The Ultimate A-to-Z Guide to Funeral Jargon

Home » Blog » Education » The Ultimate A-to-Z Guide to Funeral Jargon

The ultimate A-to-Z Guide to Funeral Jargon

Organising a funeral is difficult enough without the added frustration and confusion of trying to understand the complicated funeral jargon that is used by funeral homes, cemeteries, memorial masons, family solicitors, medical experts and the like.

From the moment a loved one passes away through to choosing a memorial, arranging and attending the funeral, and perhaps having some involvement in the managing of the estate, you are likely to come across various funeral, memorial and cemetery industry terms and phrases that seem foreign to you.

To save you from some of that confusion, we’ve put together this ultimate A-to-Z guide outlining many of the words and phrases that are used throughout the funeral industry by associated businesses.

So, if you’re preparing to organise a funeral or have some involvement in the memorial, will or similar, feel free to bookmark this page for you to refer back to the next time you’re unsure of the meaning to a word or phrase.

Glossary of Funeral & Memorial Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Administrator (of the estate)

An administrator is the person who is legally responsible for managing the estate of the deceased if they did not have a will in place.

Angelversary

An angelversary is a poignant anniversary date for people to remember their lost loved one, such as the day they died, their birthday, a wedding date etc.

Ashes

Ashes are the remains of the deceased following a cremation.

Ashes Casket

An ashes casket is a box that is used to bury or store the deceased’s ashes.

Asset

An asset can be anything of value that was owned by the deceased, such as property, finances, jewellery, collectible or valuable items etc.

Autopsy

An autopsy is a medical examination that is carried out by a pathologist on someone after they have died to officially determine the cause of death.

B

Beneficiary

A beneficiary can be anyone who is named in a will, or who is to receive an asset (such as a property) or share of the estate (usually a specific percentage) from a life insurance policy.

Bequest

A bequest is a gift that is left to a person or charitable organisation in a will, such as money, belongings, property etc.

Bereaved

A bereaved person is someone who is in mourning following a death.

Bereavement Leave

Bereavement leave is time off work that is granted by an employer to allow a bereaved member of staff the chance to grieve, organise and/or attend the funeral or memorial service etc.

Bereavement Policy

A bereavement policy is a guide to the rights and responsibilities of employees in relation to when a member of staff has suffered a bereavement.

Bereavement Support Organisation

Bereavement support organisations are typically charities that offer practical information and various support, such as grief therapy, to those who are bereaved.

Bereavement Support Payment

Bereavement Support Payment is a benefit payment that is paid to qualified surviving partners whose wife, husband or civil partner has passed away as a way to ease financial concerns.

Bier

Bier is the name of the movable frame, stand, or similar that is used to support a coffin or casket during the funeral service, viewings and while lying in state. They are most commonly made from wood and are often decorated. They are also often referred to as a catafalque.

Body Donation

A body donation is when somebody agrees to subject their body to medical research after they have died.

Book of Remembrance

A book of remembrance is a book that is usually kept in a crematorium that records the names of the people who were cremated there. Many crematoria publicly display the specific days records so that they are easily viewed by visiting guests each year on the anniversary of their funeral.

Burial

A burial is the act of placing the body of a deceased person into a grave, typically in a coffin or casket.
Read: The History of Headstones & Burials

Burial Fees

A burial fee, also known as an interment fee, is a payment that is made to a church or cemetery authority for the lease of a specific burial plot.

Burial Ground

A burial ground is an area of land that is typically owned by a council or private organisation and is used for the burial of bodies or ashes.

Burial Plot

A burial plot is a specific piece of land within a cemetery that is used for the burial, also commonly referred to as a burial site.

C

Casket

A casket is a four-sided container that holds the body of a deceased person and is most commonly made from materials such as wood, wicker, cardboard or metal.

Catafalque

Catafalque is the name of the movable frame, stand, or similar that is used to support a coffin or casket during the funeral service, viewings and while lying in state. They are most commonly made from wood and are often decorated. They are also often referred to as a bier.

Celebrant

A celebrant is someone who assists with planning the order of service and who leads the funeral ceremony.

