65 People and Their Famous Last Words (2024)

Poignant, funny, sad, weird, or mean—last words can make quite the impact as we shuffle off the stage of life. Here are 65 notable examples.

Wright, a linguist, edited the English Dialect Dictionary. His last word? “Dictionary.”

2. Raphael

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Italian artist Raphael’s last word was simply “happy.”

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Composer Gustav Mahler died in bed, conducting an imaginary orchestra. His last word was “Mozart!”

4. Bessie Smith

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Blues singer Bessie Smith died saying, “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”

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Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau objected to a song sung at his bedside. He said, “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.”

6. Frank Sinatra

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Ol’ Blue Eyes died after saying, “I’m losing.”

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George Orwell’s last written words were, “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” The 1984 author—whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair—died at age 46.

8. William Seward

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William Henry Seward, U.S. secretary of state and architect of the Alaska Purchase, was asked if he had any final words. He replied, “Nothing, only ‘love one another.’”

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Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre turned to his partner Simone de Beauvoir and said, “I love you very much, my dear Beaver” (her nickname, which was based partly on her surname and partly on her busy work ethic).

10. Margaret Sanger

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Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger’s last words were, “A party! Let’s have a party.”

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The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “I don’t want the doctor’s death. I want to have my own freedom.”

12. Nostradamus

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Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right.

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Author Vladimir Nabokov was also an entomologist, particularly interested in butterflies. His last words: “A certain butterfly is already on the wing.”

14. Herman Melville

Moby-Dick author Herman Melville died saying, “God bless Captain Vere!” referencing his then-unpublished novel Billy Budd, found in a breadbox after he died.

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Marie Antoinette stepped on her executioner’s foot on her way to the guillotine. Her last words: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.”

16. Richard B. Mellon

Richard B. Mellon, a multimillionaire, was the president of Alcoa. He and his brother Andrew had a little game of tag going for about seven decades. When Richard was on his deathbed, he called his brother over and whispered, “Last tag.” Andrew remained “it” for four years, until he died.

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When Harriet Tubman was dying in 1913, she gathered her family around and they sang together; some have said her last words were “Swing low, sweet chariot.” But there was an exchange of words after the beautiful musical moment. Her actual last words were, “Give my love to the churches. Tell the women to stand firm. I go to prepare a place for you.”

18. Isaac Newton

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When Sir Isaac Newton died, he was humble. He said, “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

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Leonardo da Vinci was also overly modest, saying, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” The Mona Lisa isn’t good enough?

20. Louise-Marie-Thérèse de Saint Maurice

The Comtesse de Vercellis let one rip while she was dying. She said, “Good. A woman who can fart is not dead.”

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Drummer Buddy Rich died after surgery in 1987. As he was being prepped for surgery, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” Rich replied, “Yeah, country music.”

22. Johnny Ace

Johnny Ace, an R&B singer, died in 1954 while playing with a pistol during a break in his concert set. His last words were, “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.”

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The physicist, author, musician, professor, and traveler died in Los Angeles in 1988. His last words? “This dying is boring.”

24. Benjamin Franklin

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As Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84, his daughter told him to change position in bed so he could breathe more easily. Franklin’s last words were, “A dying man can do nothing easy.”

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Albert Abraham Michelson dedicated his life to measuring the speed of light and was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Even as he was dying at age 78, he was measuring light. He wrote in his log: “The following is a report on the measurement of the velocity of light made at the Irvine Ranch, near Santa Ana, California, during the period of September 1929 to—.”

26. Thomas B. Moran

Thomas B. Moran was a pickpocket, known by the nickname “Butterfingers.” He reportedly stole as many as 50,000 wallets in his career. He died in Miami in 1971, and his last words were, “I’ve never forgiven that smart-alecky reporter who named me Butterfingers. To me, it’s not funny.”

Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”

28. Charles “Lucky” Luciano

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Lucky Luciano was a mob leader who helped the U.S. work with the Sicilian Mafia during World War II in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. His last words were, “Tell Georgie I want to get in the movies one way or another.” And it worked: His life story is told in the movies Lucky Luciano, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, and many more.

John Arthur Spenkelink was executed in Florida in 1979. He spent his final days writing these last words on various pieces of mail: “Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.”

30. Thomas J. Grasso

Convicted murderer Thomas J. Grasso used his last words to complain about his last meal. He said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, died at age 71 in his garden. He turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and died.

32. T.S. Eliot

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Writer T.S. Eliot was only able to whisper one word as he died: “Valerie,” the name of his wife.

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Actor and comedian W.C. Fields died in 1946. His last words: “God damn the whole friggin’ world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.” He was speaking to Carlotta Monti, his longtime mistress.

34. Percy Grainger

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Percy Grainger was an Australian composer who, with his dying words, told his wife Ella, “You’re the only one I like.”

