Death and Funeral Glossary
Death and Funeral Glossary
FAST Area Studies Website
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland



  • ALGOR MORTIS - The cooling of the body immediately after death to room temperature and temporary stiffening of the muscles.
  • AMBULANCE - An automotive vehicle especially constructed and equipped to transport injured, sick or incapacitated persons.
  • APPRENTICE - The name generally applied to an individual learning the embalming and funeral directing procedure under the supervision of a licensee.
  • ARRANGEMENT ROOM - A room of the funeral home used to make the necessary funeral arrangements with the family of the deceased.
  • ASPIRATE - Process of withdrawing fluids and gases from the abdominal cavity.
  • BACKGROUND DRAPES - Decorative drapes (usually made of velour) arranged on a frame and placed behind the casket as a background,
  • BEREAVED - (N) The immediate family of the deceased. (V) suffering from grief upon the death of a loved one.
  • BURIAL - Placing of a dead body in an underground chamber - earth burial- interment
  • BURIAL CERTIFICATE OR PERMIT - A legal paper issued by the local government authorizing burial. The permit may authorize earth burial or cremation or removal to a distant point.
  • BURIAL GARMENTS - Wearing apparel made especially for the dead.
  • BURIAL INSURANCE - An insurance policy in which the principal is paid in a funeral service and merchandise rather than cash.
  • BURIAL VAULT - A boxlike container for holding a casket for earth burial; the more substantial vault or a liner is required by most cemeteries to prevent the collapse of a grave after burial.
  • CANOPY - A roof like structure projecting from the outside wall over the driveway allowing passengers to board and alight from vehicles without being directly exposed to the elements - sometimes construed as a portable canvas shelter used to cover the grave area during committal service.
  • CASH ADVANCE ITEMS - Goods and services furnished by a third party and paid for by the funeral director on your behalf.
  • CASKET - A receptacle of wood, metal or plastic into which the dead human body is placed for burial. Sometimes referred to as "coffin" or "burial case"
  • CASKET COACH - Hearse - A motor coach designed and used for the conveyance of the casketed remains from the place the funeral service is conducted to the cemetery. Also known as a Funeral Coach.
  • CASKETING - Placing of the body in the casket upon completion of embalming, dressing and cosmetizing.
  • CASKET RACK - A device which allows caskets to be placed one on top of the other for display purposes.
  • 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 stand upon which the casketed remains rest while instate and during the funeral service.
  • CEMETERY - An area of ground set aside for burial or entombment of the deceased.
  • CENOTAPH - An empty tomb or monument erected in memory or a person buried elsewhere.
  • 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.
  • CHURCH TRUCK - A collapsible catafalque used for funerals.
  • CLIENTS - Those who employ the services of the funeral director.
  • COFFIN - A wedge shaped burial case, usually eight- sided.
  • COLUMBARIUM - A structure of vaults lined with recesses for urns containing cremated remains.
  • COMMITTAL SERVICE - The final portion of the funeral service at which time the deceased is interred or entombed.
  • CONTAINER - A pressboard or fiberboard box the size of a casket usually used for immediate/direct cremations; alternative container.
  • CORONER - A public official and in some cases a constitutional officer 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.
  • CREMAINS - The remains of a body after cremation; cremated remains.
  • CREMATION - A process which reduces the body by heat to small bone fragments. When the fragments are pulverized, they are reduced to the consistency of coarse sand or crushed seashells.
  • CREMATION PERMIT - A certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.
  • CREMATORY - A building with a furnace called a retort which is used to cremate human remains (or the furnace/retort itself)
  • CRYPT - A vault or room used for keeping remains.
  • 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 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 - (N) one in whom all physical life has ceased; (V) dead.
  • DIRECT BURIAL - The body is transferred from the place of death to the funeral home, placed in a casket and then delivered directly to the burial site. There is no public viewing or graveside services.
  • DIRECT CREMATION - The body is transferred from the place of death to the funeral home, placed in a container and delivered directly to a crematory. There is no public viewing.
  • 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.
  • DISPOSITION - The final resting place for the body or for cremated remains. Choices include burial of the body in the earth or a mausoleum; burial, scattering or deposit of cremated remains in an urn for placement in a niche or taking home; donation of the body to a research facility; or burial at sea (not permitted in the Great Lakes).
  • DOOR BADGE - A floral spray placed on the door of a residence wherein death has occurred.
  • EARTH BURIAL - Interment of a body in a grave.
  • EMBALM - The process of sanitizing, disinfecting and temporarily 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.
  • ENTOMBMENT - Placement of the body in a casket above ground in a mausoleum.
  • ETHICS - The moral code which guides the members of the profession in proper conduct of their duties and obligations.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 which 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 for the purpose of burying the deceased .
  • 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. This is required by most cemeteries to prevent the collapse of a grave after burial. State law, however, usually does not require a grave liner.
  • 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.
  • GRAVESIDE SERVICES - Formal committal services conducted at the cemetery.
  • 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.
  • HOSPICE - An organization, staffed mainly by volunteers, dedicated to the care of the terminally ill who choose to die at home.
  • INQUEST - An official inquiry or examination usually before a jury to determine the case of death.
  • 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) - To bury a dead body in the earth in a grave or tomb.
  • INTERMENT - The act of burial.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • MAUSOLEUM - A public or private building especially designed to receive entombments. A permanent above ground resting place for the dead.
  • MARKER - A monument or memorial to mark the place of burial.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 shell-like space in a wall made for the placing of urns containing cremated remains, or inside a building for this purpose which is called a columbarium. Urns are placed in these niches as a final resting place for cremated remains.
  • OBITUARY - A brief notice of the death of a person, particularly a newspaper notice, which usually lists the name of the deceased, the age, and a biographical sketch. Newspapers may or may not charge for publishing obituaries.
  • 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.
  • PREFUNDING - Same as prearrangement defined above, except that the funding for the funeral is paid in advance either through a trust or life insurance.
  • PRENEED, PREARRANGING or PREPLANNING - Planning a funeral in advance of the death, usually consisting of a list of your preferences for funeral arrangements.
  • 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.
  • PRICE LIST - An itemized list of funeral goods and services.
  • 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.
  • SERVICE CAR - Usually a utility vehicle to which tasteful ornamentation may be added in the form of a metal firm name plate, post lamps, etc. It is utilized to transport chairs, church trucks, flower stands, shipping cases, etc.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • TRADITIONAL SERVICE - A religious service with the body present usually preceded by visitation.
  • 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, or in which they are kept; may be made of various materials, including wood, marble or metal.
  • 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 - A scheduled time, during which a body is present in an open or closed casket, when family and friends pay their respects, usually in private in a special room within the funeral home. Also referred to as a "viewing", "calling hours", "family hour" or "wake."
  • WAKE - A watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral.
Sources: FuneralNet and the Michigan Funeral Directors' Association


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Last Updated 25 April 2010