Celebration of Life

Celebration of Life is the term given to a funeral or memorial service that focuses on the life of the person who has died instead of following a specific religious tradition.

Cemetery

A cemetery is an area of land where traditional burials take place. Some are attached to a place of religious worship where they are also commonly called a graveyard, while others are owned by secular organisations such as a local council.
Read: 5 of the Oldest Cemeteries in the World

Cenotaph

A cenotaph is an empty tomb or monument that has been constructed to honour a person or people who are buried elsewhere. An example would be the Welsh National War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff, that was built to commemorate servicemen who died during the First World War.

Certificate for Burial or Cremation

A certificate for burial or cremation is a free certificate that is issued by the registrar following the registration of a death. It is a certificate that is legally required before the deceased can be buried or cremated.

Chapel of Rest

A chapel of rest is a room in a funeral home where people can view and spend time with the body of their loved one in the days before the funeral takes place. The chapel of rest is often referred to as a mortuary.

Coffin

A coffin is traditionally a six-sided container that holds the body of a deceased person and is most commonly made from various types of wood, as well as other materials such as steel, fiberglass, and eco-friendly materials like bamboo or willow.

Columbarium

A columbarium is a building that is used to store cremation ashes, often with recessed niches for the placement of individual urns.

Committal Service

A committal service takes place at the conclusion of a funeral when the coffin or casket is buried, removed for cremation, or remains in view as people depart the room.

Condolence Message

A condolence message is a message within a letter, card or other form of communication that expresses the senders sorrow for the grief that the receiver is experiencing following the death of their loved one.

Coroner

A coroner is a government or judicial official who is responsible for investigating the manner or cause of a death, and to investigate or confirm the identity of an unknown deceased person.

Cortege

A cortege is the procession of vehicles that carries the deceased and family members to the funeral. Also known as the funeral procession.

Cremation

A cremation is the disposal of a dead person’s body by burning it to ashes through a process that uses intense heat. This typically takes place following a funeral ceremony.

Cremation Memorial

A cremation memorial is a physical memorial that is typically a flat shaped plaque, vase, or similar, that is designed to honour and commemorate the life of a lost loved one at their burial plot where their ashes rest following their cremation, much like a headstone or gravestone. Many cremation memorials are also designed to store the ashes.
Read: Learn More About Cremation Memorials

Cremated Remains

Cremated remains are the human remains recovered following the cremation of a human body, otherwise known as ashes.

Crematorium

Crematorium is the name of the room or building where a dead person’s body is cremated.

D

Death Certificate

A death certificate is an official certificate or legal document that has been issued by a medical practitioner or the Registry Office to confirm the death. The death certificate declares the official date, location, and cause of death.

Death Notice

A death notice is an announcement typically found in a newspaper, online or through some form of public media that announces the death of someone, often with details of their upcoming funeral. A death notice is typically made by family members to share the news with a community about the passing.

Deceased

Deceased is another way to describe that someone is dead.

Disbursement Fees

A disbursement fee, also known as a third-party cost, is a payment to a third-party service that is initially paid for by the funeral director on behalf of the bereaved family, such as crematorium fees, catering, flowers etc.

E

Eco-Friendly Funeral

An eco-friendly funeral is a funeral that considers its environmental impact to the planet with a focus on reducing carbon footprint. They typically make use of a biodegradable coffin, casket or urn, have minimal vehicle usage, and generally make environmentally friendly choices where possible throughout all funeral and memorial options.

Embalming

Embalming is the preservation of a corpse from decay by an arterial injection of a preservative.

Estate

An estate is all assets that are owned by a person at their time of death. An estate can include things such as money, properties, stocks and shares, belongings, funds in pensions, life insurance policies etc.

Etching

Etching is a creative process that is carried out on memorials that are made from certain stone materials, such as granite. An etching can be a photograph, design, symbol or similar that’s etched onto a headstone and other memorial types.
Read: Learn More About Fine-Craft Etching

Eulogy

A eulogy is a speech that pays tribute to someone who has just died. They are most often delivered during a funeral service by a family member, close friend or celebrant.

