US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at the age of 87.

The justice died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington, DC, surrounded by her family on Friday, the court confirmed.

Earlier this year, Ginsburg said she was undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer.

The well-known judge was the oldest sitting justice on the Supreme Court, having served 27 years on the nation's highest court.

Chief Justice John Roberts said: "Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.

"We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her - a tireless and resolute champion of justice."


Ginsberg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court's liberal wing and became something of a rock star figure to her admirers.

Young women especially seemed to embrace the court's Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defence of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.

Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospital treatments after she turned 75.

In July this year, when Ginsberg revealed she was undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrance of the disease, she insisted she would not retire.

"I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam," Ginsberg said in the statement. "I remain fully able to do that."

Her death, coming just six weeks before the 2020 presidential election, will have profound implications for the makeup of the US Supreme Court and the direction of the country.

President Donald Trump has appointed two judges since taking office, leaving the current bench with a 5-4 conservative leaning.

In a statement shortly before her death, Ginsberg said her dying wish was that she did not want her successor appointed to the Supreme Court until a new president had been installed.

She dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera days before her death, NPR reported, saying: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."