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die a thousand deaths (third-person singular simple present dies a thousand deaths, present participle dying a thousand deaths, simple past and past participle died a thousand deaths)

  1. (rhetorical) To die many times over (as preferred over some other undesirable action or occurrence).
    • 1594, Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, London: William Jones,[1]
      Mor[timer] iu[nior]. Crie quittance Madam then, & loue not him.
      Qu[een]. No, rather will I die a thousand deaths,
      And yet I loue in vaine, heele nere loue me.
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene 1,[2]
      And I, most jocund, apt and willingly,
      To do you rest, a thousand deaths would die.
    • 1764, Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, London: Thomas Lownds, Chapter 4, p. 150,[3]
      [] trust me, believe me, I will die a thousand deaths sooner than consent to injure you []
    • 1864, John Bell Hood, letter to William Tecumseh Sherman dated 12 September, 1864, cited in Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, London: Henry S. King & Co., Volume 2, Chapter 18, Capture of Atlanta, p. 124,[4]
      Better die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your negro allies!
  2. (idiomatic) To suffer repeatedly (often mentally rather than physically); to suffer extreme embarrassment or anxiety.
    • 1735, Alexander Pope, “A letter from a nun in Portugal to a gentleman in France” in Mr. Pope’s Literary Correspondence, Volume 3, London: E. Curll, p. 89,[5]
      [] since I know no greater Pleasure than the Love of you, I should too willingly run the Risque of any Disadvantage that could happen by it. I die a thousand Deaths every Hour, and still revive, to die them over again []
    • 1884, Edward Greey and Shiuichiro Saito (translators), The Loyal Ronins by Tamenaga Shunsui, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Chapter 12, p. 81,[6]
      [] his enormous wealth yielded him no happiness, his suspicious soul feared a traitoress in each of his beautiful attendants, he trusted no one but his chief-councillor, Sir Small-grove, and while waiting for the just retribution he knew must sooner or later follow his crime, died a thousand deaths.
    • 1961, Dominic Behan, Tell Dublin I Miss Her, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Chapter Eight, p. 79,[7]
      As she looked in the mirror over the fireplace that she might settle her hat-pin straight, she noticed that in touching the china dog she had disturbed the mantle cloth, and in so doing had exposed her hoard of pawn-tickets. Thanks be to God I noticed that, had anyone come in I’d have died a thousand deaths.