Exclusive Right of Burial (EROB)

The Exclusive Right of Burial is the name of the lease of a specific burial plot within a burial ground for a set period of time. This period of time is typically between 50 to 100 years and includes the right to install a memorial on the grave.
Read: Who Can Put a Headstone on a Grave?

Executor (of the Will or Estate)

The executor of a will or estate is a person who is named in a will as responsible for dealing with the estate of the deceased.

Exhumation

Exhumation is the removal of a body from where it was originally buried. An exhumation typically takes place for relocation of the body, or if there is new evidence available which could challenge the original cause of death and a further investigative autopsy is required.

F

First Offices

First Offices is the name of the process of making a corpse suitable for loved ones to view. It involves cleaning and washing the body of the deceased, dressing them and applying make-up so that they are presented in a visually acceptable and dignified manner.

Floral Tribute

A floral tribute is when flowers are purchased and left to honour the dead. They are commonly left at graves, public memorial spots, and at the site of fatal incidents.

Funeral

A funeral is a ceremony or service that is usually held in the weeks following someone’s death on the day they are laid to rest or cremated. Family and friends typically attend to pay their respects and the ceremony can be conducted in line with religious beliefs or in a humanist (non-religious) manner.

Funeral Director

A funeral director is the person or team of people who work with family members to help organise a funeral. This typically includes preparing the body for burial or cremation, liaising with the church or crematoria, managing necessary paperwork, liaising with other third-party companies, providing transportation and carrying out other related duties. They are also often referred to as an undertaker.

Funeral Expenses Payment

A funeral expenses payment is a one-off payment that is intended to support those who receive benefits and need financial assistance with covering the cost of a funeral.

Funeral Home

A funeral home is where funeral directors are located and where they operate their business from.

Funeral Hymn

A funeral hymn is a song that is played at a funeral, many of which are religious. Some traditional funeral hymns include How Great Thou Art, Jerusalem, and Abide With Me.

Funeral Plan

A funeral plan is a payment scheme that can be taken out to pay for a funeral in advance so that loved ones don’t have to cover the costs.

Funeral Procession

A funeral procession, also known as a cortege, is a convoy of vehicles travelling to or from a funeral. It typically involves one vehicle at the front (the hearse) carrying the coffin or casket, while vehicles behind carry the close family of the deceased.

G

Garden of Remembrance

A garden of remembrance is a section of land most commonly within the grounds of a crematorium where various memorials and floral tributes are installed or left to commemorate the life of someone who was cremated at the site. Ashes are also often scattered within a garden of remembrance after their cremation.

Grant of Probate

A grant of probate is an official document obtained from the court that grants permission to the executor of a will to act in the administration of the deceased’s estate.

Grave

A grave is a specific piece of land within a cemetery that is used for the burial, also commonly referred to as a burial plot.

Grave Liner

A grave liner is an outer burial container – typically a concrete structure – designed to support the weight of the earth that surrounds a coffin or casket and to prevent the surrounding ground from collapsing over time.

Grave Marker

A grave marker is an object that is placed on a grave, such as a plaque or wooden cross, to help visiting family and friends locate and identify the burial plot of their loved one.
Read: The Best Way to Clean a Grave Marker

Grave Settling

Grave settling is the process of the earth surrounding a burial plot naturally readjusting. A cemetery may ask grave owners to wait several months after a burial before installing a headstone to allow the grave to settle.
Read: A Guide to Grave Settling

Grave Subsidence

Grave subsidence is a naturally occurring process that involves loose soil settling into place within the burial plot over time and the coffin gradually collapsing. This results in the appearance of the grave sinking. Most modern cemeteries have cemetery staff that work to maintain graves and minimise grave subsidence.

Gravestone

A gravestone is a permanent inscribed memorial that is placed on a person’s grave. It typically honours their life and is inscribed with their name, date of birth, date of death, and a few words – perhaps a biblical verse if they were religious, or simply words of remembrance from the family. Also commonly called a headstone.

Graveyard

A graveyard is another way to describe a cemetery. The use of the word graveyard is often associated with cemeteries that belong to a church.

