We believe the more you know about funerals, the more comfortable you’ll be with the process. That’s why we’ve put together this list of commonly used funeral terms. Simply enter a word in the search bar below or use the alphabetical list. If you can’t find the term you’re looking for, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you.
- Aerial ScatteringA form of scattering ashes that involves the use of planes, hot air balloons, or other airborne devices to disperse the cremated ashes while in active flight.
- Alternative ContainerA container constructed of heavy cardboard or chipboard used to hold human remains for cremation.
- ApportionmentDividing 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, another portion scattered in a favorite place, and yet another carried in a locket.
- Arrangement ConferenceThe meeting with the funeral director in which you discuss your wishes for the funeral and disposition of the body.
- AshesThe portion of a body remaining after cremation. Also referred to as Cremated Remains.
- BereavedThe immediate family of the deceased.
- BurialThe placing of human remains in a traditional grave or in an underground tomb. Normally referred to as Interment.
- Burial CaseA container usually made from wood, metal, or fiberglass and designed to hold human remains. Normally referred to as a Casket.
- Burial FlagA flag which is furnished by the Veteran’s Administration to honor the memory of the veteran’s service to his or her country. It’s usually draped over the casket during the service, then folded and presented to the next of kin by a uniformed soldier.
- Burial InsuranceAn insurance policy in which the principal is paid in funeral services and merchandise, rather than cash. Also referred to as Funeral Insurance.
- Burial Permit/CertificateLegal permission issued by a local government authorizing burial or cremation.
- Burial RightsThe right to inter someone in a designated space in a cemetery.
- CanopyA portable canvas shelter covering the grave area during a burial. Also called a Tent.
- CasketA container usually made from wood, metal, or fiberglass and designed to hold human remains.
- Casket CoachA motor vehicle designed to transport the casket from the funeral service to the place of burial in the cemetery. Normally referred to as a Funeral Coach or Hearse.
- CatafalqueThe stand on which a casket rests while instate and during the funeral service.
- CemeteryAn area of ground set aside for burial or entombment of the deceased.
- CenotaphAn empty tomb, monument, or plaque erected in memory of a person whose remains lie elsewhere.
- Certified Death CertificateA legal copy of the original death certificate. This is provided by local authorities usually for the purposes of substantiating claims for insurance, etc.
- ChapelA large room in a funeral home dedicated to holding funeral services. Many modern day mausoleums also include built-in chapels.
- CoffinAn English-style, wedge-shaped casket, usually with six sides.
- ColumbariumA building or part of a building containing niches designed to hold and memorialize cremated remains.
- Committal ServiceThe final part of a funeral service during which the remains are buried or entombed.
- CortegeA procession, usually in motor vehicles, from the house of worship or chapel to the cemetery. Usually referred to as a Funeral Procession.
- Cremated RemainsThe portion of a body remaining after cremation. Also called Ashes.
- CremationReduction of the body to cremated remains or ashes by fire.
- Cremation PermitA certificate issued by the local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.
- CrematoryA specially designed furnace for cremating human remains, or a building housing such a furnace.
- CremorialsCremorials consist of rectangular canisters that can are installed vertically or horizontally, in a wall or in the ground to memorialize cremated remains. An urn containing cremated remains can be set inside a Cremorial unit or the remains can be placed directly in a canister positioned in the unit.
- CryptThe space constructed inside a mausoleum for the purpose of receiving the deceased persons remains, which are usually paced in a casket or urn.
- Death CertificateA legal document signed by a physician showing cause of death and other information about the deceased.
- Death NoticeA notice, usually placed in the newspaper, which provides funeral details the survivors wish to be published. Most include biographical details of the deceased, his or her accomplishments, and the names of the deceased person's closest relatives. Today, this is more commonly referred to as an Obituary.
- DeceasedPerson in whom all physical life has ceased. To be dead or the dead person.
- Direct BurialA simple burial with no viewing or visitation, which usually involves only the transportation and the care and burial of the remains.
- Direct CremationA simple cremation with no ceremony, viewing or visitation.
- DisinterTo dig up the remains from the burial place. This may occur when a family wishes to rebury the remains in a family plot or move them to another cemetery. Also referred to as Exhume.
- Display RoomA room in a funeral home or cemetery where caskets, urns, plaques, flowers, photos, and other funeral- and memorial-related items are displayed.
- DispositionThe last process the remains go through before burial. Commonly referred to as Final Disposition.
- Door BadgeA floral arrangement placed on the door of a residence to announce that a death has occurred.
- EmbalmingFilling the arteries, veins and body cavities of the deceased with antiseptic and preservative to delay the decay process.
- EntombmentIs a “burial” in a crypt space.
- EulogyA form of public speaking at funerals to honor and praise the deceased.
- ExhumeTo dig up the remains from the burial place. This may occur when a family wishes to rebury the remains in a family plot or move them to another cemetery. Also referred to as Disinter.
- Family CarA limousine used by the immediate family in a funeral procession.
