Death before dishonor is an expression, signifying that one would rather die than lay down their morals.
It is extremely prevalent on tattoos, adorned with military symbolism.
The phrase first emerged in English in the early 1800’s, although its origins are debated.
Some sources cite it to Napoleon Bonaparte, others to Julius Caesar while the most common concept is that it originates from the code of the samurai, who would rather commit seppuku (ritual suicide) than betray their honor.
Over the years, “death before dishonor” would be widely adopted in military contexts, used to motivate soldiers to give their lives for their country.
The phrase has several popular culture references in modern culture, including the 1987 film of Terry Leonard “Death Before Dishonor”.
It also appears as the title of several music albums as well as the name of a heavy hardcore band, based in Boston.
“Death before dishonor” was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2007.
- Japanese.stackexchange.com – Kanji that represent “Death before Dishonor” meaning
- Urban Dictionary – Death before dishonor