What Does This Mortal Coil Mean?

Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil Meaning

Definition: The suffering that accompanies life.

Origin of This Mortal Coil

This expression comes from the play Hamlet, which William Shakespeare wrote around the year 1602. The main character uses it in his soliloquy about whether or not to commit suicide.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

Known as the “to be or not to be” speech, this passage is one of the most famous sections of Shakespeare’s work.

Examples of This Mortal Coil

shuffle off this mortal coil

In this dialogue, two employees are discussing the recent death of a famous singer.

Deanna: Hey, Emily. Did you hear that my favorite singer passed away?

Emily: Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that. What a tragedy.

Deanna: Yeah, it is a tragedy for me, his family, and his fans. But it is probably for the best.

Emily: What do you mean?

Deanna: He was very sick for the past few years, and spoke publicly several times about the horrible pain he was in. I think he was ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Emily: Ah, I see.

Deanna: It’s terrible that it had to end that way, but at least he’s not suffering any more.

Emily: That’s true.

this mortal coil song to the siren In the second example, two baseball players are discussing their recent string of losing games.

Billy: We’ve lost every game so far this season! It’s embarrassing.

Angie: Yeah, but we’ll keep practicing and our team will improve.

Billy: Everything is awful in my life. I hate my job, my family hates me, and now I can’t even win a single baseball game! I can’t go on like this. I want to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Angie: That’s not funny. You shouldn’t joke about suicide over something as trivial as a baseball game.

Billy: That’s true. But it is also true that I feel depressed. It’s not because of the baseball problem, but it certainly doesn’t help.

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression to mean that someone died.

  • Over the spring and summer of 2004, Saddam Hussein went on trial for crimes against humanity, former President Ronald Reagan shuffled off this mortal coil, Michael Phelps won his first eight Olympic medals in Athens and the Boston Red Sox steamrolled toward their first World Series title in 86 years. –Chicago Sun Times

This excerpt is about a movie critic who continued to write until his death.

  • For writers and media companies looking for yet more ways to adjust to the digital tide, Mr. Ebert demonstrated that it is much easier to surf a wave enthusiastically than to crankily swim against it. Great writing, constant reinvention and an excitement about what comes next seem to have done the trick for him. And besides, typing your way off this mortal coil is not a bad way to go. –New York Times


The expression this mortal coil means the troubles that come through living and comes from a speech contemplating suicide in the famous play Hamlet.