Glossary of terms
Explaining common funeral terms and phrases
Making the unfamiliar, familiar
As most people don’t plan funerals regularly, it’s not surprising that there are many unfamiliar terms that may arise.
Arrangement meeting – The meeting between the funeral consultant and the family of the deceased to make the necessary arrangements for the funeral or memorial service.
Arrangement room – The room where the funeral consultant and the family of the deceased meet to make the necessary arrangements for the funeral or memorial service.
Beneficiary – An individual who is designated to receive property or funds from a deceased person’s estate.
Bereaved – (noun) Someone who has suffered loss due to the death of a loved one. (adjective) To be greatly saddened by the death of a loved one.
Bereavement – The outward expression of grief due to the loss suffered by the death of a loved one.
Bier – A secure stand that a coffin or casket is placed upon for viewing purposes.
Breasting – A linen cloth that covers the deceased from head to toe in order to maintain the dignity of the person.
Burial – The act of placing a dead body in the ground or at sea.
Casket – A rectangular container, usually constructed from either wood or metal, used to hold the body of the deceased for transportation and/or burial.
Cemetery – An area dedicated for burials or entombment of the deceased. Usually a area in its own right, a cemetary can also be attached to a church or place of worship.
Certified death certificate – A legal document that is issued by the government certifying the death of the person, along with other particulars.
Chapel – Originally used for Christian services, a funeral chapel may now have a non-denominational use. It is a room, frequently at the funeral home or crematorium, in which the funeral or memorial service is held.
Civil celebrant – A person who officiates at a non-religious service.
Coffin – A body-shaped container that is tapered at the head and foot, and wide at the shoulders. It is used to hold the body of the deceased for transportation and/or burial.
Columbarium – A dedicated erection with niches for placement of cremated remains. It may be outdoors or part of a mausoleum.
Committal service – The final portion of the funeral service when the deceased is interred or entombed.
Coroner – An independent government official who is required to perform an autopsy in certain circumstances in order to establish cause of death, as dictated by legal requirements.
Cortege – The procession of vehicles, usually led by the hearse, which progresses from the place of the funeral service to the cemetary or crematorium.
Cremated remains – The ashes and fragments of the deceased that remain after cremation.
Cremation – The disposal of a deceased body under intense heat, whereby all that remains is merely ashes and fragments.
Cremator – A machine capable of maintaining the high temperatures required to cremate a body.
Crematorium – The location at which the cremation of the deceased occurs.
Crypt – A small building that usually holds members of one family that have passed away.
Death certificate – A common term for the legal document (medical certificate or cause of death) signed by the attending physician showing the date, place and cause of death of the deceased. It is not the certificate issued by the government.
Death notice – The announcement that appears in the newspaper publicising the death of a person and giving details of the funeral service.
Deceased – (noun) The person who has died. (verb) Dead.
Embalm – A process that serves to sanitise and preserve a dead body.
Embalmer – A skilled person who embalms deceased bodies.
Entombment – The placing of the deceased in a mausoleum.
Eulogy – A speech or presentation given at a funeral or memorial service. It celebrates and pays tribute to the life of the deceased, and can be delivered by a family member, a friend or the priest, Minister or celebrant.
Executor – An appointed individual that is charged with ensuring the wishes of a deceased person are carried out and has the legal right to organise the funeral on behalf of the deceased.
Exhume – The process of removing a deceased person from their place of burial.
Family car – (also called a mourning coach) A vehicle in the funeral cortege set aside for the use of the immediate family. It is the car immediately behind the hearse.
Floral tribute – Flowers sent to the family of the deceased person out of sympathy or respect.
Funeral arrangement – The making of decisions in order to prepare and coordinate the services required for a funeral.
Funeral director – A professional who assists family and friends with the legal, spiritual and logistical preparations for a funeral.
Funeral notice – The announcement in the newspaper publicising the details of the funeral services.
Funeral service – The ceremony that is part of the funeral that is not the interment or committal. It is held at a time prior to the interment or cremation.
Grave – A dedicated place, usually in a cemetery, for the placement of deceased remains for a period of time.
Grave marker – An indicator of where the deceased has been buried at a cemetery.
Grief – The intense sorrow that follows the death of a loved one.
Headstone – The manner by which a grave is identified for family and friends, so that they may be able to pay tribute.
Hearse – The purpose-built vehicle for the transportation of a deceased person to a cemetery or crematorium.
Holy cards – A card that is printed with religious images, given out at the time of a funeral.
Interment – The process of placing a deceased person into a grave or the sea.
Inurnment – The process of placing ashes of a deceased person into an urn.
Lawn grave – A grave that is situated within a lawn area, which is usually identified by a simple plaque.
Mausoleum – An above-ground building that holds several crypts.
Memorial book – A keepsake for family and friends of a deceased person that contains the names of mourners attending a funeral.
Memorial service – A service conducted in memory of the deceased without the body being present.
Monumental grave – A grave that has a monument, such as a marble slab and headstone, placed above it after burial.
Mortuary – A dedicated area specifically designed for the purpose of keeping and preparing the body of the deceased.
Mourner – An individual who pays their respect to the family of the deceased at a funeral.
Nameplate – A plate that identifies the name of the deceased person once they are placed in the coffin or casket.
Niche – A small opening or recess in a wall that is used to place the cremated remains of a deceased person.
Obituary – An announcement of someone’s death, usually in the newspaper or online, that includes a short biography of their life.
Order of service – A booklet that shows the sequence of events that will happen during a funeral or memorial service.
Pall – A cloth, usually velvet, that is used to cover a coffin or casket during a funeral.
Plot – An allocated space within a cemetery that may be used for two or more burials.
Pre-need arrangements – The notation of funeral services prior to death, so that a person’s wishes are recorded.
Pre-paid funeral – Arranging and pre-paying the cost of essential funeral services prior to death.
Remains – The body of someone who has died.
Repatriation – To bring or send a deceased person back to their country of origin.
Shroud – A linen cloth or sheet used to wrap the deceased for burial or cremation.
Transfer vehicle – The vehicle that transports the body of the deceased person, usually from the place of death to the funeral home.
Urn – A purpose-built container for holding the cremated remains of a deceased person.
Vault – A burial chamber that is usually above ground.
Viewing – A time when family and friends spend time with their deceased loved one prior to the funeral.
Vigil – A specific time on the eve of the funeral where prayers, the rosary or shared memories take place.
Wreath – A style of funeral floral arrangement that is round in shape.