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This question already has an answer here:

In Reich-Ranickis Für alle Fragen offen lese ich, dass Nabokov "1977 verstarb".
Ist das ein respektvoller Ausdruck für "starb", oder liegt da eine andere Nuance vor?

marked as duplicate by Wrzlprmft, Takkat Jul 25 '14 at 13:28

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According to the Spiegel "versterben" is more formal and graceful. (See http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/zwiebelfisch/zwiebelfisch-abc-verstorben-gestorben-a-344430.html)

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I concur with Tobias.

In reverse order of Formality:

Verrecken

Abkratzen

Den Geist aufgeben.

Sterben

Versterben

Verscheiden

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