Glossary of Funeral Terms

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Glossary of Funeral TermsThis funeral glossary contains the most commonly used funeral terms. The glossary will help you work with a funeral director and plan a funeral for your loved one.

As you begin the funeral planning process, you may be presented with new funeral terms that you are unfamiliar with. Even if you are working with a funeral director, you may feel uncomfortable asking for definitions. Or, if you are doing your own research, you may be confused by all of the new terminology. The follow funeral glossary will provide you with definitions of the most commonly used funeral terms.

Glossary of Funeral Terms

 

ALTER TOMB
A raised tomb, or monument, over a grave that is rectangular in form, which is covered with a slab resembling ceremonial alters.
ARRANGEMENT ROOM
A room of the funeral home used to make the necessary funeral arrangements with the family of the deceased.
BEREAVED
A person who has suffered the death of someone they loved.
BEVEL MARKER
A rectangular grave marker, that sits close to the ground, and is typically 2″ higher in the back creating a slight forward angle.
BURIAL
The action or practice of interring a dead body. A ceremony at which someone’s body is interred; a funeral.
BURIAL CERTIFICATE OR PERMIT
A legal paper issued by the local government authorizing burial. The permit may authorize earth burial, cremation or removal to a distant point.
BURIAL GARMENTS
Clothing used to cover a body in preparation for burial.
BURIAL INSURANCE
An insurance policy in which the principal is paid in a funeral service and merchandise rather than cash.
BURYING GROUND
Also “Burial Site” or “Graveyard”; an area set aside for burial of the dead.
CASKET (COFFIN)
A receptacle of wood, metal or plastic into which the dead human body is placed for burial or cremation.
CASKET COACH (HEARSE)
A vehicle for conveying the coffin at a funeral. Also known as a Funeral Coach.
CASKET VEIL
A silk or net transparent covering for the casket for the purpose of keeping flies and other insects from the remains.
CATAFALQUE
A decorated wooden framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state.
CEMETERY
A burial ground for burial or entombment of the deceased.
CENOTAPH
A tomblike monument to someone buried elsewhere, esp. one commemorating people who died in a war.
CERTIFIED DEATH CERTIFICATE
A legalized copy of the original certificate, issued upon request by the local government for the purpose of substantiating various claims by the family of the deceased such as insurance and other death benefits.
CHAPEL
A large room of the funeral home in which the farewell service is held.
CLIENTS
Those who employ the services of the funeral director.
COFFIN
A box, made of wood or metal, for holding a body at burial.
COLUMBARIUM
A granite wall  in a building or room for inurnment of cremated remains.
COMMITTAL SERVICE
The final portion of the funeral service at which time the deceased is interred or entombed.
COMPANION MEMORIAL
A memorial for two or more individuals.
CORONER
A public official whose duty it is to investigate the case of death if it appears to be from other than natural causes, or if there was no physician in attendance for a long time prior to death.
CORTEGE
The funeral procession.
COSMETOLOGY
Utilization of cosmetics to restore life like appearance to the deceased.
CREMATED REMAINS
The remains of the deceased after cremation.
CREMATION
Reduction of the body to ashes by fire.
CREMATION PERMIT
A certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.
CREMATION VAULT
A container for an urn when buried.
CREMATORIUM
A furnace for cremating remains – a building housing such a furnace.
CREMATORY
A furnace for cremating remains – a building housing such a furnace.
CREMORIAL
An outdoor space, typically a garden, that is designated for the burial of cremated remains.
CRYPT
A vault or room used for keeping a casket above ground.
COT
The stretcher-like carrier used to remove deceased persons from the place of death to the funeral home.
DEATH
Cessation of all vital functions without the capability of resuscitation.
DEATH CERTIFICATE
A legal paper signed by the attending physician showing the cause of death and other vital statistical data pertaining to the deceased.
DEATH NOTICE
That paragraph in the classified section of a newspaper, or on the Internet, publicizing the death of a person and giving those details of the funeral service the survivors wish to have published. Most such notices list the names of the relatives of the deceased.
DECEASED
A person who has died.
DISINTER
To remove the remains from the burial place; to dig up.
DISPLAY ROOM
