Quotes about death

A collection of quotes on the topic of life, sadness, pain, disease.

Best quotes about death

Bob Marley photo
Joseph Stalin photo

„A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.“

—  Joseph Stalin General secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 1879 - 1953

Variants: One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic.
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
When one dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it is a statistic.
In Портрет тирана (1981) (Portrait of a Tyrant), Soviet historian Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko attributes the following version to Stalin: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." This is the alleged response of Stalin during the 1943 Tehran conference when Churchill objected to an early opening of a second front in France.<!-- The book appears to have a footnote sourceing the claim, but I couldn't access it. Could someone please try to scare up a paper copy and have a look at footnote 188? -->
In her review "Mustering Most Memorable Quips" of Konstantin Dushenko's 1997 Dictionary of Modern Quotations (Словарь современных цитат: 4300 ходячих цитат и выражений ХХ века, их источники, авторы, датировка), Julia Solovyova states: "Russian historians have no record of the lines, 'Death of one man is a tragedy. Death of a million is a statistic,' commonly attributed by English-language dictionaries to Josef Stalin."
This quotation may originate from "Französischer Witz" (1925) by Kurt Tucholsky: "Darauf sagt ein Diplomat vom Quai d'Orsay: «Der Krieg? Ich kann das nicht so schrecklich finden! Der Tod eines Menschen: das ist eine Katastrophe. Hunderttausend Tote: das ist eine Statistik!»" ("To which a Quai d'Orsay diplomat replies: «The war? I can't find it so terrible! The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!»")
Another possible source or intermediary may be the concluding words of chapter 8 of the 1956 novel The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque: "Aber das ist wohl so, weil ein einzelner immer der Tod ist — und zwei Millionen immer nur eine Statistik." ("But probably the reason is that one dead man is death—and two million are only a statistic." 1958 Crest Book reprint)
Mary Soames (daughter of Churchill) claims to have overheard Stalin deliver a variant of the quote in immediate postwar Berlin (Remembrance Sunday Andrew Marr interview BBC 2011) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hP2tpw9XEw
See also Jean Rostand, Thoughts of a Biologist, 1939: "Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god."
In an interview given for the 1983 three-part documentary Der Prozeß by Norddeutscher Rundfunk on the Third Majdanek trial, Simon Wiesenthal attributes the quote to the unpublished auto-biography of Adolf Eichmann. According to Wiesenthal, Eichmann had been asked by another member of the Reich Main Security Office during WWII what they should answer would they be questioned after the war about the millions of dead Jews they were responsible for, to which Eichmann according to his own testimony had replied with the quote.
Variant: The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

Martin Luther King, Jr. photo

„A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.“

—  Martin Luther King, Jr. American clergyman, activist, and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement 1929 - 1968

Variant: If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
Source: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kurt Cobain photo

„If you're really a mean person you're going to come back as a fly and eat poop.“

—  Kurt Cobain American musician and artist 1967 - 1994

As quoted in Monk Magazine (1992-10).
Interviews (1989-1994), Print

Franz Kafka photo

„A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.“

—  Franz Kafka author 1883 - 1924

Letter to Oskar Pollak http://www.languagehat.com/archives/001062.php (27 January 1904)
Variant translations:
If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us.
What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.
A book should be an ice-axe to break the frozen sea within us.
A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.
A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.
Variant: A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
Context: I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?... we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.

Tennessee Williams photo
Alexandre Dumas photo

„It's necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.“

—  Alexandre Dumas, book The Count of Monte Cristo

Source: The Count of Monte Cristo

Epictetus photo

„People are strange, they neither wish to live nor die.“

—  Epictetus philosopher from Ancient Greece 50 - 138

Martin Luther King, Jr. photo

„No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for.“

—  Martin Luther King, Jr. American clergyman, activist, and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement 1929 - 1968

Isaiah Berlin photo

„Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.“

—  Isaiah Berlin Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas 1909 - 1997

Related topics

All quotes about death

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Lil Peep photo
Tupac Shakur photo

„My mama always used to tell me: 'If you can't find somethin' to live for, you best find somethin' to die for.“

—  Tupac Shakur rapper and actor 1971 - 1996

Variant: My Mama used to tell me if u can’t find something to live for, you best find something to die for.
Source: Resurrection, 1971-1996

Richard Ramirez photo

„Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.“

—  Richard Ramirez American serial killer 1960 - 2013

Statement to reporters after his death sentences, taken from The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/07/richard-ramirez-night-stalker-dies

George Raymond Richard Martin photo
Hatake Kakashi photo
Johnny Depp photo
Charles Bukowski photo
H.P. Lovecraft photo

