Shuffle off this mortal coil

  • Shuffle off this mortal coil is an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase shuffle off this mortal coil, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    To shuffle off this mortal coil means to die. The expression mortal coil refers to the trials and tribulations of life. To shuffle off this mortal coil means to rid oneself of the trials and tribulations of life, and the only way to truly do that is to die. The idiom to shuffle off this mortal coil was coined by William Shakespeare and may be found in the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy in his play, Hamlet: “What dreames may come, When we haue shufflel’d off this mortall coile, Must giue vs pawse.” Other phrases that originated in this celebrated speech are the undiscovered country, there’s the rub, perchance to dream, and what dreams may come. Related phrases are shuffles off this mortal coil, shuffled off this mortal coil, shuffling off this mortal coil.



    Here, death is bureaucratic and full of paperwork, and Thomas has been deemed insufficiently dead, lacking the appropriate exit narrative to fully shuffle off this mortal coil. (USA Today)

    For readers who have planned to pass on an IRA, Congress thoughtfully gave you 12 days to shuffle off this mortal coil. (The Wall Street Journal)

    The authors tout the collection of death stories as “the first comprehensive study of the phenomenon of performing artists who shuffle off this mortal coil mid-song, mid-solo, mid-concert.” (LA Weekly)

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