- Family RoomA room in the funeral home or cemetery where the family can have privacy at the time of the funeral.
- Final DispositionThe last process the remains go through before burial.
- Final RitesThe rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead body. Usually referred to as the Funeral Service.
- First CallThe funeral directors first visit to the place of death in order to remove the remains and obtain any information that will be needed for the funeral.
- Flower CarVehicle used to transport flowers from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery.
- Funeral ArrangementsA conference between the deceased's family and the Funeral Director to finalize the details of the funeral and its expenses.
- Funeral CoachA motor vehicle designed to transport the casket from the funeral service to the place of burial in the cemetery. Also referred to as a Casket Coach or Hearse.
- Funeral DirectorA trained and certified professional who arranges and supervises the burial or cremation of human remains. Also called a mortician or undertaker.
- Funeral EscortLaw enforcement or other individuals who escort a funeral procession to the cemetery.
- Funeral HomeA building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging for and conducting funeral services.
- Funeral InsuranceAn insurance policy in which the principal is paid in funeral services and merchandise, rather than cash.
- Funeral ProcessionA procession, usually in motor vehicles, from the house of worship or chapel to the cemetery.
- Funeral ServiceThe rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead body.
- Funeral SprayA large bouquet of cut flowers sent to the residence, funeral home, or cemetery, as a tribute to the deceased. A funeral spray is often placed on top of the casket during the gravesite service.
- Funeral TrustA trust fund where money for prearranged funerals is held until needed. In most states, trusts are established under state law and/or supervision. Also referred to as Prearranged Funeral Trust.
- General Price ListThe General Price List (GPL) is a written, itemized price list that every funeral home is required by law to provide to consumers upon request. It lists all the items and services that the funeral home offers, along with the cost of each item or service.
- GraveA hole excavated in the ground for the purposes of burial.
- Grave LinerA receptacle made of concrete, metal, plastic or wood into which a casket is placed to protect the remains and prevent the grave from collapsing. Usually referred to as a Vault.
- Grave MarkerA permanent marker used to identify a grave, crypt, urn placement site, or other place of Final Disposition. Also referred to as Memorial Marker.
- Graveside ServiceA formal service held at the gravesite before the body or urn is buried, or in the crematory chapel prior to cremation. This is also known as a Committal Service.
- Green BurialAlso called a direct burial. This is an eco-friendly process of burying a body in a simple container, without the use of embalming chemicals, concrete burial containers, and non-biodegradable caskets.
- HearseA motor vehicle designed to transport the casket from the funeral service to the place of burial in the cemetery. Also referred to as a Funeral Coach.
- Honorary PallbearersFriends or members of a religious, social, fraternal, or military organizations, who act as an escort or honor guard for the deceased. They do not carry the casket.
- ICCFAThe International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association is an international trade association representing all segments of the cemetery, funeral service, cremation and memorialization profession.
The ICCFA is composed of more than 9,100 cemeteries, funeral homes, crematories, memorial designers and related businesses worldwide. It serves and supports these members through a host of benefits designed to increase their management proficiency and improve their businesses--from regular updates on government and legal issues, to educational meetings, to a variety of services and products tailored to meet their needs.
The ICCFA promotes consumer choices, pre-arrangement and open competition and has created more than two dozen model guidelines advocating state legislation on a variety of consumer-related issues. The association also assists consumers more directly through information resources, as well as through a complaint mediation service.
The ICCFA also has an online Consumer Resource Guide that provides answers to real questions about funeral and cemetery arrangements, cremation, grief and other issues related to the end of life.
- In StateAllowing relatives to visit with and see the deceased before or after the funeral service. Normally referred to as a Viewing.
- InquestAn official inquiry, sometimes before a jury, to determine the cause of death.
- InterTo bury in a grave or tomb.
- IntermentGenerally refers to “burial” in the ground. May be used interchangeably with entombment or inurnment.
- Interment/Entombment FeeA fee associated for the equipment, paperwork, and personnel required in the interment, entombment, or inurnment of a deceased person.
- InurnmentPlacing cremated remains in an urn.
- Lead CarThe car leading the funeral procession.
- Lowering DeviceA mechanism used for lowering a Casket into a Grave.
- Lump-Sum Death BenefitA one-time death benefit of $255 from the Social Security Administration. This lump sum payment is made to the surviving spouse or child if they meet certain requirements.
- MausoleumA freestanding building that contains multiple aboveground tombs, crypts, and niches. Mausoleums can be large community structures that accommodate dozens of people or small private structures that contain as few as two crypts (burial chambers).
- Memorial DonationA contribution specified to a particular cause or charity, usually in lieu of flowers.
- Memorial MarkerA permanent marker, or engraving, used to identify a grave, crypt, urn placement site, scattering, or other place of Final Disposition. Click here to view our most popular memorials.
- Memorial ServiceA service conducted in memory of the deceased when the remains are not present.
- MorgueA place where human remains are kept pending autopsy or identification.
