Funeral & Cremation Glossary

Find definitions to all terms relating to funeral homes, cremation, and the entire death care industry.

Administrator Court-appointed person placed in charge of the estate of a person who passed on without a will.
Algor Mortis Cooling of the body immediately after death to room temperature and temporary stiffening of the muscles.
Alternative container A container-typically heavy cardboard or chipbord-which does not meet the standards of a burial casket and is used to hold human remains for cremation.
Ambulance Vehicle specifically constructed and equipped to transport injured, sick, or incapacitated persons.
Apportionment Dividing cremated remains into portions for separate disposition. For example, a set of cremated remains could be divided into three portions, with one portion placed in an urn in a columbarium, another portion scattered in a favorite place, and yet another carried in a locket.
Apprentice The name generally applied to an individual learning the embalming and funeral directing procedure under the supervision of a licensee.
Arrangement Conference The meeting at the funeral home when funeral arrangements are made.
Arrangement Room A funeral home room used to make funeral arrangements with the family of the deceased.
Ashes See cremated remains.
Aspirate To withdraw fluids and gases from the abdominal cavity.
Attorney in Fact Any person granted the power of attorney.
Background Drapes Decorative drapes arranged on a frame and placed behind the casket as a background. Typically made of velour.
Beneficiary Recipient of the proceeds of a will or insurance policy.
Bequest Any gift of property made in a will.
Bereaved The immediate family of the deceased.
Burial Placing of a dead body in an underground chamber.
Burial Case See Casket.
Burial Certificate / Permit Legal permission issued by the local government authorizing burial or cremation.
Burial Garments Clothing made specificaly for the deceased.
Burial Insurance An insurance policy in which the principal is paid in funeral service and merchandise rather than cash.
Canopy A portable canvas shelter used to cover the grave area during a burial. Also called a tent.
Casket A container-usually made of wood, metal, or fiberglass-designed for holding human remains. Also known as "coffin" or "burial case."
Casket Coach 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.
Casket Rack A device that allows caskets to be placed one on top of the other for display purposes.
Casket Veil A silk net or transparent casket covering for the purpose of keeping flies and insects away from the remains.
Casketing Placing of the body in the casket upon completion of embalming, dressing and cosmetizing.
Catafalque The stand on which the casket rests 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 legal copy of the original death certificate, issued by local authorities at the request of family members, for the purposes of substantiating claims for insurance etc.
Chapel A large room in a funeral home where funeral services are held.
Church Truck A collapsible catafalque used for funerals.
Clients Those who employ the services of the funeral director.
Codicil An amendment to a will changing the original provisions.
Coffin Wedge-shaped burial case.
Columbarium Structure or building designed for the housing of urns of cremated remains in recesses/niches.
Committal service The final part of a funeral service during which the remains are buried or entombed.
Contest Any legal challenge to or question of the validity of a will.
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 a life-like appearance to the deceased.
Cot A stretcher-like carrier used to remove deceased persons from the place of death to the funeral home.
Cremated Remains Also called ashes. The portion of a body remaining after cremation.
Cremation Reduction of the body to ashes by fire.
Cremation Permit Certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.
Crematory A building with a specifically-designed furnace for the purpose of cremating human remains.
Crypt Vault or room used for keeping remains.
Death Cessation of all vital functions without the capability of resuscitation.
Death Certificate A legal document, signed by a coroner or other medical health professional certifying the death of an individual.
Death Notice A paragraph in the relevant section of the newspaper informing people of a person’s death and giving those funeral details the survivors wish published.
Deceased Person in whom all physical life has ceased.
Disenter To remove the remains from the burial place.
Display Room A room in a funeral home set aside for viewing available caskets, urns, grave liners, etc.
Disposition Any manner in which remains will be finally taken care of, including ground burial, ash scattering of cremated remains, and all other forms of placement.
Door Badge A floral arrangement placed on a door of a residence to announce that a death has occurred.
Embalmer One who disinfects or preserves dead human bodies by the injection or application of preservatives and antiseptics.
Embalming The process of preserving a dead body by means of circulating preservative and antiseptic through the veins and arteries.
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 remains are placed for embalming.
Entombment Placing the body in a tomb.
Escheat The case when the state takes over an estate due to no beneficiaries or heirs.
Estate Tax Federal and state taxes applied to any property that is transferred at death.
Ethics The moral code which guides the members of the profession in proper conduct of their duties and obligations.
Eulogy A form of public speaking at funerals used to honor and praise the deceased.
Executor / Executrix Person who administers an estate.
Exhume To dig up human remains.
Family Car Limousine used by immediate family in the funeral procession.
Family Room A room in the funeral home where the family can have privacy at the time of the funeral.
Final Disposition The last process the remains go through.
Final Rites The funeral service.
First Call A funeral director’s first visit to a place of death.
Flower Car Vehicle used to transport flowers from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery.
Flower Racks & Stands Wooden or metal stands and racks of varying heights used for banking flowers around the casket.
Funeral Arrangements Funeral director’s conference with the family for the purpose of completing financial and service details of a funeral.
Funeral Coach Also casket coach or hearse. Motor vehicle designed to convey the casket from the funeral service to the place of burial in the cemetery.
Funeral Director A trained and certified professional who arranges and supervises the burial or cremation of human remains. Also called mortician or undertaker.
Funeral Home A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals.
Funeral Insurance Funeral insurance is an insurance policy designed to cover any costs directly related to your funeral.