Green Burial

A green burial is another way to describe an eco-friendly funeral that considers the impact it has on the planet with an aim to minimise carbon footprint and cause as little damage as possible to the environment.

Grief

Grief is an emotional and physical experience of sorrow and loss that someone feels when a loved one dies.
Read: What Can You Do To Help With Grieving?

Grief Counsellor

A grief counsellor is a trained therapist who specialises in providing support to people who are struggling with grief following the death of a loved one.

Grief Therapy

Grief therapy is a psychological treatment that people who are grieving can undertake to help them come to terms with the death of a loved one. Many grief therapies are carried out by specialist grief counsellors, though alternatives also exist, such as art therapy and others that are provided by bereavement support organisations.

H

Headstone

A headstone is a permanent inscribed memorial that is placed on a person’s grave. It typically honours their life and is inscribed with their name, date of birth, date of death, and a few words – perhaps a biblical verse if they were religious, or simply words of remembrance from the family. Also commonly called a gravestone.
Read: Learn More About Headstones

Hearse

The hearse is the vehicle at the front of a funeral procession that carries the coffin or casket to the funeral venue.

Hospice

A hospice is a home that specifically provides care for the sick or terminally ill.

Humanist Funeral

A humanist funeral is a non-religious funeral that focuses on celebrating the life of a loved one and delivering them a dignified farewell.

I

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax is a tax payment that is taken from the estate of someone who has passed when the total value of their assets crosses a certain threshold.

Interment

An interment is the process of burying a coffin, casket or urn.

Interment Fees

Interment fees, also known as burial fees, are the fees that are charged by a church or cemetery authority for the rights to a burial, as well as the lease purchase and preparation of the burial plot.

Intestacy Laws

Intestacy laws are the rules that determine beneficiares who are entitiled to a share of someone’s estate upon their death if there is no will in place.

Intestate

Intestate is when someone dies without having left a will. In this instance, their estate will automatically go into what is known as “intestate” before the court decides how the estate will be shared among beneficiaries using intestacy laws.

J

We don’t yet have any funeral jargon listed beginning with the letter ‘J’.
Have a suggestion for us? Do let us know: info@mossfords.com

K

Keepsake

A keepsake is an item that is purchased or made and kept in memory of someone who has died. Items such as jewellery pieces are also specifically made to act as a keepsake, such as a necklace with a container that is designed to hold a small amount of ashes. People also often keep belongings of the deceased due to sentimental value and to act as a keepsake.

Kerb Set

A kerb set is a decorative option for burial plots that involves kerbs being placed around the perimeter of a grave. Most kerb sets are made from a stone material such as granite or marble, often with a decorative carved pattern that matches the headstone or gravestone.
Read: Learn More About Kerb Sets

L

Legacy Letter

A legacy letter, also known as a spiritual will, is a letter that people leave for their loved ones to read once they pass. The letter often includes writings about things that matter most to the writer and information they would like to share, such as their values, past intentions, and hopes for the future.

Letter of Administration

A letter of administration is an official document from the court that grants permission to a named individual to act as administrator of the deceased’s estate if there is no will.

Life Insurance Policy

A life insurance policy is a contract between a policy holder and an insurer or assurer, whereby the insurer promises to pay a named beneficiary a sum of money upon the death of the insured person. Payment can also be triggered in some policies if a certain event should arise, such as a terminal or critical illness. Policies can differ from each other with unique terms and conditions.

Living Will

A living will is a written legal document that records and details a person’s wishes for future medical and end-of-life care should they become unable to state their own wishes when the time arrives, especially an advance directive.

Lying in State

Lying in State is when the body of a deceased official is publicly displayed in a state building, either inside or outside a coffin or casket, so that the public can visit and pay their respects.

M

Mausoleum

A mausoleum is a building that houses an above-ground tomb or a group of tombs.

Medical Certificate of Cause of Death

A Medical Certificate of Cause of Death is a certificate that enables the family of the deceased to officially register the death. This in turn enables the family to arrange the funeral and disposal of the body, and to settle the deceased’s estate.