That room in the funeral home in which caskets, Urns, burial garments and sometimes vaults are displayed.
EMBALM
The process of preserving a dead body by means of circulating preservative and antiseptic through the veins and arteries.
EMBALMER
One who disinfects or preserves dead human bodies by the injection or external application of antiseptics, disinfectants or preservative fluids; prepares human bodies for transportation which are dead of contagious or infectious diseases; or uses derma surgery or plastic art for restoring mutilated features.
EMBALMING FLUID
Liquid chemicals used in preserving a dead body.
EMBALMING TABLE
An operating table usually constructed of metal with a porcelain surface upon which the remains are placed for embalming.
ENDOWMENT CARE
A trust fund established to provide for the permanent upkeep and care of the cemetery buildings and grounds.
ENTOMBMENT
The placement of human remains in a crpyt.
EPITAPH
A short text inscribed on a tombstone in memory of the individual buried there.
ETHICS
The moral code, which guides the members of the profession in proper conduct of their duties and obligations.
EULOGY
A brief speech that offers praise and celebrates the life of the person who has died.
EXHUME
To dig up the remains; to remove from the place of burial.
FAMILY CAR
That limousine in the funeral procession set aside for the use of the immediate family.
FAMILY ROOM
A specially arranged room in the funeral home, which affords the family privacy at the time of the funeral service.
FLOWER BEARER
An individual who walks before or behind the casket carrying flower tributes sent to the family.
FLOWER CAR
A vehicle used for the transportation of flower pieces from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery.
FLOWER RACKS AND STANDS
Wooden or metal stands and racks of varying heights used for banking flowers around the casket.
FINAL RITES
The funeral service.
FIRST CALL
The initial visit of the funeral director to the place of death for the purpose of removing the deceased and to secure certain information for which he has immediate need.
FOOTING
A flat slab of concrete that is flush with the suface of the ground, on which a monumnet is placed.
FOOTSTONE
Also “Foot Marker”; is a flat grave marker that is placed at the foot of the grave. The footstone lies opposite the headstone, which is the primary grave marker.
FUNERAL COACH
See Casket Coach.
FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS
Funeral director’s conference with the family for the purpose of completing financial and service details of a funeral.
FUNERAL DIRECTOR
A professional who prepares for the burial or other disposition of dead human bodies, supervises such burial or disposition, maintains a funeral establishment for such purposes, counsels with survivors. Synonym: mortician, undertaker.
FUNERAL HOME
A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals.
FUNERAL SERVICE
1) The profession that deals with the handling of dead human bodies; 2) The religious or other rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead human body.
FUNERAL SPRAY
A collective mass of cut flowers sent to the residence of the deceased or to the funeral home as a floral tribute to the deceased.
GRAVE
An excavation in the earth designated for the purpose of burying human remains.
GRAVE LINER
A receptacle made of concrete, metal or wood into which the casket is placed as an extra precaution in protecting the remains from the elements.
GRAVE (OR MEMORIAL) MARKER
A method of identifying the occupant of a particular grave. Permanent grave markers are usually of metal or stone, which gives such data as the name of the individual, date and place of birth, date and place of death.
GRAVESTONE
A monument placed above, or next to, the grave to identify the human remains or cremated remains buried there.
GRAVEYARD
An area set aside for burial of the dead.
HEADSTONE
A monument placed above, or next to, the grave to identify the human remains or cremated remains buried there.
HONORARY PALLBEARERS
Friends or members of a religious, social or fraternal organization who act as an escort or honor guard for the deceased. Honorary pallbearers do not carry the casket.
INQUEST
An official inquiry or examination usually before a jury to determine the case of death.
INSCRIPTION
The writing on a monument in memory of the individual buried there. The inscription usually includes biographical information and the epitiph.
IN STATE
The custom of availing the deceased for viewing by relatives and friends prior to or after the funeral service.
INSTRUMENTS
The varied tools required in the embalming operation.
INTER
To bury a dead body in the earth in a grave or tomb.
INURNMENT
The placing of the ashes of one cremated in an urn.