„That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.“

—  H.P. Lovecraft, book The Nameless City

Variant: That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
Source: The Nameless City

Pablo Neruda photo
Jane Goodall photo
Freddie Mercury photo

„We’re gonna stay together until we die, I’m sure of it.“

—  Freddie Mercury British singer, songwriter and record producer 1946 - 1991

Context: You know something? There's been a lot of rumors lately about a certain band called Queen. The rumors are that... The rumors are that we're gonna split up. What do you think? [audience replies "No!"] [Pointing to his posterior] They're talking from here! [audience replies "Yes"! ] My apologies, but I say what I want. You know what I mean? So forget those rumors. We’re gonna stay together until we die, I’m sure of it. I keep — I must tell you — I keep wanting to leave, but they won’t let me. Also, I suppose we’re not... We're not bad for four aging queens, are we? Really, what do you think?

"Queen: Live at Wembley" (1986), shortly before performing "Who Wants To Live Forever." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GNJ1SQpxFI

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien photo
Vincent Van Gogh photo

„Someday death will take us to another star.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh Dutch post-Impressionist painter (1853-1890) 1853 - 1890

Charles Manson photo

„Death is the greatest form of love.“

—  Charles Manson American criminal and musician 1934 - 2017

Michael Jackson photo

„Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war?
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying earth, these weeping shores?“

—  Michael Jackson American singer, songwriter and dancer 1958 - 2009

Earth Song
HIStory: Past, Present & Future, Book I (1995)

Mwanandeke Kindembo photo
Mwanandeke Kindembo photo
Vladimir Lenin photo
Ernesto Che Guevara photo

„We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.“

—  Ernesto Che Guevara Argentine Marxist revolutionary 1928 - 1967

As quoted in Wise Guys : Brilliant Thoughts and Big Talk from Real Men (2005) by Allan Zullo, p. 36

Anaïs Nin photo
Paul Watson photo

„It's dangerous & humiliating. The whalers killed whales while green peace watched. Now, you don't walk by a child that is being abused, you don't walk by a kitten that is being kicked to death and do nothing. So I find it abhorrent to sit there and watch a whale being slaughtered and do nothing but "bear witness" as they call it. I think it was best illustrated a few years ago, the contradictions that we have, when a ranger in Zimbabwe shot and killed a poacher that was about to kill a black rhinoceros and uh human rights groups around the world said "how dare you? Take a human life to protect an animal". I think the rangers' answer to that really illustrated a hypocrisy. He said "Ya know, if I lived in, If I was a police officer in Herrari and a man ran out of Bark Place Bank with a bag of money and I shot him in the head in front of everybody and killed him, you'd pin a medal on me and call me a national hero. Why is that bag of paper more valued than the future heritage of this nation?" This is our values. WE fight, WE kill, WE risk our lives for things we believe in… Imagine going into Mecca, walk up to the black stone and spit on it. See how far you get. You’re not going to get very far. You’re going to be torn to pieces. Walk into Jerusalem, walk up to that wailing wall with a pick axe, start whacking away. See how far you’re going to get, somebody is going to put a bullet in your back. And everybody will say you deserved it. Walk into the Vatican with a hammer, start smashing a few statues. See how far you’re going to get. Not very far. But each and every day, ya know, people go into the most beautiful, most profoundly sacred cathedrals of this planet, the rainforests of the Amazonia, the redwood forests of California, the rainforests of Indonesia, and totally desecrate & destroy these cathedrals with bulldozers, chainsaws and how do we respond to that? Oh, we write a few letters and protest; we dress up in animal costumes with picket signs and jump up and down; but if the rainforests of Amazonia and redwoods of California, were as, or had as much value to us as a chunk of old meteorite in Mecca, a decrepit old wall in Jerusalem or a piece of old marble in the Vatican, we would literally rip those pieces limb from limb for the act of blasphemy that we’re committing but we won’t do that because nature is an abstraction, wilderness is an abstraction. It has no value in our anthropocentric world where the only thing we value is that which is created by humans.“

—  Paul Watson Canadian environmental activist 1950

Nas photo

„I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death“

—  Nas American rapper, record producer and entrepreneur 1973

N.Y. State of Mind
On Albums, Illmatic (1994)

„Trapped in life, only escape I know is death.“

—  E.M.S Nigerian rapper, singer and record producer 1995


Sophie Scholl photo

„Such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives… What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted. Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt.“

—  Sophie Scholl White Rose member 1921 - 1943

As quoted by Else Gebel, in letter to Robert Scholl (November, 1946). Original German text. http://www.mythoselser.de/texts/scholl-gebel.htm

Mwanandeke Kindembo photo
Emil M. Cioran photo
Marilyn Manson photo
Marilyn Manson photo

„The death of one is a tragedy, but death of a million is just a statistic.“

—  Marilyn Manson American rock musician and actor 1969

Being from Manson's Fight Song of Holy Wood, this is actually a quote from German writer Erich Maria Remarque, also often misattributed to Josef Stalin.