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Actor Michael Landon, best known for Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, died of cancer in 1991. His family gathered around his bed, and his son said it was time to move on. Landon said, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”

36. Vince Lombardi

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Football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer in 1970. As he died, Lombardi turned to his wife Marie and said, “Happy anniversary. I love you.”

O.O. McIntyre was an American reporter. He died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”

38. Edward R. Murrow

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When he was 57, Edward R. Murrow died while patting his wife’s hand. He said, “Well, Jan, we were lucky at that.”

John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

40. Humphrey Bogart

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Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall had to leave the house to pick up their kids. Bogart said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” Not quite, “Here's looking at you, kid,” but close.

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Before Ernest Hemingway died by suicide, he told his wife Mary, “Goodnight, my kitten.”

42. Donald O’Connor

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O'Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor known for his role in Singin' in the Rain. He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O’Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill was born in a room at the Broadway Hotel on what is now Times Square. He died at age 65 in a Boston hotel. His last words? “I knew it! I knew it! Born in a hotel room and, goddamn it, dying in a hotel room.”

44. Jack Soo

Jack Soo was an actor on the TV series Barney Miller. On the show, there was a running gag about Soo’s character making crappy coffee in the office. Soo developed cancer of the esophagus, and when was being wheeled into an operating room, he joked to Barney Miller co-star Hal Linden, “It must have been the coffee.” In a tribute episode, cast members raised coffee cups in Soo’s memory.

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Josephine Baker knew how to party. She sang, danced, and acted. She adopted a dozen kids and lived in Paris. On the last night of her life, she left a party being held in her honor, saying, “Oh, you young people act like old men. You are no fun.” Baker’s remains were entombed in Monaco after her 1975 death; in late 2021, she became the first Black woman to be inducted into the Panthéon. (According to The New York Times, “The coffin carried soil from the United States, France and Monaco—places that shaped Ms. Baker’s life. Her body, at the request of the family, will stay in Monaco.”)

46. Charles Gussman

Gussman was a writer and TV announcer who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When his daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor—.”

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When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!”

48. Chico Marx

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Groucho’s brother Leonard, who was better known as Chico Marx, gave instructions to his wife as his last words: “Remember, Honey, don’t forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick, and a pretty blonde.” A “mashie niblick” is a type of golf club.

Wilson Mizner was best known for his bon mots—including the line, “Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll meet the same people on the way down”—though he was a successful playwright, too. When Mizner was on his deathbed, a priest said, “I’m sure you want to talk to me.” Mizner told the priest, “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.”

50. Alfred Hitchco*ck

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As he was dying, Alfred Hitchco*ck said, “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”

Basketball great “Pistol" Pete Maravich collapsed during a pickup game. His last words: “I feel great.”

52. Vladimir Lenin

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Vladimir Ilych Lenin’s last words were, “Good dog.” (Technically, he said vot sobaka.) He said this to a dog that brought him a dead bird.

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Blues guitarist Huddie William Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, said, “Doctor, if I put this here guitar down now, I ain’t never gonna wake up.” And he was right.

54. Thomas Fantet de Lagny

Thomas Fantet de Lagny was a mathematician. On his deathbed, he was asked, “What is the square of 12?” His last words: “One hundred and forty-four.”

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Derek Jarman was an artist, writer, and filmmaker. His last words were “I want the world to be filled with white fluffy duckies.”

56. Winston Churchill

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Sir Winston Churchill’s last words were, “I’m bored with it all.”

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Actress Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, who was praying as Crawford died. Crawford said, “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”

58. Bo Diddley

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Bo Diddley died giving a thumbs-up as he listened to the song “Walk Around Heaven.” His last word was “Wow.”

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Baseball player “Moe” Berg’s last words: “How did the Mets do today?” (For the record, they won.)

60. Emily Dickinson

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The poet’s last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.” Nearly as poetic as “Because I could not stop for Death – / He kindly stopped for me – / The Carriage held but just Ourselves – / And Immortality.”

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As Truman Capote—who was known to throw some pretty fierce insults—lay dying, he repeated, “Mama—Mama—Mama.”

62. James Brown

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The hardest-working man in show business said, “I’m going away tonight.”

Surgeon Joseph Henry Green was checking his own pulse as he lay dying. His last word: “Stopped.”

64. Steve Jobs

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According to Steve Jobs’s sister Mona, the Apple founder’s last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

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In her 2014 memoir, Ginger Alden revealed then-fiancé Elvis Presley’s final words before his death in 1977. During a night of sleeplessness, Presley told Alden, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.”

Source: Last Words of Notable People: Final Words of More than 3500 Noteworthy People Throughout History

A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.

65 People and Their Famous Last Words (2024)

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