When communicating in English, you’ll find people use phrases that contain words from other languages, such as “in memoriam.” You may wonder if this is acceptable in the English language or whether there are alternative words or phrases you should rather use.
It is correct to say “in memoriam” when talking about someone who has died. It is a Latin phrase you can use when writing or speaking “in memory of” someone. You’ll see this prepositional phrase often on gravestones. You’ll usually follow it in speaking with someone’s name or an event: “In memoriam of John Smith.”
In most cases, you’ll use “in memoriam” when writing, such as a statement on an epitaph, rather than speaking. There are specific rules for using “in memoriam,” and in particular scenarios, there are other more appropriate phrases. We will discuss this Latin phrase’s meaning and best practices for using it.
What Does “In Memoriam” Mean?
When you use “in memoriam,” you’re saying “in memory of” or “as a memorial to.” It refers to doing something to honor or remember someone who has passed away. You can use it when talking about someone, for example, in an obituary or for inscriptions on tombstones.
The phrase’s origin is Latin, meaning “in remembrance.” You’ll find it on monuments and headstones dating back to the days of the Roman empire (source).
As far as we know, people first started using it as part of the English language around 1840 to 1850. Today it’s a well-known and popular phrase to use at funerals, on memorials, and in other contexts to celebrate someone no longer living (source).
It is such a well-known phrase that people also use it as part of artistic expression. For example, there’s a famous poem, “In Memoriam,” which Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in 1850. It also appears as the title of various classical compositions and modern songs (source).
How Do You Use “In Memoriam”?
You usually follow “in memoriam” with “of” and then the person’s name you are honoring or remembering. However, it’s also correct to follow the phrase with the person’s name without using the preposition “of.”
When you insert “in memoriam” between the wrong words in a spoken sentence, it can change the meaning or not make sense. In some cases, especially on a gravestone, you don’t have to place any words before or after the phrase.
Here are examples:
- Correct: We organized a dinner in memoriam of Tracy, who passed away recently.
- Incorrect: We held a vigil for in memoriam of Bill after the tragic accident.
- On a gravestone: In Memoriam – James Allen
When Can You Use “In Memoriam”?
The prepositional phrase “in memoriam” is appropriate only in specific contexts where there’s a reference to someone who has passed away. It’s relevant for both spoken and written contexts.
Thus, you can use “in memoriam” anywhere you speak of or write about someone who has passed away.
“In Memoriam” on Epitaphs
An epitaph is a short text that appears on a tombstone or a plaque, usually at someone’s grave. The purpose is to pay tribute to someone and state whose grave the headstone represents.
You can only follow “in memoriam” on a tombstone with the surname. This is appropriate for epitaphs that appear on a family grave plot. Below the surname, you can list all the individuals buried there.
- In Memoriam of John Smith – Father and Husband – 1 February 1970 – 8 March 2002
- In Memoriam – Bullard
“In Memoriam” in Obituaries
You can write an obituary to announce someone’s death and to bring honor to them. The writer can include information about the deceased individual’s life, using “In Memoriam” as part of the heading for the obituary.
- In memoriam of Trevor Jones, 56, who passed away peacefully on 30 October 2022.
- In memoriam – Dorothy Brown – Devoted grandmother, who died on 31 October 2022.
“In Memoriam” for Book Dedications
As part of a dedication in a book, “in memoriam” provides a simple yet professional phrase to indicate who the writer wants to honor with publishing the book. Note that this phrase suggests that the person has passed away.
If the individual is still alive, other expressions are more appropriate for book dedications, such as “in honor of,” which we’ll discuss below. Take a look at these examples:
1950 – 2002
A man lives as long as he is remembered.
Thank you for being my mentor and inspiring
me to write this memoir.
“In Memoriam” on Monuments
On a monument, using the phrase “in memoriam” indicates who the statue, structure, or sculpture honors. It can be a single individual or a group who has passed away.
You may find the phrase engraved on a plaque or directly into the monument itself, along with names or a description of the group of people it celebrates.
