65 People and Their Famous Last Words

“I’m going to the bathroom to read.”
Elvis Presley, Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford, and James Brown.
Elvis Presley, Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford, and James Brown. / From left: Liaison/Getty Images, Estate of Emil Bieber/Klaus Niermann/Getty Images, Avalon/Getty Images, Neale Haynes/Getty Images

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.

1. Joseph Wright

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

2. Raphael

Raffaello Sanzio D'Urbano, Raffael
Raphael. / brandstaetter images/GettyImages

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

3. Gustav Mahler

Portrait of Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler. / Michael Nicholson/GettyImages

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

4. Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith. / Library of Congress/GettyImages

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

5. Jean-Philippe Rameau

Portrait Of The Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). Creator: Lemoine
Jean-Philippe Rameau. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

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

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra. / Herbert Dorfman/GettyImages

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

7. George Orwell

George Orwell
George Orwell. / adoc-photos/GettyImages

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

William Henry Seward
William H Seward. / Henry Guttmann Collection/GettyImages

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.’”

9. Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre. / brandstaetter images/GettyImages

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

Margaret Louise Sanger
Margaret Louise Sanger. / Library of Congress/GettyImages

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

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11. Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke. / brandstaetter images/GettyImages

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

12. Nostradamus

Portrait of Nostradamus
Nostradamus. / Photo Josse/Leemage/GettyImages

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

13. Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov, Russian author, 20th century.
Vladimir Nabokov. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

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

Portrait of Author Herman Melville
Herman Melville. / Historical/GettyImages

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.

15. Marie Antoinette

Portrait of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun
Marie Antoinette. / Photo Josse/Leemage/GettyImages

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.

17. Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

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

Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton by Sir Geoffrey Kneller
Sir Isaac Newton. / Fine Art/GettyImages

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.”

19. Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci. / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

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.”

21. Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich. / Evening Standard/GettyImages

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.”

23. Richard Feynman

Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman. / Kevin Fleming/GettyImages

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

24. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis
Benjamin Franklin. / Fine Art/GettyImages

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.”

25. Albert Abraham Michelson

Physicist Albert Michelson
Albert Michelson. / Historical/GettyImages

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.”

27. James W. Rodgers

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

Charles ''Lucky'' Luciano
Charles ''Lucky'' Luciano. / National Archives/GettyImages

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.

29. John Arthur Spenkelink

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.”

31. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. / Hulton Deutsch/GettyImages

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

T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot. / Hulton Deutsch/GettyImages

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

33. W.C. Fields

W.C. Fields
W.C. Fields. / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

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

Percy Grainger
Percy Grainger. / Keystone/GettyImages

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

35. Michael Landon

Michael Landon
Michael Landon. / Kypros/GettyImages

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

Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi. / Paul Fine/GettyImages

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.”

37. O.O. McIntyre

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

Host of See It Now, Edward Murrow
Edward R. Murrow. / John Springer Collection/GettyImages

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

39. John Wayne

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

Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart. / Baron/GettyImages

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.

41. Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway. / Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/GettyImages

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

42. Donald O’Connor

Donald O'Connor
Donald O' Connor. / Steve Burton/GettyImages

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.

43. Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O'Neill
Eugene O'Neill. / Keystone/GettyImages

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.

45. Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker. / General Photographic Agency/GettyImages

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—.”

47. Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx
Groucho Marx. / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

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

48. Chico Marx

Chico Marx
Chico Marx. / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

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.

49. Wilson Mizner

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 Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock. / Peter Dunne/GettyImages

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

51. Pete Maravich

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

52. Vladimir Lenin

Lenin Speaking in Red Square, 1918
Vladimir Lenin. / Hulton Deutsch/GettyImages

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.

53. Lead Belly

Leadbelly. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

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.”

55. Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman. / Leon Morris/GettyImages

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

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill. / Keystone/GettyImages

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

57. Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford. / William Lovelace/GettyImages

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

Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley. / Michael Ochs Archives/GettyImages

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

59. Moe Berg

Moe Berg
Moe Berg. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

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

60. Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson c. 1846
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson. / Culture Club/GettyImages

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.”

61. Truman Capote

Truman Capote
Truman Capote. / Keystone/GettyImages

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

62. James Brown

James Brown
James Brown. / Neale Haynes/GettyImages

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

63. Joseph Henry Green

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

64. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs. / Justin Sullivan/GettyImages

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

65. Elvis Presley

Singer Elvis Presley...
Elvis Presley. / Getty Images/GettyImages

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.