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Funeral Service Workers
Glossary of Funeral Service Terms
Muslim Funeral Guide

Glossary of Funeral Service Terms
Burial Terms
Cremation Terms
Funeral Home Terms
Funeral Product Terms
Funeral Service Terms
Legal Terms
People you may encounter
Burial Terms

Burial: placing of a dead body in an underground chamber – earth burial – interment.
Cemetery: an area of ground set aside for burial or entombment of the deceased.
Cenotaph: an empty tomb or monument erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere.
Columbarium: building or structure containing vaults lined with recesses to house urns holding cremated remains.
Crypt: room or vault used for keeping remains.
Disinter or Exhume: to dig up or remove remains from a burial place.
Entombment: the ritual placing of a corpse in a grave.
Grave: Excavation into the earth for purpose of burying the deceased.
Grave Liner or Vault: 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.
Grave or Memorial Marker: a method of identifying the occupant of a particular grave. Permanent grave markers are usually of metal or stone which gives such data as the name of the individual, date and place of birth, and date and place of death.
Green Burial or Direct Burial: environmentally-friendly burial of a body without chemical preservation in a simple container to preserve the earth. May include any or all of the following: a small gathering in a natural setting, use of only recycled paper products, locally-grown organic flowers, carpooling, organic food, no embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products, the use of sustainable biodegradable clothing, shroud or casket, and natural or green burial; see natural burial.
Interment: act of burying a body in a grave.
Lowering Device: a mechanism used for lowering the casket into the grave. Apparatus is placed over the open grave which has two or more straps to support the casket over the opening. Upon release of the mechanism, the straps unwind from a cylinder and slowly lower the casket into the grave.
Mausoleum: a public or private building especially designed to receive entombments. A permanent above ground resting place for the dead.
Natural Burial: natural or green burial, the body is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting; any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material; traditional standing headstones are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers; see also green burial.
Opening and Closing Fees: fees the cemetery charges for digging and refilling a grave.
Outer Burial Container: a rigid container that protects caskets from the weight of the soil; they are often required by cemeteries because they prevent the soil from collapsing into the grave following interment; also called a vault or grave liner.
Plot: a specific area of ground in a cemetery that is owned by a family or individual. Usually a plot contains two or more graves.
Tomb: chamber excavated from rock or earth to receive human remains.
Vault: a burial chamber underground or partly so. Also defines the outside metal or concrete casket container.

Cremation Terms

Apportionment: when cremated remains are divided for separate disposition (like putting some in an urn and spreading some at a favorite location).
Cremains or Cremated Remains: what remains of a body after cremation- also called ashes.
Cremation: reduction of the body to ashes by fire.
Cremation Casket: a casket made of a combustible material, designed specifically for cremation.
Crematory: a furnace for cremating remains – a building housing such a furnace.
Inurnment: placing of cremated remains into an urn.
Niche: hollowed space in a wall made especially to place urns containing cremated remains.
Niche Garden: outdoor garden containing structures with niches.
Retort: the chamber in which a body is cremated.
Scattering: the disbursement of cremated remains in a meaningful location or environment; while there are few prohibitions against scattering, families are advised to obtain permission from landowners before scattering.
Urn: a container into which cremated remains are placed. Usually made of metal, wood or stone.
Urn Garden: garden that contains urn burial sites.
Urn Placement: permanent placement of an urn into a burial site or niche.

Funeral Home Terms

Arrangement Conference: meeting with the funeral director at the funeral home to make funeral arrangements.
Arrangement Room: a room at the funeral home used to make the necessary funeral arrangements with the family of the deceased.
Chapel: a large room of the funeral home in which the farewell service is held.
Church Truck: collapsible stand (catafalque) used for funerals.
Display Room: room in the funeral home that is set to display urns, caskets, burial garments and vaults.
Family Room: a specially arranged room in the funeral home which affords the family privacy at the time of the funeral service.
Funeral Home: a building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals. Also known as mortuary.
Minister's Room: a room in the funeral home designated for the clergyman to robe and make last minute preparations for the funeral service.
Morgue: a place where bodies found dead are kept temporarily pending the identification by relatives or release for burial or autopsy.
Preparation Room: a room in a funeral home designed and equipped for preparing the deceased for final disposition.
Preparation Table: an operating table in the preparation room on which the body is placed for embalming and dressing.
Reposing Room: a room in the funeral home where a body lies in state from the time it is casketed until the time of the funeral service.
Selection Room: a room in the funeral home where caskets, urns, outer burial containers and other related items are displayed for individuals or families to peruse while planning a funeral or memorial service.
State Room: a room in a funeral home where visitations and funeral and memorial services are held; the term is derived from a body lying in state for viewing by friends and family; sometimes called a chapel.
Slumber Room: a room equipped with a bed upon which the deceased is placed prior to casketing on the day of the funeral.
Visitation Room: room in the funeral home where the body lies before the funeral service for people to view the deceased.

