Funeral Terminology

Nathan A. Miller – May 30, 2018


Have you ever attended a funeral service or visitation and overheard funeral home employees talking “shop?” Maybe one time you heard a funeral director talk to another about the “DC,” or perhaps they talk about getting a “beer for the casket.” Let me tell you that they are NOT talking about drinking next to the casket while reading comic books (for all you non-geeks – DC is a comic book company…they have Batman, so they are the best by default). To help understand what those crazy funeral home staff members are talking about, read this list of funeral terminology (in alphabetical order):

Arrangement Conference – When the family of the deceased meets with the funeral director to finalize funeral arrangements. This meeting usually takes place at the funeral home, but could be held at the residence if required. This is sometimes referred to as Funeral Arrangements.

Bereaved – The immediate family and friends of the deceased or anyone suffering from grief.

Bier – A movable frame on which a casket is placed. It is pronounced <’bir>, but mostly mis-prounouced <’beer>.

BRT – Abbreviation for Burial, Removal, Transit Permit. This permit is a legal paper authorizing burial or removal to a distant point.

Burial – Placing of a dead body in the ground.

Casket – A container made from wood, metal, or plastic into which the dead human body is placed for disposition.

Casket Spray – A floral arrangement specifically designed for casket adornment.

Cemetery – An area of land set aside for burial or entombment of the deceased.

Chapel – A large room in the funeral home where the funeral service can take place.

Coach – A vehicle designed and used to transport the dead human body from the funeral service to cemetery or from place of death to funeral home. It is also referred to as Casket Coach, Funeral Coach, or most commonly, Hearse.

Coffin – A long, narrow box, into which the dead human body is placed for disposition, usually made of wood.

Columbarium – A granite wall for placing an urn.

Committal – The final portion of the funeral service at which time the deceased is interred or entombed. This is usually held at a cemetery.

Cremated Remains – The ashes of a dead human body from the process of cremation. It is sometimes referred as cremains.

Cremation – The disposal of the human body to ashes by fire, typically after a funeral ceremony.

Cremation Permit – A certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.

Crematory – A furnace for cremating remains – a building housing such a furnace.

Crypt – A vault or room used for keeping remains.

DC – Abbreviation for Death Certificate.

Death Certificate – A legal paper signed by the certifying physician showing the cause of death and other vital statistical data pertaining to the deceased. It is needed for substantiating various claims by the family of the deceased, such as insurance and other death benefits.

Embalming – The process of temporarily preserving a dead body by means of circulating an embalming fluid through the veins and arteries.

Embalming Fluid – Liquid chemicals used in preserving a dead body.

Entomb – To place a casketed body in a mausoleum crypt.

Eulogy – A brief speech that celebrates the life of the person who has died.

Exhume – To remove the deceased from the place of burial. It is sometimes referred to as disinterment.

Family Car – A limousine in the funeral procession set aside for the immediate family. This vehicle immediately follows the hearse.

Flower Van – A vehicle used for transporting flower arrangements from the funeral home to the place of the funeral service and/or cemetery.

Final Rites – The funeral service.

Funeral Director – A person who prepares for the disposition of dead human bodies, supervises that disposition, and maintains a funeral establishment for such purposes. They are also referred to as morticians or undertakers.

Funeral Home – A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging, and conducting funerals. It can also be referred to as a Mortuary.

Funeral Procession – The vehicular movement of the funeral from the place where the funeral service was conducted to the cemetery.

Funeral Service – The religious or other rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the deceased.

Grave – An excavation in the earth for the purpose of burying the deceased.

Grave Liner – A non-sealed container made of concrete into which the casket is placed. This item is typically less expensive than a vault.

Grief Counselor – A person trained to help an individual grieve and address personal loss in a healthy manner.

Honorary Pallbearers – Friends or members of a group who act as an escort or honor guard for the deceased. They do not carry the casket.

Inter – To bury a dead body in the earth.

Inurnment – Placing cremated remains into an urn.

Lead Car – The vehicle driven by the funeral director at the front of the funeral procession.

Marker – A headstone that identifies the occupant of a particular grave. Permanent markers are usually made from metal or stone. It can also be referred to as a grave marker, memorial marker, or tombstone.

Mausoleum – A building designed for holding casketed remains above ground.

Memorial Donation – A contribution to a particular charity or organization that is made in memory of a deceased loved one.

Memorial Folders – The printed document that is given out at funeral or memorial services that outlines the service. It can also be referred to as funeral programs or funeral bulletins.

Memorial Service – A service conducted in memory of the deceased without the body being present. Could also refer to a service where only the cremated remains are present.

Niche – A small opening in a wall that is used to contain an urn.

Obituary – A notice of the death of an individual placed in a newspaper or on the internet containing biographical information of the deceased, along with the funeral service information. It is sometimes referred to as a death notice.

Pallbearers – Individuals whose duty is to carry the casket when necessary during the funeral service, usually six people.

Personalization – The usage of specific items or services (i.e. music, photos, memorial programs, balloon release, etc.) in a funeral service to better reflect the deceased’s life.

Prayer Cards – A small, sturdy card used in the Catholic faith that offers a tribute to the deceased. They typically feature a picture of a biblical person or event on one side and a prayer, poem, or brief biography of the deceased person on the other side.

Prearrangements – Funeral arrangements completed by an individual prior to his/her death. This is also referred to as a preneed.

Register – A book made available by the funeral home for recording the names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased.

Restoration – The process of restoring facial features by use of wax, creams, plaster, etc.

Selection Room – The room in the funeral home in which caskets, urns, and other funeral merchandise is displayed.

Urn – A container into which cremated remains are placed.

Vault – A container made of concrete or metal into which the casket is placed. The purpose of this item is to prevent the ground from sinking around the grave site.

Viewing – An opportunity for family and friends to view the deceased.

Vigil – A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.

Visitation – A gathering that provides others the opportunity to view the deceased and pay condolences to the family.

Now you have a better understanding of a few funeral terms. The next time you come to a funeral home for a visitation or service, feel free to “talk shop” with any one of us.

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