Martin Heidegger photo
Frida Kahlo photo
Bill Gates photo

„If you're born poor it's not your fault, but if you die poor it's your fault.“

—  Bill Gates American business magnate and philanthropist 1955

Quoted in various publications, without any further sourcing. The quote is dubious in view of the Gates Foundation's public mission, "to lift people out of hunger and extreme poverty." Gates was born to an affluent family.

Robert A. Heinlein photo
Henry Miller photo
Joseph Goebbels photo
Mehmed II photo
Emil M. Cioran photo

„We must live, you used to say, as if we were never going to die. - Didn't you know that's how everyone lives, including those obsessed with Death?“

—  Emil M. Cioran Romanian philosopher and essayist 1911 - 1995

Drawn and Quartered (1983)

Witold Pilecki photo

„I've been trying to live my life so that in the hour of my death I would rather feel joy, than fear.“

—  Witold Pilecki World War II concentration camp leader and resistor 1901 - 1948

After the announcement of the death sentence.
Source: Bartłomiej Kuraś, Witold Pilecki – w Auschwitzu z własnej woli, „Ale Historia”, w: „Gazeta Wyborcza”, 22 kwietnia 2013.

Ghani Khan photo
Emil M. Cioran photo

„The desire to die was my one and only concern; to it I have sacrificed everything, even death.“

—  Emil M. Cioran Romanian philosopher and essayist 1911 - 1995

All Gall Is Divided (1952)

Avicenna photo

„An ignorant doctor is the aide-de-camp of death.“

—  Avicenna medieval Persian polymath, physician, and philosopher 980 - 1037

As quoted in Familiar Medical Quotations (1968) by Maurice B. Strauss

Dilma Rousseff photo

„Any comparison between the military dictatorship and democracy can only come from those who do not value the Brazilian democracy. (…) I am proud to have lied. Lying under torture is not easy. In the face of torture, a person with dignity lies. Enduring torture is very difficult (…) The pain is unbearable; you can not imagine how. I am proud to have lied, because I saved my comrades from the same torture and from death.“

—  Dilma Rousseff 36th President of Brazil 1947

Responding http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tiyezo1fLRs to Senator José Agripino Maia - former member of ARENA, ruling party of the military dictatorship - in a Senate hearing, May 7. He suggested that, for having lied when she was interrogated by the political police, she could also have been lying about the leak of data of Fernando Henrique Cardoso's personal expenditures.

Sappho photo
Alexis Karpouzos photo
Mwanandeke Kindembo photo
Frida Kahlo photo
Ludwig Wittgenstein photo
John Lennon photo
Alfred North Whitehead photo
Thomas Wolfe photo
Tupac Shakur photo
Tupac Shakur photo

„Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.“

—  Tupac Shakur rapper and actor 1971 - 1996

Variant: Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.

Marcus Aurelius photo
John Lydon photo
Jim Morrison photo
Aleister Crowley photo
Charles Bukowski photo
Swami Vivekananda photo
Lin Yutang photo
Eckhart Tolle photo
Sylvia Plath photo
Anne Frank photo

„I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death!“

—  Anne Frank victim of the Holocaust and author of a diary 1929 - 1945

5 April 1944
The Diary of a Young Girl (1942 - 1944)
Original: (nl) Ik moet iets hebben naast man en kinderen waar ik me aan wijden kan! O ja, ik wil niet zoals de meeste mensen voor niets geleefd hebben. Ik wil van nut of plezier zijn voor de mensen, die om mij heen leven en die mij toch niet kennen.
Variant: I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met.

Frida Kahlo photo
Kurt Cobain photo
Tupac Shakur photo
Terry Pratchett photo
Ludwig Wittgenstein photo
Frank Zappa photo

„Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.“

—  Frank Zappa American musician, songwriter, composer, and record and film producer 1940 - 1993

'Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)
Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)
Variant: Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny

Norman Cousins photo

„Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live.“

—  Norman Cousins American journalist 1915 - 1990

Quoted in History of Sikh Struggles (1989) by Gurmit Singh, p. 189.

