late 14c., "to kill," from Old French mortefiier "destroy, overwhelm, punish," from Late Latin mortificare "cause death, kill, put to death," literally "make dead," from mortificus "producing death," from Latin mors (genitive mortis) "death" (from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm," also "to die" and forming words referring to death and to beings subject to death) + combining form of facere "to make, to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Religious sense of "to subdue the flesh by abstinence and discipline" first attested early 15c. Sense of "humiliate" first recorded 1690s (compare mortification). Related: Mortified; mortifying.
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