How To Write an Epitaph (With Examples)

What’s in a word? A lot, actually. When it comes to writing a loved one’s epitaph, each word or phrase may feel like it holds the weight of an entire world. It’s not just about letters on a headstone—it’s about capturing memories, emotions and the essence of a life well-lived. Every word of an epitaph is part of a legacy and a reflection of the impact a person had on those who knew them.


Here are some tips for writing a short, beautiful epitaph that will honor the life and memory of your loved one forever and some examples of:

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What to consider when writing an epitaph

The best epitaphs come from the heart. Similar to a loving obituary or eulogy, an epitaph conveys the essence of a loved one’s life in words. The difference is that an epitaph is very short.

Consider the following aspects when composing an epitaph for your loved one:

  • Legacy: Reflect on how your loved one wished to be remembered and the lasting impact they wanted to leave on the world.
  • Personality traits: Capture the endearing quirks and distinctive traits that made your loved one unique.
  • Hobbies and passions: Explore the activities that brought joy and fulfillment to your loved one's leisure time.
  • Role in the family: Highlight your loved one's cherished place, whether it be a beloved mother, world's greatest grandpa or everyone's favorite uncle.
  • Religion: Incorporate a verse from a religious text that holds significance.
  • Memorable moment: Recall an unforgettable event or anecdote that encapsulates your loved one's spirit.
  • Shared memories: Ask family and friends what they recall to create a well-rounded portrayal.
  • Impact on others: Consider the positive influence your loved one had on the community and the people in it.
  • Catchphrase: Use a word or expression that became synonymous with your loved one's identity.
  • Tone and style: Choose a tone that resonates with your loved one's character, whether humorous or serious, lighthearted or deliberate.
  • Length: Though epitaphs are typically two to four lines, the grave marker's size may influence the length. Understand the restrictions before finalizing the epitaph.

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Epitaph examples

If your loved one didn't plan their epitaph in advance, the task becomes a heartfelt endeavor for you and your family. There are no rules, and the following ideas may inspire you as you begin crafting a meaningful representation of your loved one's life.

Epitaphs for mothers

If you’ve lost a mother, you may wish to capture the love between her and her family. Here are a few short sayings for headstones to inspire you:

  • A loving heart, a nurturing soul, forever our guiding light.
  • Motherhood defined her. Love adorned her. Memories keep her close.
  • In every hug and gentle word, her enduring love is heard.

Epitaphs for fathers

For the loss of a father, here are some short sayings for a meaningful tribute:

  • A strong hand, a wise mind, forever our anchor and guide.
  • Dad, your love lives on in our hearts, your wisdom in our minds.
  • In his strength, kindness, and unwavering love, he shaped our world.

Irreverent epitaphs

A lighthearted or quirky saying may be something your loved one would have appreciated. Some ideas are:

  • A saying or idiom your loved one was known to use often, such as “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!” or “Happy camper.”
  • A fun quip, such as the one that graces Rodney Dangerfield’s gravestone: “There goes the neighborhood.”
  • A funny sign-off, such as “That’s all, folks!”

Sweet epitaphs

Often, epitaphs convey a gentle nature and tenderness of spirit. Here are some examples:

  • So loving and so loved.
  • There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart. — Mahatma Gandhi
  • Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

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Bible verses that make good epitaphs

  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. —John 14:27
  • I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7
  • I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. —John 11:25

Quotes, sayings and verses for anyone’s epitaph

When you’re trying to express love and emotion, sometimes, a simple quote can say it all. Here are a few such headstone sayings:

  • When you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. —Kahlil Gibran
  • It is not the length of life, but the depth of life. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die. —Thomas Campbell
  • May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind be ever at your back. —Irish Blessing

You may also find inspiration in the lyrics of your loved one’s favorite music, poem, television character, and more. The key is to reflect on a person's life—and then distill that down into just a few poignant words.

Plan with us

When you plan ahead, you can decide for yourself what you'd like on your grave marker. Dignity Memorial® professionals are available to help you plan a funeral, cremation or celebration of life, select cemetery property, choose a headstone and write a memorable epitaph. Reach out and start planning with us today.