Posted by: Dutch | March 4, 2010

Give up the ghost

Meaning

To die, or in the case of inanimate objects, to cease working.

Origin

There are many uses of this phrase in the Bible, including Acts 12:23 (King James Version: “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.”

The metaphorical use of the phrase, i.e. in relation to something not living and not able to become a ghost, is 19th century. For example, James Kirke Paulding’s, Westward Ho!, 1832, includes:

“At length it gave up the ghost, and, like an over-cultivated intellect, became incurably barren.”

– Sincerest thanks to Gary Martin of The Phrase Finder

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