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In light of the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy, I've been trying to think of an appropriate Vulcan saying which would address the death of a beloved or respected member of their society.

"Live long, and prosper" is obviously the most ubiquitous greeting/blessing in Vulcan culture, which is known across the world even by those generally unfamiliar with Star Trek, but of course this is not at all fitting for someone who is deceased.

Is there a comparable Vulcan salutation for the recently deceased, or their friends or family?

Answers from primary canon or other licensed works are equally welcome.

  • Not fitting? I've heard "The King is Dead. Long live the king!" so why not the same for "Live Long and Prosper"? – user11521 Feb 27 '15 at 19:52
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    "Live long, and prosper" addresses a singular individual - the person to whom the phrase is said. "The king is dead, long live the king!" refers to two separate individuals - first to the king who is recently deceased, and second to the person who has inherited the throne and is now king. – Iszi Feb 27 '15 at 20:07
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    @Iszi - There's only one Spock; youtube.com/watch?v=Tde9dAH96Ns – Valorum Feb 27 '15 at 20:42
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    Live long and prosper is a perfectly valid blessing since his katra will live on in every one of us. – Boelabaal Feb 27 '15 at 20:46
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    I have been, and always shall be, your friend. works for me. – Major Stackings Feb 28 '15 at 4:25

11 Answers 11

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In Amok Time when Kirk was believed dead, T'pau said to McCoy:

"I grieve with thee."

  • Good spot. You have my +1 – Valorum Feb 27 '15 at 20:16
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    Considering grieving is a strong emotion, that's saying ALOT – user16696 Feb 27 '15 at 20:50
  • Short and sweet, I like it. +1 – Omegacron Feb 27 '15 at 21:32
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We know (from VOY : Tuvix) that they play depressing music at Vulcan funerals...

NEELIX: Why, is there some regulation that says we can't do both at the same time? I know. Why don't, why don't we sing a song while we toil, hmm? It'll cheer you up. Now, I've been studying Vulcan music. Do you know that lovely tune that starts, (sings) Oh starless night of boundless black.

TUVOK: That lovely tune is a traditional funeral dirge.

NEELIX: I know, but it was the most cheerful song I could find in the Vulcan database. Come on, Tuvok, join me. Oh starless night of boundless black.


Moving down the canon scale, in the trek novel "The Good that Men Do" T'Pol is surprised that some fallen Vulcans are given a more extensive ceremony than normal:

The torchlight flickered over the chamber walls of the room chosen to commemorate T’Les. Each of the Syrrannites who had fallen at the sanctuary was interred in a different chamber, with each commemorated by a small monument to mark his or her sacrifice.

T’Pol had initially been surprised at the presence of the monuments, since it seemed an extravagant, almost emotional response to death, mandated by T’Pau. But the minister had reminded her that symbols helped to focus memories, and focused memories were more easily controlled and brought to heel with the stern rigors of logic. While she couldn’t argue with the statement, T’Pol still perceived a certain sentimentality attached to the various obelisks, spires, and markers.

and in "Vulcan Academy Murders", we're advised that the funeral itself is a relatively simple and reserved affair. Private grieving is done before the ceremony via mind-meld:

The memorial service was simple and restrained, as he supposed a Vulcan funeral ought to be. Spock had explained that Sorel and his family were feeling neither the sharpness of fresh grief nor the false numbness that humans often knew before a loss was accepted.

Supposedly they had done their grieving already, joined together in a mind meld. After this memorial they would return to their duties, their grief worked through and their loss accepted as if it had happened years ago.


The occasion of Spock's mother's passing is described in great detail in the TOS novel "The Fire and the Rose":

Beneath the fiery sky, on the plain of Vel’Sor, in the land held by his family for more than thirty generations, Sarek let go of Amanda. He stood at the center of the megalithic structure, atop a low platform, beside a circle of burning coals that represented so much: his wife’s lost katra, their connection to each other, their life together. Even now, thirteen days after the shuttle crash that had taken her from him, after confirmation that she had indeed been aboard the doomed craft, Sarek battled his emotions with his logic, and he did not always win. In his many years, he had never faced a more difficult challenge.

