AskDefine | Define mourning

Dictionary Definition

mourning adj : sorrowful through loss or deprivation; "bereft of hope" [syn: bereaved, bereft, grief-stricken, grieving, mourning(a), sorrowing(a)]


1 state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one [syn: bereavement]
2 the passionate and demonstrative activity of expressing grief [syn: lamentation]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Gerund form of mourn; an act of mourning.


an act of mourning


  1. present participle of mourn

Extensive Definition

Mourning is, in the simplest sense, synonymous with grief over the death of someone. The word is also used to describe a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate. Customs vary between different cultures and evolve over time, though many core behaviors remain constant.
Wearing dark, sombre clothes is one practice followed in many countries, though other forms of dress are also seen. Those most affected by the loss of a loved one often observe a period of grieving, marked by withdrawal from social events and quiet, respectful behavior. People may also follow certain religious traditions for such occasions.
Mourning may also apply to the death of, or anniversary of the passing of, an important individual like a local leader, monarch, religious figure etc. State mourning may occur on such an occasion. In recent years some traditions have given way to less strict practices, though many customs and traditions continue to be followed.

Social customs and dress

Continental Europe

The custom of wearing unadorned black clothing for mourning dates back at least to the Roman Empire, when the Toga pulla made of dark-colored wool was worn during periods of mourning.
Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, distinctive mourning was worn for general as well as personal loss; after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Huguenots in France, Elizabeth I of England and her court are said to have dressed in full mourning to receive the French Ambassador.
Women in mourning and widows wore distinctive black caps and veils, generally in a conservative version of the current fashion.
In rural areas of Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece widows will wear black for the rest of their lives. The immediate family members of the deceased will wear black for an extended period of time.

White mourning

The colour of deepest mourning among medieval European queens was white rather than black. This tradition survived in Spain until the end of the fifteenth century, and was again practiced by the Spanish-born Belgian Queen Fabiola of King Baudouin's funeral. It was the custom for the Queens of France to wear deuil blanc or "white mourning"; this is the origin of the white wardrobe created by Norman Hartnell for Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, in 1938, when Elizabeth was required to make a state visit to France while in mourning for her mother.

United Kingdom

Nowadays there is no special dress or behaviour required for those in mourning and even the wearing of black at funerals is in decline. Traditionally however there were strict social rules to be observed.
By the 19th century, mourning behaviour in England had developed into a complex set of rules, particularly among the upper classes. Women bore the greatest burden of these customs. They involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe. The entire ensemble was colloquially known as widow's weeds (from the Old English "Waed" meaning "garment").
Special caps and bonnets, usually in black or other dark colours, went with these ensembles. There was even special mourning jewellery, often made of jet or the hair of the deceased. The wealthy could also wear cameos or lockets designed to hold a lock of the deceased's hair or some similar relic.
Mourning generally followed English forms. In the antebellum South, with social mores that rivaled those of England, mourning was just as strictly observed. The sequence in the book and film of Gone with the Wind in which Scarlett O’Hara scandalizes the attendees at a ball by accepting Rhett Butler’s invitation to dance, despite the fact that she is in mourning for her late husband, accurately reflects the social customs of the time.
Victorian mourning could be quite expensive. At the end of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy explains to Glinda that she must return home because her aunt and uncle can not afford to go into mourning for her.
The loss of the male head of the family had serious ramifications for American Indian widows; mourning among some tribes included the act of cutting off of a finger.


Bark cloth, a rough traditional fabric, was worn in some communities to denote that family members were in mourning. White garments are also used; following the advent of Christianity, black garments were worn, following European custom.


In Ethiopia, an edir is a traditional community organization in which the members assist each other during the mourning process. Members make monthly financial contributions forming the Edir's fund and they will be entitled to receive a certain sum of money from this fund, the rate of which varies based on how close the deceased is to the Edir member. The purpose for such payment is to help cover the funeral and other expenses associated with the death. In addition, female members of the Edir take turns to do the house work like preparing food for the mourning family and people coming to comfort them. Usually, the male members take the responsibility to arrange the funeral, erect a temporary tent to shelter guests who come to visit the mourning family. Edir members are also required to stay with the mourning family and comfort them for three full days.

State & Official mourning


  • Charles Spencer, Cecil Beaton: Stage and Film Designs, London: Academy Editions, 1975 (no ISBN)
mourning in Arabic: حداد (حزن)
mourning in German: Trauer
mourning in Spanish: Luto
mourning in Esperanto: funebro
mourning in French: Deuil
mourning in Korean: 애도
mourning in Italian: Lutto
mourning in Dutch: Rouw
mourning in Japanese: 喪
mourning in Polish: żałoba
mourning in Portuguese: luto
mourning in Russian: Траур
mourning in Walloon: Doû (pol moirt)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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