June 6, 2024 | Sarah Ng

Unforgettable Last Words From History

Final Words To Remember

For some of the most influential and famous people in history, their last words range from downright depressing to poetic to hilarious. Is this how you would choose to say goodbye?


Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra's last two words were surprisingly devastating: "I'm losing."

Frank Sinatra In Marrage On The Rocks - 1965Wikimedia Commons, Picryl

Leonardo da Vinci

If there was anybody who was a little too hard on themselves, it was Leonardo da Vinci... of all people. His last words were, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” 

Leonardo da VinciAustrian National Library, Picryl

George Orwell

The author George Orwell passed away when he was just 46. The last words he ever wrote were, "At 50, everyone has the face he deserves."

George Orwell factsFlickr, Levan Ramishvili

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger was a birth control advocate. Her final words were, “A party! Let’s have a party.”

Portrait of Margaret Sanger.buttonknee, Flickr

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Even on his deathbed, the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau still knew how to speak his mind... A song was sung for him as he lay dying, and his response was iconic: “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.”

Portrait of Jean-Philippe Rameau - 1764Wikimedia Commons, PIcryl

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov might be known for his famous novelsbut he was also an entomologist. He had a special interest in butterflies, which makes his last words quite poignant: “A certain butterfly is already on the wing.”

Portrait of Vladimir Nabokov - 1973Wikimedia Commons, Picryl

Marie Antoinette

Sentenced to death, Marie Antoinette accidentally stepped on her executioner's foot as she approached the guillotine. Reportedly her last words were, "Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l'ai pas fait exprès," which translates to "Pardon me, sir, I did not do it on purpose."

Marie Antoinette at Madame Tussauds.Mary Harrsch, Flickr

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton's was a big thinker and his (many) last words were epic: “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.”

Go off Newton.

Portrait of Sir Isaac NewtonWellcome Images, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Harriet Tubman

The American abolitionist Harriet Tubman passed of pneumonia in 1913. As she lay dying, her family sang to her. Though some have said her final words were, "Swing low, sweet chariot," other sources claim that she said something after this: “Give my love to the churches. Tell the women to stand firm. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Portrait of Harriet Tubman -1895Weinchrist, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Humphrey Bogart

Actor Humphrey Bogart was married to actress Lauren Bacall. Right before he passed, Bacall was heading out to get their children. Bogart told her, "Goodbye, kid. Hurry back."

Humphrey Bogart looking shocked.John Irving, Flickr

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway took his own life, but prior to doing so, he said three last words to his wife: "Goodnight, my kitten."

Ernest Hemingway sitting at a table writing - 1934National Archives and Records Administration, Picryl

Gustav Mahler

According to his wife, the composer Gustav Mahler's final words were, “Mozart—Mozart!”

Image of Gustav Mahler.Stuart Rankin, Flickr

Joseph Wright

Who edited the English Dialect Dictionary? A linguist named Joseph Wright. This makes his last word incredibly fitting: "Dictionary."

Man writing on paper with quill penFotoDuets, Shutterstock

Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich was a jazz drummer. In 1987, right before going into surgery, a nurse asked him, "Is there anything you can't take?" Rich's last words were downright shady. He quipped, "Yeah, country music."

Buddy Rich playing on drums.Jazz Guy, Flickr

Percy Grainger

Australian composer Percy Grainger's final words were for his wife, Ella: “You’re the only one I like.”

Percy Grainger, pianist and composer - portrait, ca. 1903SLNSW Flickr Stream, Flickr

Bessie Smith

The blues singer Bessie Smith said, "I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”

Portrait of Bessie Smith - 1955janwillemsen, Flickr


“Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” Well... he wasn't wrong.

Michael NostradamusWellcome Images, CC-BY-SA-2.0, Wikimedia Commons

James W. Rodgers

James W. Rodgers was sentenced to execution for being a murderer. In his final moments, he faced down firing squad. When asked if he had a last request, his response was, "Bring me a bullet-proof vest."

James W. Rodgers -  Mugshot 1958Davis, Frank C. , CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle passed away in his garden. His last three words were for his wife: "You are wonderful."

Portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle - 1914Walter Benington, Wikimedia Commons

Michael Landon

Michael Landon, known for his role in Little House on the Prairie, passed in 1991—and his last moments were heart-wrenching. His family was present, and it was his son who assured him that it was time to move on. In response, the actor said, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”

Michael Landon On The Set Of Little House On The PrairieRobert Lachman, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Donald O'Connor

Many know Donald O'Connor best for his role in Singin' in the Rain. He was a natural comedian, and on his deathbed, he had one more quip in him. He told his family, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” 

As of today, the Academy still hasn't given him one.

Studio publicity still of Donald O'Connor - pre 1964Studio publicity still, Wikimedia Commons

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock, the "Master of Suspense," said, “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”

ALFRED HITCHCOCK at work for the film James Vaughan, Flickr

Groucho Marx

As he lay dying, the comedian and actor Groucho Marx said, "This is no way to live!"

Groucho Marx - 1950'smonstersforsale, Flickr

Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman was an artist and filmmaker who was diagnosed with AIDS. He passed at the age of 52, and his last words were, "I want the world to be filled with white fluffy duckies.”

Derek Jarman, Venezia - 1991Gorup de Besanez, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Sir Winston Churchill

The famous British Prime Minister's last words were, "I'm bored with it all."

Winston Churchill during the General Election Campaign in 1945Imperial War Museums, Picryl

Emily Dickinson

True to form, Emily Dickinson's parting words were incredibly poetic: “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

Image of author Emily DickinsonAmherst College, Wikimedia Commons

James Brown

Known as the "Godfather of Soul" and "Mr.Dynamite," James Brown's final words were, "I'm going away tonight."

James Brown performing on stage.Erik Veland, Flickr

Joseph Henry Green

Joseph Henry Green was a surgeon. He uttered his very last word while he was monitoring his pulse: "Stopped."

Portrait of Joseph Henry Green - before 1863Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford was one of Old Hollywood's finest actress's. Apparently, Crawford screamed at her housekeeper as she lay dying, "Damn it! Don't you dare ask God to help me!"

Joan Crawford As Blanche Hudson - 1962Wikimedia Commons, Picryl

Josephine Baker

A party had been held in Josephine Baker's honor—but little did the actress know, this would not only be her last party, but her final night on earth. As she exited the festivities, she reportedly said, “Oh, you young people act like old men. You are no fun.” 

Josephine Baker - Black and White Portrait - 1960Nationaal Archief, Picryl


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