Silently, he gazed about the circular grounds, at the dozen members of his extended family who had come here today and who now ringed the periphery of this ancient place. Behind them, red granite pillars rose out of the hard soil, topped by horizontal slabs of stone. The breeze blew hot here, the air a furnace even by Vulcan standards. The chimes scattered around the structure infused the environs with a continuous peal.

“What we have experienced here today,” Sarek said, his voice sounding stronger than he felt, “has come down from the time of the beginning, without change.” He addressed all of those present, but as he had for most of the long ceremony, he peered into the steady gaze of T’Pau. “This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way.”

Sarek bent and hefted the large ewer that sat beside the bed of white-hot coals, the searing temperature nearly blistering the flesh of his arms. Holding the antique container away from his body, he angled it downward. Water spilled from its mouth into the pit. The coals hissed as they drowned, gushing clouds of white steam rising upward. Sarek poured until he upended the ewer. Then, its contents spent, he set it back down.

“As it was at the time of the beginning,” he said, “so it is now.” He reached behind the irregular hexagonal shield suspended above the doused coals and took hold of the small mallet stored there. With a long, measured breath, he struck the metal surface, which tolled a deep, reverberant sound. “It is done,” Sarek said. He dropped the mallet to the ground.

About him, the family moved. First, those attending T’Pau lifted her palanquin and carried her from the ritual site. The others followed next, all but Spock, who waited until only he and Sarek remained. Then, as tradition dictated, Spock crossed his hands atop his chest, and then he too turned and exited the grounds.

In this place where he and Amanda had joined together in matrimony, where they had brought their son at the age of seven to be bonded for the pon farr with T’Pring, Sarek stood alone and felt lost. It is the natural order of things, he told himself. Each life begins, each life ends.

For all his life, he had believed that his reason would always prove victorious over his emotions, but right now, his arguments to himself went for naught. Those emotions that he had for so long mastered would no longer be denied. Oddly enough, his logic prescribed that he accept the reality of his situation, which necessarily included the loss of control over his feelings.

Amanda gone, her katra lost, Sarek thought. He knew that her wishes had been that, upon her death, her organs be donated to the medical system on Earth for patients in need, with the rest of her remains given to a medical school for educational purposes. But effectively nothing of her body had been left after the crash.

Around Sarek, hot gusts blew, perpetuating the light clink of the chimes. He stepped down from the platform and crossed toward the square-arched entryway. The dirt grated beneath his shoes.

Outside the great stone ring, Spock waited. Custom held that, when possible, the immediate family of the deceased walk together from this place back to their home, but Sarek suspected that his son would have waited for him even were that not the case. Since Amanda’s death, Spock had stayed at the house with him, taking leave from his position at the Vulcan Science Academy. He had assisted with numerous practical matters-contending with the guests to Amanda’s party, preparing meals, rescheduling Sarek’s upcoming ambassadorial agenda-but perhaps more important, he had provided a calming influence in a time of virtual madness.

As Sarek strode away from his family’s ancestral land, Spock fell in beside him. “Father,” he said, “though it is tradition, you need not walk all the way home.”

“I am aware of that, my son,” Sarek said. “My emotional control has failed me, not my logic.” They had arrived here for the ceremony via public transporter from Shi’Kahr, and they each carried recall devices for the return trip. The rest of the family had arrived and departed in the same manner.

“It is a long journey,” Spock said. “I am concerned for your health. You have been under tremendous strain, and with your surgically repaired heart- “

“We will walk,” Sarek said, continuing along. “It is to honor your mother, a symbolic passage that avows that we leave her neither quickly nor easily.”

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    Technically, we know from Neelix that they play depressing music on Vulcan, especially if that is the cheeriest song he could find. – Jeff Feb 27 '15 at 18:41
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    So, you've covered music, extensive ceremony and that it's private. What about an actual blessing? – phantom42 Feb 27 '15 at 18:47
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    Holy wall of text, Batman! Could you maybe just summarize Amanda's funeral and give a link to the source text instead? (The other quotes are fine. That one's just a bit too much TL;DR.) – Iszi Feb 27 '15 at 19:10
  • It's worth noting that Star Trek novels are not canon by default (unlike the pre-Disney status of Star Wars novels). Things we see in novels are therefore not necessarily accurate to the shows/movies. – Jeff Feb 27 '15 at 20:04
  • @Jeff - I've made that a little clearer in the answer. – Valorum Feb 27 '15 at 20:11
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There has never been a Vulcan funeral shown in any of the Star Trek series or movies to date however there has been discussion about the music played, which are frequently described as 'boring' by both Neelix (VOY: "Tuvix", "Demon") and Q, Junior (VOY: "Q2").