Memorial

A memorial is a physical object that is designed to honour and remember a person or event. Common memorials include headstones, plaques, statues, benches, trees, candles etc. Specific locations can also be created to act as a memorial, such as a memorial garden.
Browse: View Our Memorial Range

Memorial Service

A memorial service is a ceremony that takes places to commemorate the life of a loved one who has died. The deceased’s body is not usually present for a memorial service in the same way it is for a funeral ceremony.

Memorial Stonemasons

Memorial stonemasons are stonemasonry businesses that design, make, install, restore and maintain memorials for the dead, such as headstones and gravestones, cremation memorials, kerb sets etc.
Read: Learn More About Memorial Installation, Memorial Restoration & Memorial Maintenance

Mortician

A mortician is a person who prepares a body for burial or cremation. This preparation may include carrying out the embalming process to preserve the body, burying them, applying makeup etc.

Mortuary

A mortuary is a room or building where dead bodies are hygienically kept until the time for burial or cremation. Dead bodies are also stored in a mortuary while awaiting examination. Mortuaries are also often referred to as a chapel of rest.

Mourning

Mourning is the expression or feeling of deep sorrow following the death of someone.

N

Natural Burial

A natural burial is a burial that follows conditions that protect the environment, such as no embalming of the body, the use of a biodegradable coffin of casket, and a memorial that is made of natural materials.

Natural Burial Ground

A natural burial ground is a burial ground that only permits natural burials. Many natural burial grounds are located within private woodlands, but some are managed by churches or local councils.

Natural Stone

Natural stone materials are different types of stone that are quarried from the earth and used in the memorial stonemasonry industry to craft a wide range of memorials. Common natural stone that’s used includes granite, limestone, marble and sandstone.

Next of Kin

The next of kin is a person’s closest living relative, most commonly a spouse, or any children or siblings. The closest next of kin is designated the responsibility for making decisions should the person become incapacitated or die.

O

Obituary

An obituary is a public notice of death, often published in newspapers, and typically including a brief biography or key details of the deceased person.

Officiant

An officiant is a person who conducts a funeral ceremony, typically a priest, minister or celebrant.

Order of Service

The order of service is a programme of events that are to take place during a funeral. This list of events is outlined in a leaflet or similar so that guests are aware of what is to take place. The leaflet often contains an obituary for the deceased as well as prayers, readings or hymns that are to be played as part of the service.

Organ Donation

Organ donation is when somebody commits to allowing their organs or other body parts to be used as part of a transplant operation upon their death. Some organs can be donated by a living donor when medically possible, but in most cases a transplant uses the organs of an organ donor who has died. People in the UK can register their decision using the online NHS Organ Donor Register.

Ossuary

An ossuary is a container or room located above ground that contains bones of people who have died.

P

Pall

A pall is a decorative drape that is traditionally placed on top of a coffin during a funeral.

Pallbearer

A pallbearer is a person who carries the coffin or casket from the hearse to the catafalque at a funeral. Pallbearers are typically part of the funeral directors team as around 4-8 people are usually required to carry the coffin or casket, though family members or close friends often volunteer to be a pallbearer.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is the medical and emotional support that is provided to somebody who is dying. Palliative care most often takes place in hospices, hospitals or at the home of the dying persons.

Pathologist

A pathologist is a medical specialist who carries out a post-mortem examination on a dead body.

Post-Mortem

A post-mortem is a medical examination that is carried out on a dead body by a pathologist.

Probate

Probate is the legal process that deals with the estate of the deceased in accordance with their will, including organising their assets and possessions, sorting taxes and debts, and distributing the remainder to beneficiaries.

Q

Quaker Funeral

A quaker funeral is a specific type of funeral that is carried out for those who identify as a quaker with quaker beliefs and practices.

R

Reception

A reception, also commonly referred to as a wake, is when family and friends informally gather after a funeral to reminisce and celebrate the life of the deceased.

Registry Office

A registry office is a local government office where births, deaths, and marriages are officially recorded. Official marriages also take place in a registry office without a religious ceremony.

