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Is It Correct to Say “In Loving Memory”?

You have probably encountered the phrase “in loving memory” at some point. For example, you may have received a photo with this heading at a funeral or seen it carved into the beams of a park bench along with someone’s name. Is it correct to say “in loving memory,” and if so, when and how do you use it?

It is correct to say “in loving memory” when you produce a written memorial to a deceased individual. “In loving memories” is incorrect. Funeral preparers frequently use “In loving memory” as a heading on memorial cards, funeral programs, and similar literature. You can also write it in a minor sentence, “Made in loving memory of John Smith.”

Read on to learn more about the meaning of “in loving memory” and how you may use it.

What Does “In Loving Memory” Mean?

“In loving memory” indicates that an object, writing, or production bearing it is a tribute to a deceased person.

“Memory” has several standard definitions in English. Its most straightforward meaning is an act of recollection:

  • He followed the recipe from memory.

“Memory” can also mean a store of data, knowledge, or facts:

  • Music files filled up the computer’s memory.

In the phrase “in loving memory,” “memory” represents the remembrance of a deceased person that signifies a favorable sentiment toward the deceased and a desire to preserve the person’s legacy (source).

Because of the strong sentimental weight of such a memorial, the word “loving” almost always appears in the phrase. In present-day English, speakers and writers use “in loving memory” more frequently than “in memory” for this reason.

The phrase “in memory” is the English equivalent of the Latin “in memoriam.” English borrowed this phrase from Latin in the mid-nineteenth century (source). You may encounter it on headstones or other formal memorials from time to time, but most memorials today use the English phrase “in loving memory.” 

How Do You Use “In Loving Memory”?

You may use “in loving memory” on written memorials of all kinds, either formal or informal. When writing this phrase, always use the singular “memory” and not the plural “memories.”

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, there were over 18,000 active funeral homes in the United States as of 2021. The average funeral home conducted 113 funerals during the year. That’s over 2 million funerals (source)!

With that many funerals, you will likely encounter “in loving memory” at some point each year. It is common in literature, such as funeral programs, memorial cards, and obituaries.

Designers of funeral literature frequently use “In Loving Memory” as a heading, followed by a photograph of the deceased person captioned by his or her name and dates of birth and death. In addition, the literature might include details about the person’s life.

Since “memory” in this usage acts as a mass (collective or uncountable) noun that refers to the entire legacy of the deceased, it is correct to use the singular form. Even if you recall many details about the individual, it is not correct to say “in loving memories.” The memorial’s objective is to remember the person, not individual facts.

When Can You Use “In Loving Memory”?

You may use “in loving memory” in any formal or informal written memorial. Specifically, you will often use this phrase as a header introducing the memorial.

As mentioned above, funeral homes often use “In Loving Memory” at the top of programs and other literature. Those that produce other keepsakes, such as bookmarks, also use the phrase on those pieces.

However, printed material is not the only place where you will likely encounter “in loving memory.” You have probably seen it in these other places, too.

On Television

When an actor, crew member, or athlete dies, television productions that have direct ties to the deceased often append a memorial to the beginning of their next broadcast.

This memorial might include a photo or a video montage and the heading “In Loving Memory” accompanied by the person’s name, birth year, and death year.

In Public Spaces

The next time you are in a park, look for benches, pavilions, and other fixtures with inscriptions. Families of deceased individuals often purchase these items to add to a place that had a special meaning to the deceased.

On these memorials, you will find an inscription that says “In loving memory,” either directly on the object or an affixed plaque.

Similarly, hospitals, schools, churches, and government offices might use “In loving memory” on a sign or plaque to dedicate a room or wing of a building to a deceased person who had strong ties to the organization.

On Donor Lists

The next time you review the printed program for a charitable event or non-profit organization, look for “In loving memory” in the list of contributors and donors.

Chances are, you will find that family members continue to make contributions in a deceased relative’s name.

Using “In Loving Memory” in a Full Sentence

You often use “In Loving Memory” as a heading or a caption. However, in some contexts, you may use it in a complete sentence.

Image by Alex Dugquem via Pexels

The most common way to use “in loving memory” in a complete sentence is to combine it with a description of the memorial and a prepositional phrase that names the deceased individual(s).

  • This hospital wing is dedicated in loving memory to Doctor Susan Jones.
  • This sculpture was produced in loving memory of the firefighters who perished here.

You might notice that these sentences use the passive voice. In most writing, you would avoid using the passive voice, but you might prefer it when you produce a memorial. The passive voice allows the writer to emphasize the object of an action, which is appropriate when you wish to direct all attention to the person whom the memorial honors.

To see another example of using the passive voice to show politeness, read our article Is It Correct to Say “You Are Cordially Invited”?

When Not to Use “In Loving Memory”

The phrase “in loving memory” indicates that the writing or object serves as a memorial to a deceased person. Therefore, if you wish to recognize an individual who is still living, you would not use “in loving memory.”

The counterpart to “in loving memory” when recognizing a living person is “in honor.” “Honor” means showing respect, usually to a person (source). Let’s see how some of our examples above change when we honor living persons instead of deceased persons.

If Doctor Jones has retired but is still alive, the hospital might simply add a sign naming the new wing the “Doctor Susan Jones Wing,” using neither “honor” nor “memory.” However, the hospital might hold a dedication ceremony in honor of Doctor Jones to open the new wing.

Similarly, a community might dedicate a statue in honor of the firefighters who successfully rescued residents from an apartment fire. However, because all of the firefighters survived, it would not be appropriate to construct the statue in loving memory of the firefighters.

At Easter, your church bulletin might list the purchasers of the altar flowers. In that list, you might see that some congregants have purchased flowers in honor of their parents, spouses, or children. Using “in honor” instead of “in loving memory” indicates that these individuals are still living.

What Can You Use Instead of “In Loving Memory”?

Even though “in loving memory” is the most common expression of remembrance, it is not the only one you will encounter. Below are other phrases you might use interchangeably with “in loving memory.”

  • In remembrance
  • Always in our hearts
  • Gone, but never forgotten
  • Departed too soon
  • With us in spirit

Prepositional Phrases

“In loving memory” is a prepositional phrase that modifies or provides additional information about a particular writing or object. Often, you will add a second prepositional phrase that identifies the deceased individual who is the object of the memorial.

Image by Brett Jordan via Pexels

All prepositional phrases include a preposition followed by a noun, pronoun, or clause that serves as the object of the preposition. Some might include adjectives that provide additional descriptions. “In loving memory” fits this construction, using the preposition “in,” the adjective “loving,” and the object “memory.”

All prepositional phrases modify or describe another word in the same sentence. For example, in a complete sentence, “in loving memory” modifies the memorial object that serves as the subject of the sentence. In our earlier examples, “in loving memory” modified a hospital wing and a statue.

When “In Loving Memory” stands alone as a heading or caption, the reader infers by the context that the prepositional phrase refers to the object that bears the inscription.

When you add “In Loving Memory” to a park bench or a memorial card, you indicate that the bench or the card is the memorial.

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When you use “in loving memory” in a complete sentence, you must modify it further with a subordinate prepositional phrase that names the object of the memory. Usually, you will use the prepositions “to” or “of” to do this.

  • In loving memory of Doctor Susan Jones
  • In loving memory to the brave firefighters

Final Thoughts

“In loving memory” is a prepositional phrase that you may use when you wish to fondly recognize a deceased individual. You will encounter this phrase in funeral literature, buildings, fixtures, and works of art. “In loving memory” always precedes additional information that identifies the person(s) that the memorial recognizes.