Vulcans are highly logical beings and it would not be logical to mourn over that which you cannot change. Vulcans also have a very strong grasp on their emotions and many of their other bodily functions, as discussed in this question;

Vulcans learned to gain conscious control of many of these functions, allowing them to regulate their bodies to a high degree by simple will power. When injured a Vulcan could go into a trance-like state, using this ability to concentrate all of his or her energy onto repairing the injury. (TOS: "A Private Little War")

With this in mind, it's likely that there wouldn't be much mourning, a Vulcan funeral would be more about reflecting on the accomplishments of those who have passed and focusing on moving forward.

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"Accepting death - by understanding that every life comes to an end, when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted." (Spock to younger Spock in Yesteryear - Star Trek the Animated Series) The writer for this episode also wrote for TOS

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    You understate that: Dorothy invented much of the Vulcan milieu. – JDługosz Mar 1 '15 at 23:53
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Here is some information I found online, copied verbatim from Mark Gardner's excellent fan-language website; www.vulcanlanguage.com

Vok-Van-Kal t'To'oveh Adult Memorial Service

A brief memorial service or ceremony is held soon after the death of an adult Vulcan. It is usually presided over by a Vulcan Master, if not a High Master, and attended by the immediate family, clan members, friends, colleagues, and any other interested parties. For an important person, the ceremony may be held at Mount Seleya itself, but the services of most ordinary Vulcans are held at their clan ceremonial grounds. The body is not present at this ceremony, having already been buried or cremated.

Below you will find an example of the typically brief Vulcan memorial service in both Traditional Golic Vulcan and Federation Standard English. For our purposes, "Suvak" is the recently departed and "T'Lisu" is his wife.

Traditional Golic:

Trensu: Dor-tor etek nash-gad vokaya t'Suvak - sa-fu t'Sumuk. Nam-tor ek'etek nelauk k'tevakh hi vesht tvidonik k'ha'kiv t'osa-veh. | pi'svizh | Dor-tor etek nash-gad o'ish-veh -- doran sa-telsu - doran sa-mekh - doran sa-kai - doran ek'talsu. Noshau ha'kiv t'o'ish-veh wuhkuh t'dan-fudaya eh t'dan-vam | kuv wi ha'an ko-telsu t'Suvak - i'stariben ko-veh t'sha'sa-telsu - zahalan k'kanlar s'keshtan-zek - kuv aitlu au fan-vel hau | T'Lisu: Pi'maat heh t'hai'lu -- sochya eh dif. Trensu | k'eku la |: Dif-tor heh smusma.

Federation Standard:

Master: Today we honor the memory of Suvak, son of Sumuk. We are all diminished by his death but we were enriched by his life. (a brief pause) Today we honor him: We honor the husband, the father, the brother, the scientist. His life is one to be held in the highest regard and esteem. (If Suvak's wife is still living, she will now speak about her husband, followed by their children in birth order, if they wish to add anything.) T'Lisu: My family and friends . . . peace and long life. Master (on behalf of all present): Live long and prosper.

Vok-Van-Kal t'Kan Child Memorial Service

A brief memorial service or ceremony is held soon after the death of a Vulcan child. It is usually presided over by a Vulcan Priestess, and attended by the immediate family, clan members, friends and colleagues of the parents, and any other interested parties. For the child of a very important person, the ceremony may be held at Mount Seleya itself, overseen by a Vulcan Master, but the services of most ordinary Vulcan children are held at their clan ceremonial grounds. The body is not present at the ceremony, having already been buried or cremated.

Below you will find an example of the typically brief Vulcan memorial service in both Traditional Golic Vulcan and Federation Standard English. For our purposes, "T'Mal" is the recently departed child, and "Sonet" and "T'Lin" are the parents.

