morgue "haughtiness, pride," originally "a sad expression, solemn look," from Old French morguer "look solemnly," from Vulgar Latin *murricare "to make a face, pout," from *murrum "muzzle, snout." The 1768 Dictionnaire Royal François-Anglois Et Anglois-François defines French morgue both as "A proud, big, haughty or stately look, stare, surliness, or surly look" and "A little gratel room wherein a new prisoner is set, and must continue some hours, that the Jailer's ordinary servants may the better take notice of his face."

Adopted 1880s as a general term in U.S., replacing earlier dead house, etc. In newspaper slang, "collection of pre-written obituary material of living persons" (1898), thence extended generally to "library of clips, photos, etc." (1918).

Related entries & more 
Advertisement