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Glossary of Funeral Terms

  • In this section, find a glossary containing definitions of common terms relating to Funeral practices.

    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

  • Advance Planning, aka pre-planning

    Making decisions and arrangements about final arrangements including final disposition, funeral, burial, and memorialization before a death. TOP
  • Aerial Scattering

    The scattering of cremated remains from an airplane, hot air balloons, or other airborne devices. TOP
  • Affirmation or Celebration of Life Service, aka celebration of life

    A type of memorial and remembrance service that is typically more secular rather than religious and can be personalized to reflect the character and spirit of the decedent. TOP
  • Aftercare

    A term used to refer to the various services (final arrangements) that are available from a funeral home or crematory following the death of a loved one. TOP
  • Alternative Container

    A undecorated casketed container made of cardboard, fiberboard, pressed wood, or composite materials mostly used for cremation or green burial. TOP
  • Arrangement Meeting, aka arrangement conference

    A meeting, following a death, with the family, next of kin and funeral director in order to decide upon and make funeral and burial arrangements. TOP
  • Ashes aka cremated remains

    The material, mostly bone, which remains after a body has been cremated. TOP
  • Autopsy

    An examination of a body, after death, by a coroner or doctor to determine the specific cause of death. TOP

B

  • Burial Flag

    A United States flag furnished by the Veterans Affairs administration in honor the memory of an honorably discharged veteran’s service. The burial flag may be displayed during funeral services or presented to the next of kin by the color guard. TOP
  • Burial Permit

    A state-issued legal document to authorize a burial, entombment or inurnment within a cemetery. TOP

C

  • Casket

    A rectangular burial container for human remains, typically made of wood, metal, fiberglass, or plastic. TOP
  • Closed Casket

    A funeral service during which the casket is present and remains closed so that the body is not available for viewing. TOP
  • Cremains: aka cremated remains, aka ashes

    The material, mostly bone, which remains after a body has been cremated. TOP
  • Cremated Remains, aka ashes, aka cremated remains

    The material, mostly bone, which remains after a body has been cremated. TOP
  • Cremation

    A type of final disposition that involves the burning, vaporization or oxidation of human remains followed by the pulverization of dry bone material. TOP
  • Cremation Jewelry

    Jewelry which is made from a portion of cremated remains. TOP
  • Crematory aka Crematorium

    Either the machine or the facility, wherein the act of cremation occurs. Crematories are typically located in funeral homes or in dedicated stand-alone cremation facilities. TOP

D

  • Death Benefits

    A financial, material or service benefit provided by US Social Security of the Veterans Affairs Department following a death. TOP
  • Death Certificate

    A state-issued certificate that serves as an official proof and proclamation of a death. Death certificates are issued only after a medical professional and a licensed funeral director have certified the identity of the decedent, the time, place and cause of death as well as the proper handling of the remains. TOP
  • Direct Burial

    A burial wherein the body is interred in a grave shortly after death without any preceding funeral or memorial services. TOP
  • Direct Cremation

    A cremation that occurs shortly after death without any preceding funeral or memorial services. TOP
  • Disposition

    The placement of human remains, either casketed or cremated remains, in their plot, niche, or crypt final resting place. TOP

E

  • Embalming

    The process of preserving a body for a limited temporary period of time be replacing the natural body fluids with preservative chemicals via a series of injections in order to maintain a stable and life-like appearance for the time between death and the funeral and burial. TOP
  • Eulogy

    A speech or talk, usually lasting between 2 and 10 minutes, that is given at a funeral or memorial service in honor and remembrance of the decedent. A eulogy is typically delivered by a friend, a family member, clergyman or celebrant. TOP

F

  • FTC Funeral Rule, aka The Funeral Rule

    Written guidelines issued and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) specifically regulating aspects of funeral service providers advertising and pricing practices. The FTC Rule does not apply to cemetery arrangements or practices. The underlying purpose of the FTC Rule is to increase transparency and fair dealings for consumers within the funeral industry. TOP
  • Funeral

    A ceremony that occurs in a funeral home, place of worship, or at the cemetery following a death to honor, memorialize, and celebrates the decedent. A funeral service has a casketed body present. If cremated remains are present, or if there is no body present, the services would be considered a memorial service. TOP
  • Funeral Director, aka undertaker

