Those of Mortal race whose spirits had departed from their bodies, passing into the Halls of Mandos and then setting out for a destination so mysterious that it remained unknown even to the Valar. In Arda the Mortal races were essentially Men, including their offshoots the Hobbits and the Drúedain (Dwarves were also Mortal in the sense that they had a natural span of life, but their fate was separate from that of Men, and remains unclear). Elves were excluded from the effects of mortality, which was originally given as a Gift by Ilúvatar to Men alone: an Elf could remain alive for thousands of years, and even if slain they could - if the Valar allowed it - be re-embodied in Aman.
The phrase 'The Dead' is also used much more specifically to describe the shades of Men that dwelt in the Paths of the Dead beneath the Dwimorberg; for more on that topic, see the separate entry for The Dead.
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