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Choosing an epitaph for a headstone can feel like a big decision. If you’re looking for ideas to help you find those lasting words, this guide is a good place to start. You can find everything you need to know about epitaphs, including some ideas and examples. 

And remember - when it comes to choosing what to write on a headstone, there’s no need to rush. You can take your time to decide what’s right for you. Often, you have to wait several months after a burial to allow the ground to settle before placing a headstone. You might want to use a temporary marker during this time. Even after a few months, you might find that you need more time to consider your options and decide on what you feel is best. There’s no time limit on placing a gravestone. It’s best to wait until you're ready and certain. 

What is an epitaph? 

An epitaph is an inscription on a gravestone or a plaque marking a grave. The words will usually let people know who’s buried in the grave, as well as some information about them, or a brief tribute to them. 

What to write on a headstone 

When you’re choosing what to write on a headstone, there are a few things to consider. We’ve offered some guidance below. 

The person 

Headstones help us to remember someone who’s passed, sharing who they were with the world. Finding the right wording can give people a unique insight into the person, their character, their values and beliefs - all in a few short lines. Think about what the person would’ve wanted you to highlight. This could be a quote they loved, a mention of specific family members or friends, or a nod to their profession. 


Epitaphs need to be relatively short. While you can use both sides of the headstone, and even the sides and top if you wish, most people prefer to keep the main message on the face of the stone. Try to keep the inscription concise. 


Consider who’s speaking through this epitaph. Usually, an epitaph will address people visiting the grave and passersby, giving information about the person who’s died. However, some people plan their own epitaphs and aim for it to be their own voice speaking to the people who are stood at their grave. A good example of this is the popular gravestone poem Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep. 


Stone masons (people who engrave headstones) usually charge by the letter. This means that longer inscriptions are more expensive than shorter inscriptions. Learn more about headstone costs here


You’ll need to make sure that the words you choose to have engraved on the headstone are appropriate. Most cemeteries won’t allow offensive phrases or language. If in doubt, contact the cemetery for advice. 

Examples of epitaphs 

These epitaph examples might give you some inspiration, if you’re struggling to find the right words for a headstone. 

Traditional epitaphs 

Traditionally, an epitaph will include the person’s full name, their dates of birth and death and a short message. This short message could include relations who mourn them, their profession or a quote that was meaningful to them. Some examples could be: 


01.10.46 – 09.10.22 

A devoted father and grandfather 

Forever in our hearts 



1939 – 2023 

A brilliant doctor, loved by all 

Rest in peace 


Short epitaphs 

“A devoted son / daughter / mother / father” 

“A beautiful soul” 

“A friend to all” 

“An inspiration” 

“Greatly beloved” 

“Always remembered” 

“Deeply mourned” 

“Remembered with love” 

“Time passes, love remains” 

“Rest in peace” 


Epitaphs from literature 

“In my end is my beginning” – T S Eliot 

“Nothing gold can stay” – Robert Frost 

“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams” – W B Yeats 

“Fear no more the heat o' the sun, Nor the furious winter's rages” – Shakespeare 

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes” – Walt Whitman 

“Death has made his darkness, Beautiful with thee” – Tennyson 

“He hath awakened from the dream of life” - Shelley 

“We all shine the moon and the stars and the sun...we all shine on” – John Lennon 

“From my body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity” – Edvard Munch 


Poem epitaphs 

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep – Mary Elizabeth Fry 

“Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.” 

Warm Summer Sun – Walt Whitman 

“Warm summer sun, 

Shine kindly here, 

Warm southern wind, 

Blow softly here. 

Green sod above, 

Lie light, lie light. 

Good night, dear heart, 

Good night, good night.” 

Epitaph – Emily Dickinson 

“Step lightly on this narrow spot! 
The broadest land that grows 
Is not so ample as the breast 
These emerald seams enclose.” 

Requiem - Robert Louis Stevenson 

“Under the wide and starry sky 
Dig the grave and let me lie: 
Glad did I live and gladly die, 
And I laid me down with a will.” 


Epitaphs for Mum 

“Our loving mother” 

“A mother’s love is unconditional” 

“A mother holds her children’s hands for a while, their hearts forever” 

Epitaphs for Dad 

“A beloved father” 

“A kind man” 

“His name is written in letters of love on the hearts he left at home” 

Epitaphs for a double headstone 

“An everlasting love” 

“Together forever” 

“Always together, never apart” 

“Death cannot part them” 

Epitaphs for a baby 

“Born sleeping” 

“So small, so sweet, so soon” 

“So little yet so loved” 

“Forever in our hearts” 

“Held for a moment, loved for a lifetime” 

“Ours for a little while” 

“There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world” 

“Each new life, no matter how brief, forever changes the world” 

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts” – A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh) 

“Our little angel” 

“Born in heaven” 

“We hold you in our hearts until we can hold you in heaven” 

“I know you’re in a happy place, and in God’s loving care. I dream each night I’m rocking you in Heaven’s rocking chair.” – Heaven’s rocking chair, Rom Tramner 

Christian epitaphs 

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant” – Matthew 25:21 

“The righteous shall go into life eternal” – Matthew 25:46 

“Sleep on now, and take your rest” - Matthew 26:45 

“Believe on Him to life everlasting” – Timothy 1:16 

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” – Philippians 1:3 

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” – Psalm 23 

Jewish epitaphs 

ת נ צ ב ה (An abbreviation of “May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life”) 

פּ״נ (Here lies) 

Hebrew name 

Parent’s names in Hebrew 

Dates of birth and death in the Hebrew calendar 

Gravestone recipes 

Sharing recipes on gravestones is becoming more popular. If your loved one was well-known for a specific dish, and didn’t mind sharing their personal recipes or techniques, this could be a good way to remember them. Gravestone recipes tend to be simple and straightforward, for example, cookies or fudge. These recipes also usually feature on the side or top of the stone, leaving the face of the stone free for more traditional inscriptions, like the person’s name and date of birth and death. 

Image by Arina Krasnikova on Pexels.