Traditional Golic:

Reldai: Dor-tor etek nash-gad vokaya t'T'Mal - ko-kan t'Sonet heh t'T'Lin. Nam-tor ek'etek nelauk k'tevakh hi vesht tvidonik k'pen-ha'kiv t'oko-veh. | pi'svizh | Dor-tor etek nash-gad oko-veh -- doran ko-kan - doran ko-kai - doran ko-bath - doran ko-kan-kan - doran ko-thrah. Noshau pen-ha'kiv t'oko-veh wuhkuh t'dan-fudaya eh t'dan-vam. | dungi i'stariben mekhu - zahalan k'fan-vath-kanlar t'au s'keshtan-zek - kuv aitlu au fan-vel hau | Sonet heh T'Lin: Pi'maat heh t'hai'lu t'etek -- sochya eh dif. Reldai |k'eku la|: Dif-tor heh smusma.

Federation Standard:

Priestess: Today we honor the memory of T'Mal, child of Sonet and T'Lin. We are all diminished by her death but we were enriched by her short life. (a brief pause) Today we honor her: We honor the daughter, the sister, the niece, the grandchild, the friend. Her brief life is one to be held in the highest regard and esteem. (The parents will now speak, followed by any other children, in birth order, if they want to add anything.) Sonet and T'Lin: Our family and friends . . . peace and long life. Priestess (on behalf of all present): Live long and prosper.

Obviously as a fansite, the information above is largely non-canon.

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    The "Vulcan Culture/ Language Institute" they appear to just be simple ceremonies translated into traditional Golic , and not based on any canon. – Natman Feb 27 '15 at 20:26
  • right. The only canon references I know about are a single line from Yesteryear and an actual Vulcan funeral service in TNG, but that might reflect more on the (mostly human) people throwing the service, and he was an ambassador and terraphile. – JDługosz Mar 1 '15 at 23:47
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I was moved by the epithet noted at the end of some show on the Siffy channel. It was derivative of I have been . . . and always shall be . . . your friend.

I don't recall how they adapted it, you/our for I/you, or something like that. This quote or misquote (I looked it up to get it exactly as the source) appears to be very popular in news headlines.

But here's a different one: Lived Long, Prospered. I wonder... since the the expression of goodwill at parting is an underatandable phrase. farewell has become a meer word token and people generally don't take it literally and contemplate what such a request actually means. Worse, goodbye and then bye have abbreviated the sounds and lost any recognition with the original phrase.

The Vulcans (and the translation programs) deliberatly use an gramatically correct complete imparative sentence. Of course they take it literally; it's not just a protocol to indicatr termination of a conversation on friendly terms — they mean it.

To note that he has done so sucessfully is thus meaningful and a recognition that he has done right by his culture. It also indicates a normal or high lifespan, and is thus not a personal tradgedy like someone who died before living a complete life. It would be reserved for people that did meet that criteria.

By understanding every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned but only if the life was wasted. I-Chaya's was not. (lines spoken by Spock)

The Vulcan equivilent of Robert Frost would use that past tense (or present tense with perfect aspect, or other... this shows how different languages have different ideas of what can be expressed) version as a theme in poetry, and poets and eulagisers over the ages would have produced a perfect and beautiful wording.

Vulcan (one language for the whole planet?) Has different words that would translate as prosperity: seveh is not just for finances and smusma'es clearly is related to the verb smusma which is especially for finances. I don't know about Vulcan tense structures, but if like in English one could easily transform the sentiment from the infinitive into a completed-action past tense while maintaining close parallels with the imperitive form, then of course that's what they would say.

And the long history of poetry well-written variations would become a common eulegy even if the words don't parallel or obviously match up. If you hear "And miles to go before I sleep" it brings to mind the complete poem and the analyses you suffered through in high school, and have a depth and cultural connection from it.

Also, (hard to make several points without getting farther from the introduction of the idea) a speaker could say many different specific sentenses that translate, on their surface, to the same thing. But to a native speaker and member of the culture, one is acknowledgement of a life well lived, and another is saying he was a greedy old man, not in a complementary manner.

