Goodnight sweet prince is a popular slang expression for saying goodbye to the newly departed.
Online, the phrase has been associated with various image macros that spread the news of celebrity death hoaxes, pairing the names of famous people with photos of similar-looking individuals.
“Goodnight sweet prince” comes from the classic tragedy of William Shakespeare; Hamlet, wherein Horatio bids farewell to the titular hero of the play with the words “goodnight, sweet prince”.
The phrase was featured in the 1998 pop culture classic, The Big Lebowski where Walter (portrayed by John Goodman) is saying his farewells to the freshly deceased Donny (played by Steve Buscemi) with the words “good night sweet prince”.
Various cases of the phrase would appear online in the mid 2000’s, one of the earliest instances being a 2006 post on the /prog board on 4chan.
“Good night sweet prince” was first defined on Urban Dictionary in March, 2008, describing it as the caption for image macros tricking people into believing fake celebrity deaths.
Over the years, various examples of the meme would appear all over the internet, from YouTube videos, to posts on Reddit, 4chan as well as forums and social media sites, like Facebook.