Glossary of Common Funeral Terms

Arrangement conference
A meeting held between the funeral director and family members of the deceased to discuss the funeral arrangements, including the family's wishes and budget. A contract is then prepared.
Arrangement room
A room at the funeral home used to make the necessary funeral arrangements with the family of the deceased.
Bereaved
The immediate family of the deceased.
Burial
The placing of the deceased underground. Also called interment.
Burial certificate or permit
A certificate issued by government authorizing burial. The permit may also authorize cremation or removal to a distant point.
Casket
Also called a coffin, it is receptacle into which the deceased is placed for burial.
Cemetery
An official area set aside for burial or entombment of the deceased.
Chapel
A room in a funeral home where the funeral or memorial service is held.
Columbarium
A wall for placing an urn containing cremated remains.
Committal service
A funeral service held at the final resting place of the deceased, which can also follow a service at a funeral home or church.
Cremains
Another term for cremated ashes.
Cremation
Reduction of the body to ashes by fire.
Cremation permit
A certificate issued by government authorizing cremation to occur.
Crematorium
A place with a furnace for cremating remains.
Crypt
A vault or room used for keeping remains.
Death certificate
A legal paper signed by the attending doctor or physician showing the cause of death and other information relating to the deceased.
Death notice
Also called an obituary, it is a notice placed in a newspaper or on the internet, about the death of a person and providing funeral service details.
Deceased
A person who has died.
Direct cremation
Cremation of the deceased without a prior funeral service.
Embalm
The process of preserving a body by means of circulating a preservative embalming fluid through the veins and arteries.
Embalming fluid
Liquid chemicals used in preserving the body of the deceased.
Eulogy
The main speech at the funeral that pays tribute to the life of the deceased.
Exhume
To dig up the buried remains of a person.
Funeral director
Also known as a mortician or undertaker, is a person who arranges a funeral service and for the burial or other disposition of the deceased.
Funeral home
A place used for embalming and for the conducting of funerals.
Funeral spray
A large bunch of 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 in the ground into which the casket is placed to prevent the ground from sinking down around the grave site as the earth settles.
Grave (or memorial) marker
A headstone that identifies the occupant of a grave and usually also details the date and place of birth, and date and place of death.
Honorary pallbearers
Friends or members of a religious or other organization who act as an escort or honor guard for, but do not carry, the casket.
Inter
To bury a dead body in the earth in a grave or tomb.
Inurnment
The placing of cremains or ashes into an urn.
Mass cards
Cards detailing the Catholic Mass arrangements for the deceased.
Mausoleum
A permanent resting place with several chambers to receive casketed remains.
Memorial service
A religious service conducted in memory of the deceased without the body being present, but where the cremains may be present.
Morgue
A place in which the bodies of persons are kept until identified and claimed or until arrangements for a funeral have been made.
Mortuary
Also called a funeral home.
Mourner
A person attending the funeral.
Niche
A small opening or recess in a wall that is used to display an urn containing cremated remains.
Obituary
Also called a death notice, a notice of the death of a person usually placed in a newspaper or on the internet, containing a biographical sketch of the deceased and funeral service details.
Pallbearers
People who carry the casket when necessary during funeral service. Pallbearers can be hired but are usually 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 to bury the casket or the urn containing cremains.
Prearranged funeral
Funeral arrangements completed by an individual prior to his/her death.
Private service
A funeral service that is by invitation only and not open to the public.
Procession
The movement of the funeral from the funeral service location to the cemetery.
Remains
The deceased.
Repast
A gathering after a funeral or memorial service for a meal or refreshments.
Survivor
The persons outliving the deceased, particularly the immediate family.
Sympathy cards
Also called a condolence card, this is a card sent to the family to express sympathy.
Thank you cards
A card sent from the family of the deceased to express thanks for any support and condolences received.
Urn
A container into which cremated remains are placed.
Vault
A receptacle into which the casket is placed at burial, to prevent the ground from sinking down around the grave site as the earth settles. A vault serves the same purpose as a grave liner.
Viewing
An opportunity for survivors and friends to view the open or closed casket of the deceased in private, usually in a special room within the funeral home, but also at a funeral service.
Vigil
A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.
Visitation
Also called a viewing, an opportunity for survivors and friends to view the open or closed casket of the deceased in private, usually in a special room within the funeral home.
Wake
A watch or vigil kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral, often accompanied by rituals including eating and drinking.