English just can't do it justice.

Maybe Yiddish can? Nimoy drew on his Jewish herritage in developing the character, including that most famous gesture. The letter ש is related directly to the Vulcan Salute and the English parting expression "so long". The latter is what shalom souned like to other kinds of immegrents in New York (which also sounded kind of like part of German, Norwegian, Scandinavian, etc. Phrases for parting) and one translation of that (used in the King James bible) is "prosperity".

English doesn't use long flowery phrases like "fare well whilst we're apart" or "remember me until we meet again" and has universally collapsed them into 1 or 2 syllable tokens. So a more colloquial translation of the lengthy Vulcan phrase to plain conversational English would be, simply, "so long".

Insisting on rendering it literally, in its foreign-sounding length, indicates its importance in Vulcan culture. I expect its use to remind everyone of his foriegnness after speaking colloqially up to that point is just the tip of the iceburg. Both current and ancient cultuall allusions would be brought to bear in using some form of that expression to eulagise someone. But to us, without the cultural references, it just translates as "so long"; something that is said at this point without understanding the real meaning.

I realize now that **I cannot* eulagise Spock with Vulcan tradition, since what is in cannon and other novels is just a superficial exterior surface and nobody knows enough Vulcan culture to express more than goodbye, friend.

To convey the depths of our feeling, we must do so from our own culture, language, and experiences. Our peers will understand that, too.

And, I appear to have written another essay. This is, in fact, what Spock means to me. (means, not meant — the literary present tense is correct in referring to a fictional character. And that reminds us that Spock is not dead; even in the Star Trek universe he has not been born yet.)

How should I eulagise Leonard Nimoy? In my first essay I crafted it for Worldbuilders SE (which has a lot less traffic than here) because I wanted to reflect on Nimoy's contribution to the collaborative artform as an actor, rather than one character that he played. And is Star Trek the way to remember a versitile actor, poet, musican, and teacher who played close to 150 different roles? Pointing that out, and making it a point to (re) watch (or listen or read) the various works he was involved in that have inspired me in some way; that is my eulegy.

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I tinkered "Shom-tor svi let`theiri, Mr. Nimoy!" out of R.I.P. using a vulcan-english dictionary.

  • Very clever, albeit not quite what the OP was asking. – Valorum Mar 2 '15 at 23:07
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Tuvok said one to Sutor's body: "May you find the peace in death that you never found in life.".

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    True, but that seems a highly personalised statement to a deeply troubled individual, not a standard blessing. – Valorum May 29 '15 at 5:43
  • Tuvok said it was a traditional blessing. I don't think it quite fits for this situation, but it answers the question. – Nate Watson May 29 '15 at 14:38
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In addition to the other answers, in VOY 'Basics Pt 2', when Suder has died, Tuvok stands by his deathbed and says the following (emphasis mine):

I offer you a Vulcan prayer, Mr. Suder. May your death bring you the peace you never found in life.

Considering this is a Vulcan prayer, additionally a prayer with a subject matter of death, I would say this is also a Vulcan funeral blessing.

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Blessings are not really logical. The most logical thing for a human to say would be something like "I hope your atoms go on to be a part of many living things.". However, a Vulcan would not 'hope' for such a thing, nor might they distinguish so greatly between living things and inanimate objects that are useful to themselves, so they might say something like "May your atoms be a part of our future."

I realise this is not an officially recognised Vulcan expression with a citation, but logic severely limits the kind of things that would be said. Therefore we can speculate plausible expressions quite easily, the above is just one and I'm sure there are many others. This may not exactly answer your question, but I hope it goes some way to helping you find something suitable for your need.

  • Despite the obvious potential for illogic, the Vulcans appear to possess a deep spirituality. – Valorum May 29 '15 at 5:44
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Ti'hye Nafsho Tzrura BiTzror HaCha'yim

This is what is said of the deceased in Jewish ritual.

Leonard Nimoy, was Jewish and from his Jewish tradition brought what was to be the Vulcan greeting.

May he rest in peace and may you all live long and prosper.

  • As I pointed out in the comments on the answer below, the OP was looking for an in-universe answer. – Valorum Mar 2 '15 at 14:30

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