Madeline Miller photo
Erich von Manstein photo
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky photo
Emil M. Cioran photo

„There is no one whose death I have not longed for, at one moment or another.“

—  Emil M. Cioran Romanian philosopher and essayist 1911 - 1995

Drawn and Quartered (1983)

Socrates photo

„If, I say now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to fulfill the philosopher's mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods… then I would be fancying that I was wise when I was not wise. For this fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being the appearance of knowing the unknown; since no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. …this is the point in which, as I think, I am superior to men in general, and in which I might perhaps fancy myself wiser than other men — that whereas I know but little of the world below, I do not suppose that I know: but I do know that injustice and disobedience to a better, whether God or man, is evil and dishonorable, and I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.“

—  Socrates classical Greek Athenian philosopher -470 - -399 BC

Alternate translation: "To fear death, is nothing else but to believe ourselves to be wise, when we are not; and to fancy that we know what we do not know. In effect, no body knows death; no body can tell, but it may be the greatest benefit of mankind; and yet men are afraid of it, as if they knew certainly that it were the greatest of evils."
Plato, Apology

Sitting Bull photo

„I have killed, robbed, and injured too many white men to believe in a good peace. They are medicine, and I would eventually die a lingering death. I had rather die on the field of battle.“

—  Sitting Bull Hunkpapa Lakota medicine man and holy man 1831 - 1890

Recorded by Charles Larpenteur at Fort Union in 1867. Published in Utley, Robert M. The Lance and the Shield. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1993. p. 73.

Oswald Mosley photo
Emil M. Cioran photo
Erich von Manstein photo
Shirin Ebadi photo

„Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear from birth to death, but I have learned to overcome my fear.“

—  Shirin Ebadi Iranian lawyer, human rights activist, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient 1947

From 1999 interview.
Noted in the October 2003 BBC News profile of Ebadi. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3181992.stm (retrieved Oct. 15, 2008)

Haruki Murakami photo
Diogenes of Sinope photo

„The noblest people are those despising wealth, learning, pleasure and life; esteeming above them poverty, ignorance, hardship and death.“

—  Diogenes of Sinope ancient Greek philosopher, one of the founders of the Cynic philosophy -404 - -322 BC

Stobaeus, iv. 29a. 19
Quoted by Stobaeus

Grigori Rasputin photo

„I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st. I wish to make known to the Russian people, to Papa, to the Russian Mother and to the children, to the land of Russia, what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins, and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you, Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, remain on your throne and govern, and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia. But if I am murdered by boyars, nobles, and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood, for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other and hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no noblers in the country. Tsar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death then no one of your family, that is to say, none of your children or relations will remain alive for more than two years. They will be killed by the Russian people…I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living. Pray, pray, be strong, think of your blessed family.“

—  Grigori Rasputin Russian mystic 1869 - 1916

Grigory Rasputin in a letter to the Tsarina Alexandra, 7 Dec 1916

Tupac Shakur photo

„The only thing that can kill me is death, that's the only thing that can ever stop me, is death, and even then my music will live forever.“

—  Tupac Shakur rapper and actor 1971 - 1996

1990s, Prison interviews and interrogations (1995)

Thomas More photo

„I think putting thieves to death is not lawful; and it is plain and obvious that it is absurd and of ill consequence to the commonwealth that a thief and a murderer should be equally punished“

—  Thomas More, book Utopia

Source: Utopia (1516), Ch. 1 : Discourses of Raphael Hythloday, of the Best State of a Commonwealth
Context: I think putting thieves to death is not lawful; and it is plain and obvious that it is absurd and of ill consequence to the commonwealth that a thief and a murderer should be equally punished; for if a robber sees that his danger is the same if he is convicted of theft as if he were guilty of murder, this will naturally incite him to kill the person whom otherwise he would only have robbed; since, if the punishment is the same, there is more security, and less danger of discovery, when he that can best make it is put out of the way; so that terrifying thieves too much provokes them to cruelty.

Julius Caesar photo
Marina Abramović photo
Kurt Cobain photo

„I Hate Myself And I Want To Die.“

—  Kurt Cobain American musician and artist 1967 - 1994

Al Capone photo
Alexis Karpouzos photo
Mwanandeke Kindembo photo
Mwanandeke Kindembo photo
John Wayne photo
Mitch Albom photo
Osamu Tezuka photo
Sylvia Plath photo

„I have a violence in me that is hot as death-blood.“

—  Sylvia Plath American poet, novelist and short story writer 1932 - 1963

Source: The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath photo

„What I fear most, I think, is the death of the imagination.“

—  Sylvia Plath American poet, novelist and short story writer 1932 - 1963

Homér photo
Neville Goddard photo
Ernest Hemingway photo