Funeral Insurance Also burial insurance. An insurance policy, normally written for a small amount, which provides money for a funeral upon the death of the person insured.
Funeral Procession A procession, usually in motor vehicles, from the church or chapel to the cemetery.
Funeral Service The rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead human body.
Funeral Spray A large bouquet of cut flowers sent to the residence or the funeral home as a tribute to the deceased.
Funeral Trust See prearranged funeral trust.
Grave An excavation in the ground for the purpose of burying the deceased.
Grave Marker A method of identifying the occupant of a particular grave, usually inclding such data as the name of the individual, date and place of birth, date and place of death.
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.
Green Burial Also called direct burial. The process of burying a body without the use of chemical preservation in a simple container to help preserve the earth.
Hearse See casket coach.
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.
In State The custom of presenting the deceased for viewing by mourners and others, prior to or after the funeral service.
Inquest An official inquiry or examination to determine the case of death.
Instruments The varied tools required in the embalming operation.
Interment The act of burying a dead body in a grave.
Intestate Having left behind no legal will.
Inurnment Placing cremated remains in an urn.
Lead Car The car leading the funeral procession.
Liabilities Remaining debts and mortgages, as they apply to the administering of an estate.
License An authorization from the state granting permission to perform duties which, without such permission, would be illegal.
Life Insurance Trust A trust funded from money provided from life insurance.
Limousine An automobile designed to seat five or more persons behind the driver’s seat.
Living Trust A trust that has been established during the life of the trustee.
Living Will A legal document that details the wishes of an individual concerning his or her medical care, especially with respect to life-sustaining technology and resuscitation.
Lowering Device A mechanism used for lowering casket into the grave.
Mausoleum A building containing above-ground tombs or crypts.
Medical Examiner A government official whose function is to perform autopsies on bodies dead from violence, suicide, crime, etc., and to investigate circumstances of death.
Memorial Marker A marker used to identify a grave, crypt, urn placement site, or other place of final disposition.
Memorial Service A 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 use of the clergy person or officiant before and after a funeral service.
Morgue A place where human remains are kept pending autopsy or identification.
Mortician See Funeral Director.
Mortuary See Funeral home.
Mortuary Science An aspect of the funeral service profession dealing with the preparation of the body for final disposition.
Mourner Someone who is present at the funeral out of love and/or respect for the deceased.
Niche A hollowed space in a wall made specifically for placing urns containing cremated remains.
Niche Garden An outdoor garden containing structures with niches.
Obituary A notice of death containing biographical details of the deceased.
Opening and Closing Fees Cemetery fees for the digging and refilling of a grave.
Pallbearers Typically friends or relatives who are responsible for carrying the casket during a funeral service.
Perpetual Care Trust Funds A portion of the burial plot cost set aside in a trust fund for its ongoing care.
Personalized Funerals A non-traditional type of funeral.
Plot A area of ground in a cemetery owned by a family or individual, usually containing multiple graves.
Prearranged Funeral Funeral that has been arranged and paid for prior to a person’s death.
Prearranged Funeral Trust A trust fund where money is held until needed to pay for funeral costs.
Pre-planning / Pre-need Arranging of all aspects of a funeral-especially financing-prior to one’s death.
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.
Probate The court process of proving the validity of a will.
Procession The movement of a funeral from the place where the service was held to the cemetery.
Procession See Funeral procession.
Purge A discharge from the mouth, nose and ears of deceased due to improper embalming.
Putrefaction The decomposition of the body upon death causing discoloration and the formation of an odor.
Register A book made available by the funeral director for the recording of names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased.
Remains The deceased.
Reposing Room A room in the funeral home where the body rests until the funeral service.
Restorative Art The process of restoring distorted features on the deceased by using wax, creams, plaster, etc.
Right of Survivorship Occurs when a joint property owner has provided for the passing of all property into the hands of the surviving joint owner.
Rigor Mortis Cooling of the body and rigidity of the muscles that occurs after death.
Service Car Vehicle belonging to the funeral home or cemetery that is used to transport chairs, shipping cases, flower stands, etc.
Slumber Room A room containing a bed on which the deceased lies until being placed in a casket.
Spiritual Banquet A Roman Catholic practice involving specific prayers, such as Masses and Rosaries.
Survivors Those who have outlived the deceased, especially family members.
Tent See canopy.
Testator A person making a valid will.
Tomb A chamber excavated from earth or rock specifically for receiving human remains.
Trade Embalmer A licensed embalmer who is not employed by one specific funeral home, but performs the services for multiple homes.
Transit Permit A permit issued by a local authority allowing a body to be transported to the place of burial or cremation.
Trust A monetary fund that is held and managed by one person for the benefit of another or others.
Undertaker See funeral director.
Urn Container made for holding cremated human remains.
Urn Garden A garden containing urn burial sites.
Urn Placement Permanent placing of an urn into a niche or urn burial site.
Vault An underground burial chamber.
Viatical Refers to the purchase of a life insurance policy from a terminally-ill person.
Viewing Making the deceased available to be visited and seen by relatives and friends prior to or after the funeral service.
Vigil A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.
Visitation An opportunity for family and friends to view the deceased in private before the funeral service.
Visitation Room A room in a funeral home where the body lies prior to the funeral service so that people may view the deceased.
Wake A watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral.
Will A legal document stating the intentions of the deceased concerning the dispersal of their belongings, the care of their remains and other relevant issues.