Ask the director


Question: What is the difference between a eulogy, an elegy and an epitaph? I know all three terms are funeral-related somehow.


New Bedford

Dear A.B.,

That is an excellent question! A eulogy is a piece of writing or a speech that highly praises someone, usually someone who just died. A eulogy is often given by the clergy and/or the family. The “eu-” is a Greek prefix meaning good or well. The suffix “-logy” is also Greek in origin and means “the study of [a subject].”

An elegy (also with Greek roots) is a sad poem or lament, usually for the dead.

An epitaph is a statement or phrase written in memory of someone who has passed away, usually seen on a monument or marker at a grave. This word comes from the Greek epitaphion, roughly meaning “over a tomb.” The prefix “epi-” means upon and the suffix “-taphos” means tomb.” One of my personal favorite epitaphs said, “I told you I was sick.”

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