Verb > Mortify

Verb – Mortify

The word “mortify” comes from two Latin ones: mors, “death,” and facere, “to make or do.” So, its oldest and most literal meaning is “to make dead, to kill.

From there, it grew to mean “to destroy,” “to ruin,” and, by about 1639, it gained the meaning we use most often today: “to shame or embarrass terribly.

In other words, to mortify someone is to make them feel extremely embarrassed.

Part of speech:

It’s a verb, the transitive kind: “the picture mortified him,” “they were mortified by their mistake.”

Other forms:

Mortified, mortifying, mortification.

And it’s rare, but you can refer to the things or people who embarrass you to death as “mortifiers.”

how to use it:
When you’re talking about being embarrassed to death–that is, so red-faced that you nearly wish you could die–then pick the word “mortify” instead of tamer options like “shame,” “disgrace,” “embarrass,” “humiliate,” and “make a complete fool of.”

We most often use this verb in the passive: “he was mortified by it,” “they were mortified when that happened,” “I’d be mortified if that happened to me.”

“As a male surgeon, I am mortified that the profession allows my female colleagues to be treated like second-class citizens.”
— Chethan Sathya, Scientific American, 14 January 2020

“Johnson so fortified himself with whiskey on taking his oath of office for the vice presidency that his rambling, drunken speech mortified all who were present.”
— Manisha Sinha, New York Times, 29 November 2019