    A professional specifically trained, and legally authorized, to prepare and perform funeral services following a death. In many states, the designation of funeral director requires state licensing and ongoing continuing education. In some states, the role of the funeral director is separated from the role of the embalmer. TOP
  • Funeral Escort

    An escort provided to the funeral process to the cemetery provided by police or other law enforcement. TOP

G

  • General Price List

    The General Price List or GPL is the FTC Rule mandated itemized price list which funeral homes must present to any person who inquiries about funeral arrangement costs, both pre-need and at-need so that consumers are able to make informed purchasing decisions. TOP
  • Grave

    An in-ground final resting place used for the burial of human remains, either casketed or cremated. TOP
  • Grave Marker

    A monument, typically constructed of bronze or granite, that serves to mark the location and inhabitant of a grave. TOP
  • Graveside Service

    There are two variations of the Graveside Service. The first is a full funeral service performed at the graveside followed immediately by the burial, or committal, service. The second is just the burial service following a funeral cemetery that occurred at another location (funeral home chapel or place of worship). TOP
  • Green Funeral

    A funeral that uses low environmental impact goods and services. Natural and biodegradable materials are used when possible and artificial preservation techniques, like embalming, are not used. Green Funeral services may be followed by a green burial. TOP

H

  • Hearse

    A specialized automotive vehicle designed to transport a decedent as part of the funeral ceremony and/or funeral procession. TOP

I

  • Immediate Burial

    The direct burial of a descendent customarily performed without extensive preparations of the body, embalming, or a formal viewing. An immediate burial will not include either a visitation, or a burial ceremony. The simple graveside ceremony may be witnessed by funeral home staff, family and the community of mourners. TOP
  • Inflation-Proof Contract

    A contract which is paid for 100% in advance of a passing. The guaranteed prices of goods and services are guaranteed to be covered at the time of need, regardless of any intervening cost increases. *There may be non-guaranteed goods and services listed as part of the funeral contract. These ‘cash-advance’ items are outside of the cost control of the funeral home and may be subject to cost increase over time. TOP
  • Interment

    The act of placing a body in an in-ground plot or grave. TOP
  • Irrevocable Contract

    An irrevocable contract is a contract which cannot be canceled for cash refund. Irrevocable contracts are most frequently used to protect assets when applying for State Public Aid or State Medicaid coverage. Irrevocable funeral contracts can be transferred from one funeral home to another however, the receiving funeral home is not required to honor any cost guarantees made by the originating funeral home. TOP

K

  • Keepsake Jewelry

    Also known as memorial jewelry, or remembrance jewelry, is a type of wearable jewelry that memorializes the decedent and provides the wearer with a physical remembrance. TOP

M

  • Mass Card

    Primarily used in the Catholic faith, the Mass card will indicate that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged and will offer the service details. TOP
  • Mausoleum

    A building located on the grounds of a cemetery which is designed and utilized to house the remains of individual decedents. Mausoleum entombment will be above ground in mausoleum crypts or niches. A Mausoleum may either be in-door or out-door. TOP
  • Memorial Jewelry

    Also known as memorial jewelry, or remembrance jewelry, is a type of wearable jewelry that memorializes the decedent and provides the wearer with a physical remembrance. TOP
  • Memorial Service

    A ceremony held after a death in order to honor the decedent without the full, casketed, body being present. A memorial service may occur following a cremation with an urn present. TOP

N

  • Natural Burial

    Natural burial practices encompass both funeral and cemetery practices. Natural Burial is characterized by low environmental impact, natural and renewable resources and a natural aesthetic. Green Burial is a specific sub-set of natural burial which requires adherence to specific codes of conduct and certification. TOP
  • Next of Kin

    The legal definition of Next of Kin varies by jurisdiction. Commonly thought of as the decedent's closest living relative (wife, children, parents, siblings) TOP
  • Niche

    An entombment space specifically designed to hold and preserve cremated remains. Niches may be placed with a larger mausoleum building or within a dedicated columbarium. TOP

