Last words or final words are a person's final articulated words said prior to death or as death approaches.
Quotations of last words may not be the words spoken immediately before death, as these tend to reflect the mode of death. Last words may not be written down and accurately recorded, and they may not be quoted accurately for a variety of reasons.
Famous last words include both the literal sense such as the sayings of Jesus on the cross, "Et tu, Brute?" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and Oscar Wilde's "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go", and the ironical sense of words said before a disaster, such as:
- "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!" General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House immediately before being killed by enemy fire.
- "Let all brave Prussians follow me!" Field Marshal Kurt Christoph Graf von Schwerin at the Battle of Prague, immediately before getting hit in the head by a cannonball.
- "Don't worry, it's not loaded." Terry Kath of the band Chicago, just before putting a pistol to his temple and pulling the trigger.
- "Aw, no one's gonna shoot at me." Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of John F. Kennedy, moments before getting shot by Jack Ruby.
The last words reported to have been uttered by a person revered as a martyr or hero of a religious, nationalist, or revolutionary movement often gain a political significance and are extensively quoted in later literature and/or used as a slogan. However, in many such cases their historical authenticity is doubted.
- Last meal
- Death poem
- Final statement, or gallows speech, often afforded to a prisoner about to be executed
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