- MorticianA trained and certified professional who arranges and supervises the burial or cremation of human remains. Also referred to as a Funeral Services Director or Undertaker.
- MortuaryA building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging for and conducting funeral services. Usually referred to as a Funeral Home.
- MournerSomeone who is present at the funeral out of love and/or respect for the deceased.
- Natural BurialAlso known as “green burial” or "eco-friendly burial." Natural burial practices are characterized by their simplicity and natural aspects. Advocates of natural burials believe in letting nature take its course at the burial site, with as little interference or disruption from the burials as possible.
- NicheA space in a mausoleum or columbarium designed to receive an urn containing the cremated remains of a deceased person. Niches may be single or companion, and located indoors or outdoors. Some indoor niches, like the ones at our community mausoleum, have glass fronts so you can display personal momentos or photographs.
- Niche GardenAn outdoor garden containing structures with niches.
- ObituaryA notice, usually placed in the newspaper, which provides funeral details the survivors wish to be published. Most include biographical details of the deceased, his or her accomplishments, and the names of the deceased person's closest relatives.
- Opening & Closing FeesCemetery fees for digging and refilling a grave.
- OssuaryInsert definition here.
- PallbearersThe people who carry the casket during a funeral service, which is usually friends and relatives.
- Perpetual CareMonies set aside for the care and maintenance of the cemetery grounds, lots, graves, landscaping, buildings, and fixtures. The funds normally do not cover family owned structures or headstones. The name by which these funds are referred to, and the manner in which these funds are collected, will vary by state and even by cemetery. (aka endowed care, care and maintenance fund) Williamsburg Memorial Park is a Perpetual Care cemetery.
- PlotA privately owned piece of ground in a cemetery, which usually contains two or more grave sites.
- Pre-Planning/Pre-NeedArranging all aspects of a funeral prior to one’s death–especially payment. This is a very kind thing to do and can ease the burden on one’s family.
- Prearranged FuneralA funeral that has been arranged and paid for before the person's death. Also called pre-need or pre-planned.
- Prearranged Funeral TrustA trust fund where money for prearranged funerals is held until needed. In most states trusts are established under state law and/or supervision.
- Preparation RoomA specially designed room in the funeral home equipped for preparing the deceased for final disposition.
- Presidential Memorial CertificateAn engraved paper certificate that honors the memory of the deceased veteran, and is signed by the current President of the United States.
- Private ServiceThis is an “invitation only” event and may be held at a place of worship, a funeral home, a cemetery, or a family member’s residence. This type of service is not open to the public or uninvited friends and family members.
- ProcessionA procession, usually in motor vehicles, from the house of worship or chapel to the cemetery. Normally referred to as a Funeral Procession.
- RegisterA book made available by the funeral director for recording the names of people who visit the funeral home to pay their respects.
- RemainsThe dead body of the deceased person.
- Reposing RoomA room in a funeral home where the body lies in state before the funeral service so people may view the deceased and spend time with other survivors. More commonly referred to as a Visitation Room.
- Rigor MortisCooling of the body and rigidity of the muscles that occur after death.
- Service CarA vehicle belonging to the funeral home or cemetery that is used to transport chairs, flower stands, etc.
- Slumber RoomA room containing a bed on which the deceased lies until being placed in a casket. In some cases the deceased may lie in state in the slumber room.
- Spiritual BanquetA Roman Catholic practice involving specific prayers, such as Masses and Rosaries, offered by an individual or a group for a definite purpose.
- SurvivorsThose who have outlived the deceased, especially family members
- Sympathy CardA card sent to the family to express sympathy for their loss.
- TentA portable canvas shelter covering the grave area during a burial. Also called a Canopy.
- TombA chamber excavated from earth or rock specifically for receiving human remains.
- Transit PermitA permit issued by a local authority allowing a body to be transported to the place of burial or cremation.
- UndertakerA trained and certified professional who arranges and supervises the burial or cremation of human remains. Also referred to as a Funeral Director or Mortician.
- UrnA container, usually metal, wood, or porcelain, into which cremated remains are permanently placed.
- Urn GardenA garden containing urn burial sites.
- Urn PlacementPermanent placing of an urn into a niche or urn burial site.
- VaultA concrete or metal container, designed for a casket or urn, that’s placed in the ground. The primary purpose of a vault is to keep the ground from sinking over time. Williamsburg Memorial Park requires vaults for all in-ground burials.
- VeteranSomeone who is currently serving, or has served, as a member of the United States Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard); Members of Reserve Components and Reserve Officers Training Corps; Commissioned Officers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; A Commissioned Officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service; or The Philippine Armed Forces.
- ViewingAllowing relatives to visit with and see the deceased before or after the funeral service.
- VigilA Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.
- VisitationAn opportunity for family and friends to view the deceased in private before the funeral service.
- Visitation RoomA room in a funeral home where the body lies in state before the funeral service so people may view the deceased and spend time with other survivors.
- WakeA watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral service. This is a common practice with some religions.