1906, named for U.S. president Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (1858-1919), a noted big-game hunter, whose conservationist fervor inspired a comic illustrated poem in the New York Times of Jan. 7, 1906, about two bears named Teddy, whose names were transferred to two bears presented to the Bronx Zoo that year. The name was picked up by toy dealers in 1907 for a line of "Roosevelt bears" imported from Germany. Meaning "big, lovable person" first attested 1957, from the song popularized by Elvis Presley.
"a reminder of death," 1590s, a decorative object, usually an ornament for the person, containing emblems of death or reminders of the fleetingness of life, common in 16c., a Latin phrase, literally "remember to die," that is, "remember that you must die." From second person singular imperative of meminisse "to remember, recollect, think of, bear in mind" (a reduplicated form, related to mens "mind," from PIE root *men- (1) "to think") + 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).