O

  • Obituary also known as a Death Notice

    A written passage printed in the newspapers, periodical, or online which announces a person's death and frequently offers funeral and burial details. An obituary may contain biographical information about the decedent and the decedent’s family and notable accomplishments. TOP
  • Officiant

    The individual tasked with leading the funeral, memorial and burial services. An officiant may be a religious clergy, secular celebrant, funeral director, or a member of the family. TOP
  • Outer Burial Container

    A firm and rigid structure placed into the burial plot or grave prior to the interment of the casket. The outer burial container may be constructed of concrete, metal, or plastic is primarily designed to provide structural support for the ground above the casket. A sealed and lined burial vault may be selected in order to further protect the casket. TOP

P

  • Pall Bearer

    A person tasked with carrying or escorting the casket during a funeral and burial services. Pall Bearers are typically individuals of note in the decedent’s life. To serve as a Pall Bearer is an honorary position in as much as it is a functional role. TOP
  • Preneed

    Funeral, Burial, Cemetery, and Memorial arrangements made before a death has occurred. Preneed planning may involve simply recording decisions and wishes (preplanning), or it may involve the contracting for and pre-payment for formalized pre-planned arrangements. TOP
  • Preplanning

    The act of making Funeral, Burial, Cemetery, and Memorial arrangements made before a death has occurred. Preneed planning may involve simply recording decisions and wishes (preplanning), or it may involve the contracting for and pre-payment for formalized pre-planned arrangements. TOP
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate

    A certificate honoring a deceased veteran signed by the current sitting President of the United States. TOP
  • Procession, also known as the Funeral Procession

    Following funeral services, the decedent’s remains are transported to the cemetery as part of a funeral procession which is made up of two or more vehicles including the hearse and family cars. TOP
  • Professional Services

    The services of a funeral director and staff to care for and prepare human remains prior to a funeral service, the oversight of funeral services, and throughout the burial services. TOP

R

  • Revocable Contract

    A contract which can be cancelled at any time prior to a passing for the return of some, or all, of the funds which have been paid. TOP

S

  • Scattering

    The act of placing or widely distributing the cremated remains of a deceased individual as part of the act of remembrance. Scattering may occur with a designated scattering garden or in alternative locations meaningful to the decedent or community of mourners. TOP
  • Scattering Garden

    A specially designated area of land within a cemetery set aside for the scattering the cremated remains. The scattering garden is governed by the Rules and Regulations of the cemetery. TOP
  • Social-Security Death Benefit

    A one-time death benefit of $255 provided by the US Social Security Administration. This one-time payment is made to the surviving spouse, or child based on fulfilment of specific stated requirements. TOP

T

  • Traditional Funeral

    A traditional funeral service is a service of remembrance held with a casketed decedent present. A traditional funeral service is typically followed by the burial or entombment service within a cemetery. TOP

U

  • Undertaker, aka Funeral Director

    A trained and frequently licensed professional legally authorized in the specific jurisdiction to perform services for the decedent and next-of-kin following a death. In some regions and jurisdictions, the duties of the funeral director may be separated from those of the embalmer. TOP
  • Urn

    A container specifically designed to hold the cremated remains a deceased individual. An urn may be temporary or permanent based on the final placement. TOP
  • Urn Vault

    A rigid and reinforced container used to surround and protect a cremation urn prior to its interment in a burial plot. TOP

V

  • Veteran

    A individual who has served as a member of a branch of the US Armed Forces or other qualifying US special reserve agency. TOP
  • Viewing

    The act of seeing a casketed decedent prior to burial. A viewing offers the community of mourners the opportunity to identify the individual and to pay final respects prior to a funeral, burial or cremation. TOP
  • Vigil

    A traditional Catholic religious service that is held the day prior to the funeral service. TOP
  • Visitation

    A dedicated gather time, in the day(s) prior to the funeral service, wherein extended friends and family gather in the funeral home to offer condolences to the immediate family. Frequently, a visitation will allow the decedent to be viewed at rest within an open casket present in the funeral home chapel. TOP

W

  • Wake

    A religious watch over the deceased, frequently held the night before the funeral, it can last from a number of hours to the entire night. Different religions have variants of the Wake. For instance, the Jewish religion calls on the service of a Shomer, or watcher, who will stay with the decedent from the time of death until the time of burial. TOP
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