Rigor mortis

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Rigor mortis is a Latin term that some people find confusing. We will examine the definition of the term rigor mortis, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Rigor mortis is a physical stage that a dead body goes through. During rigor mortis, the body becomes stiff in its joints and muscles. A lack of certain chemicals forces the joints and muscles to become stiff. Rigor mortis may set in as early as four hours after death, and last as long as four days. Certain factors affect rigor mortis, including the temperature of the environment, the humidity, and the condition of the muscles in the body. Determination of rigor mortis is often employed in forensic pathology. The term rigor mortis is Latin, and literally means stiffness in death. Occasionally, the term rigor mortis is used metaphorically to mean something is finished or outdated, as if the item being discussed has been dead for a period of time.


Lindberg said the Medical Examiner’s Office estimated that Jefferson, whose body was stiff with full rigor mortis the morning of Oct. 11, had been dead from 12 to 20 hours. (The San Diego Union Tribune)

They found that dying cells triggered the death of their neighbours by sending out calcium, which shoots quickly between cells – first causing rigor mortis, as in humans, and then shooting into the intestine. (The Independent)

Jesus calls this unforgiveable because people who willingly imprison themselves in an ideology wall themselves off from grace and initiate their own rigor mortis. (The National Catholic Reporter)

The usually poetic second act in particular suffered from both clunky pacing and, occasionally, some dippy choreography for the wilis and their queen, Myrtha: though much of the familiar, “original” choreography attributed to Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot is used, the dancers seem to have been coached to move, rather than with a somber austerity, as if partially frozen in a state of rigor mortis. (The Berkshire Eagle)