- In Memoriam – This monument is erected to commemorate the confederate dead.
- In memoriam of all who lost their lives serving others on 9/11/2001.
“In Memoriam” on Social Media
Nowadays, you may notice “In memoriam” on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts as a heading. The post will often announce the death of a famous individual who is well-known to the post creator’s followers.
In addition to the text, there may be photos of the deceased person and other information about their life (source).
- In Memoriam: Michael Jackson
- In Memoriam: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1926 – 2022
- In Memoriam of the legend Kobe Bryant (1978 – 2020)
Using “In Memoriam” in a Full Sentence
There are specific ways you need to use “in memoriam” in a sentence. Firstly, you must use the correct preposition, namely “in,” and then add “of” after “memoriam.” Next, the name of the person or event you remember must follow “of.”
Before and after these three elements, you can add other details to the sentence. You can also add descriptive details before naming who the remembrance is for. So, similar to other prepositional phrases, you can use “in memoriam” in the middle or at the beginning or end of a sentence. For example:
- We gather today in memoriam of Heather Clark.
- In memoriam of our loving grandfather Jack, we publish this biography.
- The office closed for the day in memoriam of the owner, Lloyd Thompson.
For more on using another prepositional phrase in a full sentence, read Is It Correct To Say, “By Way of Introduction”?
When Not to Use “In Memoriam”
Although you can take the liberty to add adjectives to describe the person or event you commemorate, remember to always use “in memoriam” in the proper context. It is only relevant for situations where you want to remember or honor people who have passed away.
Some people make the mistake of confusing “in memoriam” with phrases that are relevant when someone is still alive, such as “in honor of.” This phrase is acceptable whether a person is alive or dead.
What Can You Use Instead of “In Memoriam”?
“In memoriam” isn’t the only phrase to consider when honoring someone who has passed away. You may want to use alternative words if you feel more comfortable pronouncing them or if you want to sound less formal.
People may also pick a different phrase that expresses more emotion and makes them seem more personal.
English has various phrases that carry a similar message. Some you’ll use specifically when speaking of someone who has died, while others are also appropriate when honoring someone who is still alive.
To replace “in memoriam” in a sentence, you can use one of the following:
|in memory of||We hold this vigil in memory of Aunt Mary who passed away.|
|as a memorial to||Let’s set up a monument as a memorial to the brave soldiers.|
|in remembrance of||We will sing a song in remembrance of those who didn’t return from the battlefield.|
|in loving memory of||In loving memory of our dear friend, Sarah Baker|
|in commemoration of||We attended a service in commemoration of the great battle.|
|as a tribute to||I wrote this song as a tribute to my mom, who always supports me.|
|in celebration of||The dinner is in celebration of the happy couple.|
|as an homage to||Everyone bowed as an homage to the king as he drove past.|
|in honor of||We organized this lunch in honor of Bess, who worked so hard on this project.|
A prepositional phrase combines an object and a preposition. A preposition usually precedes a noun or pronoun, and in this context, it helps to express the relation of that noun or pronoun to another element. Here “in” is the preposition that precedes the noun “memoriam.”
There are many common phrases in the English language that you can categorize as prepositional phrases. These phrases can start with any English preposition, including but not limited to “in,” “on,” and “at,” and end with any noun.
- By tomorrow
- In good condition
- On the outskirts
- At random
We use prepositional phrases to describe location, time, spacial relationships, manner, and direction of movement.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
More articles are available that discuss other prepositional phrases, such as What Does “By Tomorrow” Mean? Use this content to improve your grasp and use of them.
As a phrase borrowed from Latin, “in memoriam” is a beautiful, classic way to show that you want to honor and remember someone or an event. It is correct to say “In memoriam” when speaking about people who have passed away.
You need to use this prepositional phrase correctly to ensure the sentence is grammatically correct. “In memoriam” is also popular for epitaphs, memorials, and when writing dedications. You can use the phrase alone or as part of a sentence in these instances.