It’s one of the most commonly used abbreviations in our culture—RIP, or rest in peace. Not only do you notice it on headstones, but you often see it employed on social media following the death of a loved one, friend, or celebrity. Have you ever stopped to wonder, though, where this abbreviation came from?
Something that may surprise you is that those three letters haven’t always stood for rest in peace. Initially, the acronym represented a Latin phrase—requiescat in pace, which means "may [the person who has died] rest in peace.” This phrase goes back at least as far as the 8th Century when it became commonly used on Christian gravestones. In these early days, Christians intended the phrase as a kind of prayer—a request for God to be merciful to the deceased person, and for the departed soul to find eternal rest.
Eventually, of course, that Latin phrase was whittled down to three little letters; RIP became a common inscription on headstones back in the early 1600s, and it wasn’t long before its meaning was translated from Latin into English.
While the abbreviation has Christian origins, its meaning has become fairly widespread in Western culture; it represents a non-sectarian wish for the deceased to be afforded respect and for their passing to be acknowledged by well-wishers.
As you consider RIP and other ways to signify the death of a close loved one, make sure you speak to a qualified funeral director—someone who can guide you toward both timeless and contemporary expressions of mourning and bereavement.