Repatriation

Repatriation is the transportation of a deceased body from one country to another, such as when somebody dies abroad.

Ritual Washing

A ritual washing is a religious process also commonly known as ritual purification that involves family and/or close friends washing and dressing the body of the deceased in line with specific rites and rituals.

S

Scattering

Scattering is the act of distributing the ashes of the deceased after their cremation. Most scattered ashes are distributed somewhere meaningful, such as a garden of remembrance or at a place that was important to the person.

Spiritual Will

A spiritual will, also known as a legacy letter, is a letter that people leave for their loved ones to read once they pass. The letter often includes writings about things that matter most to the writer and information they would like to share, such as their values, past intentions, and hopes for the future.

Survivors

Survivors are living family members of the deceased, such as a spouse, partner, children, and grandchildren.

T

Thanatophobia

Thanatophobia is an anxiety disorder where people affected experience an intense fear of death or the process of dying.

Third-Party Costs

Third-party costs, also known as disbursement fees, are expenses that are paid to a third party in connection with goods or services that they deliver. In a funeral example, these are fees that a funeral director may pay a third-party, such as a vehicle transportation company, on behalf of the family of the deceased.

Tomb

A tomb is a large vault or burial chamber that is used for burying the dead. They can be found overground, underground, or cut into the side of rock or earth walls. A tomb is an alternative method to cremation or traditional burial.

Tombstone

A tombstone is a large, flat stone that stands over a grave, typically with information about the deceased inscribed into the stone. A tombstone is often referred to as a headstone or gravestone.
Read: Is There A Difference Between A Headstone, Gravestone & Tombstone?

U

Undertaker

An undertaker, also more recently known as a funeral director, is a person who looks after the body of the deceased and who arranges funerals.

Urn

An urn is a container specifically designed to hold cremated ashes.

V

Viewing

In the funeral industry, a viewing is when family and friends visit the body of the deceased before the funeral, typically in a mortuary or at a chapel of rest.

Visitation

A visitation offers family and friends the opportunity to visit the deceased for a longer duration, meaning visitation periods can take place for hours or days, while a viewing tends to be brief just a short time before the funeral takes place. Many visitations are also conducted with an open casket.

W

Wake

A wake is when friends and family of the deceased gather together, typically after the funeral, to celebrate and remember the life of their lost loved one. A wake is also commonly referred to as a reception.

Will

A will is a legal document that a person can create – often through a solicitor – outlining exactly what they would like to happen with their estate and its assets after they die. The will also names the executor of the estate.

X

Xhosa Funeral

A Xhosa funeral (pronounced: know-suh) is a funeral ceremony for those who die while part of the Xhosa culture in southern Africa. Perhaps the most famous Xhosa funeral to ever take place was the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

Y

Yahrzeit

Among Jewish people, yahrzeit is the anniversary of the death of a parent or other close relative. It is marked by the burning of a memorial candle.

Z

Zoroastrian Funeral

A Zoroastrian funeral is a traditional funeral that’s carried out for people who believe in Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest faiths.

Mossfords Cardiff family business of the year 2021
Follow Us
Categories
Recent Articles
What Can You Do To Help With Grieving?

What Can You Do To Help With Grieving?

What can you do that will help you during the grieving process? Following a death, people cope with grief in different ways, and if there’s one thing people dealing with bereavement can agree with, it’s that grief certainly isn’t a linear process. There will be days...

read more
Learn more about memorial services
Click to browse our memorials

You May Also Like

The Best Way to Clean a Headstone or Grave Marker

The Best Way to Clean a Headstone or Grave Marker

Headstones are available in a wide range of styles and stone materials. This can mean it’s difficult knowing where to start when it comes to safely cleaning and maintaining the lawn memorial of a loved one. Although many popular headstone materials are of high quality...

A Guide to Grave Settling

A Guide to Grave Settling

Have you ever wondered why graves sink? Once a funeral is over and a loved one has been laid to rest, attention tends to turn to the headstone - this is natural as you no doubt feel it’s important to honour their life with a meaningful memorial. You may believe that...