The word obituary was first used in English by an Anglican bishop White Kennett in a 1701 translation. This comes from the Medieval Latin word obituarius, which meant "death record" but had a more literal definition of "pertaining to death". The root is obitus, or "departure" (which was metaphorically applied to passing away later on), a conjugation of obire, "to come to". Obire is composed of the prefix ob-, meaning "toward" in this context (from Proto-Indo-European hepi, "near"), and the verb ire, meaning "to go" (derives from PIE heyti, same denotation). The colloquial obit was first formed from obituary in 1874 - an example of our ever-shortening language - and usage of the word obituary peaked in the late 1980s.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.