Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Cadaver Definition:

A dead human body.

Related Terms: Corpse, Autopsy, Funeral, Decedent, Cadaverine, Human Remains, Coroner

Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary suggests that the term is derived from the Latin term cadere which means to fall, to perish.

The same publication defines a cadaver as:

"... a dead body; corpse; generally applied to a human body preserved for anatomical study."

cadaverThe Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine defines a cadaver as:

".... the dead body of a human being; the dead body of a human being as a subject for anatomical dissection, as by medical students."

In that regard, cadaver is synonymous with corpse except as to the destination of the corpse; a cadaver is destined for medical dissection, a corpse if destined for burial or cremation.

At the risk of "T.M.I." (too much information):

The word cadaver has been thought to derive from the Latin words Caro Data Vermibus, flesh given to worms.1


  • Dorland, I., Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 28th Edition (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1994), page 244.
  • NOTE 1: Sneddon, Karen, The Will as Personal Narrative, 20 Elder L. J. 355 (at page 370), relying on Cantor, Norman, After We Die: The Life and Times of the Human Cadaver, 2010, but adding that, "This derivation is somewhat disputed."
  • Schmidt, J. E., Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine (San Fransisco, LexisNexis, 2009), Volume 1, page C-4.

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