What Does Dead to the World Mean?

Dead to the World Meaning

Definition: In a very deep sleep.

Origin of Dead to the World

This idiom originated in the 1700s or before, although it had a different meaning at that time. Back then, it had a religious sense. A person who was dead to the world was alive only to God and religious pursuits. In other words, that person was ignoring all worldly things in an effort to be closer to God.

By the late 1800s, this idiom also meant unconscious. Over time, people also began using it to describe sleep from which one could barely be awoken.

By the early 1900s people sometimes used it to describe someone who was extremely inebriated.

Examples of Dead to the World

define dead to the worldIn the dialogue below, two men use the phrase while hanging out at a cafe.

Robert: Where’s Larry? I thought he wanted to join us.

Marty: Yeah, he had planned on coming, but he said he was going to take a nap first. My guess is that he set his alarm and then slept through it.

Robert: Really? Does he sleep that soundly?

Marty: Oh yes. When he falls asleep, he is dead to the world. He once slept through a screaming fire alarm. He only wakes up for work every morning because his wife throws a cup of water on him.

Robert: Wow!

dead to the world originThe second dialogue shows two students who are working on a school project in one of their dorm rooms.

Josh: It’s getting late. I’m not sure we’ll finish this in time for tomorrow’s deadline.

Jeff: I’m sure we can do it if we work through the whole night. If I just take an hour nap, I’ll be able to wake up and complete the rest of the work.

Josh: Oh, okay. I’ll turn off my music so that it doesn’t wake you up.

Jeff: No need. When I nap, I’m dead to the world. I won’t notice your music at all.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about the social media accounts of the deceased.

  • In another era, it was relatively common to take photographs of dead people. In my own family, there are photos of several spectral ancestors, dead to the world, but living on in photos. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is from an article about the possibility of later school start times.

  • “My kids have two alarms in their room. They are dead to the world on mornings. I’m all for changing the times to later,” she said. –Chicago Tribune


The idiom dead to the world is another way to say sleeping so soundly that it is difficult to wake that person up.