Epitaph : What it is and How to Write One

An epitaph is the wording inscribed on a headstone, plaque or memorial, marking someone’s final resting place; they honour the memory of a loved one in a unique and lasting tribute.

Epitaphs can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians but were also used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Their use became more commonplace in the 1700s, and some of these epitaphs may still be visible in churches and cemeteries today.

Deciding on epitaph wording can be difficult. It is an opportunity to personalise their final resting place, and should reflect them and their uniqueness. But should it be something moving and profound, or humorous and light-hearted?


It’s important to discuss and brainstorm ideas with your family when writing an epitaph, whether for you or a loved one. Their feedback and opinions might help you decide on the all-important message.

If writing an epitaph for someone else, consider what they would want – perhaps a Bible verse if they were religious, or a snippet of a favorite poem or song. Avoid anything that might be considered a passing fad or will fade into obscurity.

Epitaphs often reveal something about the deceased legacy, something like Beloved husband, father and friend or Dear daughter, sister, mum and nanny for example. And keep it short – your epitaph may be limited by space and choice of material.

And, perhaps most importantly, take your time – you are setting the words in stone, so make sure you have chosen the right ones. Give yourself (and your family) time to think it through to ensure the epitaph truly represents your loved one.

Planning ahead and writing your own epitaph can take the burden off your loved ones at an already difficult time; it can take the decision out of their hands, but remember to include them in the process.

With a Capital Life Funeral Plan, you can leave your family clear instructions on the type of memorial and the epitaph you want. Contact us or call us on 0800 411 8688 to speak to one of our friendly advisors.

We can also assist with Wills, Inheritance Planning, Probate and LPAs.