 

LEAD CAR
The vehicle in which the funeral director and sometimes the clergyman rides. When the procession is formed, the lead car moves to the head of it and leads the procession to the church and/or cemetery.
LEDGER STONE
A grave marker that is placed horizontally, flush with the ground.
LICENSE
An authorization from the state granting permission to perform duties, which, without such permission, would be illegal.
LIMOUSINE
An automobile designed to seat five or more persons behind the driver’s seat.
LINER
A non-protective container used to cover a casket before burial in the ground.
LOWERING DEVICE
A mechanism used for lowering the casket into the grave. Apparatus is placed over the open grave, which has two, or more straps, which support the casket over the opening. Upon release of the mechanism, the straps unwind from a cylinder and slowly lower the casket into the grave.
MASS CARDS
A card indicating that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged. (Catholic Religion)
MAUSOLEUM
A public or private building especially designed to receive entombments. A permanent above ground resting place for the dead.
MEDICAL EXAMINER
A government official, usually appointed, who has a thorough medical knowledge and whose function is to perform an autopsy on bodies dead from violence, suicide, crime, etc., and to investigate circumstances of death.
MEMORIAL DONATION
A memorial contribution specified to a particular cause or charity, usually in lieu of flowers.
MEMORIAL SERVICE
A religious service conducted in memory of the deceased without the remains being present.
MINISTER’S ROOM
A room in the funeral home set aside for the clergyman wherein he can robe and make any last minute preparations for the funeral service.
MONUMENT
A type of structure created to commemorate a person.
MORGUE
A place to where bodies found dead are removed and exposed pending identification by relatives.
MORTICIAN
See funeral director.
MORTUARY
A synonym for funeral home – a building specifically designed and constructed for caring for the dead.
MORTUARY SCIENCE
That part of the funeral service profession dealing with the proper preparation of the body for final disposition.
MOURNER
One who is present at the funeral out of affection or respect for the deceased.
NICHE
A hollowed space in a wall made especially (in this connotation) for placing of urns containing cremated remains.
OBITUARY
A notice of the death of a person usually placed in a newspaper, or on the Internet, containing a biographical sketch.
PALLBEARERS
Individuals whose duty is to carry the casket when necessary during funeral service. Pallbearers in some sections of the country are hired and in other sections are close friends and relatives of the deceased.
PLOT
A specific area of ground in a cemetery owned by a family or individual. A plot usually contains two or more graves.
PREARRANGED FUNERAL
Funeral arrangements completed by an individual prior to his/her death.
PREARRANGED FUNERAL TRUST
A method by which an individual can pre-pay their funeral expenses.
PREPARATION ROOM
A room in a funeral home designed and equipped for preparing the deceased for final disposition,
PREPARATION TABLE
An operating table located in the preparation room upon which the body is placed for embalming and dressing.
PRIVATE SERVICE
This service is by invitation only and may be held at a place of worship, a funeral home or a family home.
PROCESSION
The vehicular movement of the funeral from the place where the funeral service was conducted to the cemetery. May also apply to a church funeral where the mourners follow the casket as it is brought into and taken out of the church.
PURGE
A discharge from the deceased through the mouth, nose and ears of matter from the stomach and intestine caused by improper or ineffectual embalming, due to putrefaction.
PUTREFACTION
The decomposition of the body upon death which causes discoloration and the formation of a foul smelling product.
REGISTER
A book made available by the funeral director for recording the names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased. Also has space for entering other data such as name, dates of birth and death of the deceased, name of the officiating clergyman, place of interment, time and date of service, list of floral tributes, etc.
REMAINS
The deceased.
REPOSING ROOM
A room of the funeral home where a body lies in state from the time it is casketed until the time of the funeral service.
RESTORATIVE ART
Derma surgery – The process of restoring mutilated and distorted features by employing wax, creams, plaster, etc.
RIGOR MORTIS
Rigidity of the muscles, which occurs at death.
SARCOPHAGUS
A stone coffin or chamber for a casket.
SCATTERING
The disposal of cremated remains in a designated area.
SERVICE CAR
Usually a utility vehicle to which tasteful ornamentation may be added in the form of a metal firm nameplate, post lamps, etc. It is utilized to transport chairs, church trucks, flower stands, shipping cases, etc.
SLAB
A grave marker, typically made of stone, that is flat and lays flush to the ground.
SLUMBER ROOM
A room equipped with, besides the usual furniture, a bed upon which the deceased is placed prior to casketing on the day of the funeral. The body, appropriately dressed, lies in state on the bed.
SPIRITUAL BANQUET
A Roman Catholic practice involving specific prayers, such as Masses and Rosaries offered by an individual or a group for a definite purpose.
SURVIVOR
The persons outliving the deceased, particularly the immediate family.
SYMPATHY CARDS
A card sent to the family to express their sympathy.
TOMBSTONE
A monument placed above, or next to, the grave to identify the human remains or cremated remains buried there.
TRADE EMBALMER
A licensed embalmer who is not employed by one specific funeral home, but does the embalming for several firms either on a salary or per case basis.
TRANSIT PERMIT
A legal paper issued by the local government authorizing removal of a body to a cemetery for interment. Some cities also require an additional permit if the deceased is to be cremated.
URN
A container, into which cremated remains are placed, made of metal, wood or stone.
VAULT
A burial chamber underground or partly so. Also includes in meaning the outside metal or concrete casket container.
VIGIL
A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.
VISITATION
An opportunity for survivors and friends to view the deceased in private usually in a special room within the funeral home.
WAKE
A watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral.

 

We hope that the funeral glossary, provided above, has helped you understand the numerous confusing funeral terms. If you have encountered a funeral term that is not included in the glossary, please email us at support@yourtribute.com and we will be happy to add the term and definition to the list.

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Jason Ropchan is the Founder and CEO of Your Tribute, an online resource for Funeral and Grief information and products. He has more than 15 years experience in the funeral industry developing and marketing funeral technology. He has worked with thousands of funeral homes worldwide to help them provide online memo...