Funeral Product Terms

Background Drapes: decorative drapes (usually made of velour) arranged on a frame to be placed as background behind the casket.
Burial Garments: wearing apparel made especially for the dead.
Canopy: a roof like structure projecting from the outside wall over the driveway, allowing passengers to board and alight from vehicles without being directly exposed to the elements – sometimes construed as a portable canvas shelter used to cover the grave area during committal service.
Casket (Coffin, Burial Case): a receptacle of wood, metal or plastic into which the body is placed for burial.
Casket Rack: a device which allows caskets to be placed one on top of the other for display purposes.
Casket Veil: a silk or net transparent covering for the casket.
Catafalque: a stand upon which the casketing remains rest while in state and during the funeral service.
Coffin: wedge shaped burial cases that are most often eight sided.
Door Badge: floral spray that is placed on the door of a residence to announce a death.
Family Car: a limousine used for the immediate family in a funeral procession.
Flower Car: a vehicle used for the transportation of flower pieces from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery.
Flower Racks and Stands: wooden or metal racks and stands of varying heights used for banking flowers around the casket.
Funeral Spray: a collective mass of cut flowers sent to the residence of the deceased or to the funeral home as a floral tribute to the deceased.
Hearse/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 Funeral Coach.
Lead Car: the vehicle in which the funeral director and sometimes the clergyman rides. When the procession is formed, the lead car moves to the head of it and leads the procession to the church and/or cemetery.
Register: a book made available by the funeral director for recording the names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased. Also has space for entering other data such as name, dates of birth and death of the deceased, name of the officiating clergyman, place of interment, time and date of service, list of floral tributes, etc.
Service Car: usually a utility vehicle to which tasteful ornamentation may be added in the form of a metal firm name plate, post lamps, etc. It is utilized to transport chairs, church trucks, flower stands, shipping cases, etc.

Funeral Service Terms

After Care: after care programs provide grief support, education, and resources to families affected by a death of a loved one; considered by some to be an altruistic extension of the services a funeral home provides at a time of need.
Casketing: placing of the body in the casket upon completion of embalming, dressing and cosmeticizing.
Committal Service: the final portion of the funeral service at which time the deceased is interred or entombed.
Cortege: the funeral procession.
Cosmetology: utilization of cosmetics to help restore a life-like appearance to the deceased.
Direct Disposition: the disposition of human remains without a formal viewing or funeral ceremony.
Embalm: the process of preserving a body by means of circulating preservative and antiseptic through the veins and arteries.
Embalming Fluid: liquid chemicals used in preserving a body.
Embalming Table: an operating table usually constructed of metal with a porcelain surface upon which the remains are placed for embalming.
Eulogy: a brief speech that offers praise and celebrates the life of the person who has died.
Final Disposition: the last process for the remains.
Final Rites: the funeral service.
First Call: the initial visit of the funeral director to the place of death for the purpose of removing the deceased and to secure certain information needed immediately.
Funeral Arrangements: the funeral director's conference with the family for the purpose of completing financial and service details of a funeral.
Funeral Service: 1.) the profession which cares for the deceased and their family; 2.) the religious or other rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the body.
In State: the custom of availing the deceased for viewing by relatives and friends prior to or after the funeral service.
Memorial Service: a religious service conducted in memory of the deceased without the remains being present.
Mortuary Science: part of funeral service profession that deals with proper preparation of human remains for final disposition.
Obituary: notice of death that contains biographical details of the deceased; usually placed in the newspaper, and/or on the Internet.
Private Service: this service is by invitation only and may be held at a place of worship, a funeral home or a family home.
Procession: the vehicular movement of the funeral from the place where the funeral service was conducted to the cemetery. May also apply to a church funeral where the mourners follow the casket as it is brought into and taken out of the church.
Remains: the deceased.
Restorative Art: derma surgery – the process of restoring distorted features by employing wax, creams, plaster, etc.
Rigor Mortis: rigidity of the muscles which occurs at death.
Spiritual Banquet: a Roman Catholic practice involving specific prayers, such as Masses and Rosaries offered by an individual or a group for a definite purpose.
Viewing: when the deceased is available to be visited and seen by friends and relatives before or after the funeral service
Vigil: a Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.
Visitation: an opportunity for survivors and friends to view the deceased in private, usually in a special room within the funeral home.
Visitation Room: room in the funeral home where the body lies before the funeral service for people to view the deceased.
Wake: a watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral.

Legal Terms

At-need Funeral: working with a funeral director after a loved one has died to plan a funeral, especially when a funeral has not been planned in advance.
Attorney in Fact: a person who is granted the power of attorney.
Beneficiary: recipient of the proceeds of an insurance policy or will.
Bequest: gift of property made in a will.
Burial Certificate/ Permit: a legal paper issued by the local government authorizing burial. The permit may authorize earth burial or cremation or removal to a distant point.
Burial Insurance: an insurance policy in which the principal is paid in a funeral service and merchandise rather than cash.
Certified Death Certificate: a legalized copy of the original certificate, issued upon request by the local government for the purpose of substantiating various claims by the family of the deceased such as insurance and other death benefits.
Codicil: amendment to the will that changes the original provisions.
Contest: legal challenge or question to the validity of a will.
Cremation Permit: a certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.
Death Certificate: legal document signed by the attending physician or coroner certifying the cause of death and other vital statistical data pertaining to the deceased.
Death Notice: a paragraph in the classified section of a newspaper, and/or on the Internet, that publicizes the death of a person and gives details of the funeral service that the survivors wish to have published. Most notices list the names of the relatives of the deceased.
Deceased: one in whom all physical life has ceased.
Executor: administrator of an estate.
Funeral Insurance/Burial Insurance: an insurance policy that covers costs related to the funeral or provides money for a funeral upon death of the insured.
Funeral Rule: established in 1984 by the Federal Trade Commission, the Funeral Rule protects consumers' rights.
Inquest: an official inquiry or examination usually before a jury to determine the cause of death.
Intestate: having no legal will left behind.
License: an authorization from the state granting permission to perform duties which, without such permission, would be illegal.
Life Insurance Trust: trust fund from money provided by life insurance.
Living Trust: trust that has been established during the life of the trustee.
Living Will: legal document detailing the wishes of an individual concerning his/her medical care, particularly in respect to resuscitation and life sustaining technology.
Perpetual Care Trust Fund: portion of burial plot cost set aside in trust for ongoing care
Prearranged Funeral: funeral arranged and paid for by an individual prior to their death.
Prearranged Funeral Trust or Funeral Trust: method that allows individuals to pre-pay for funeral expenses by holding money in trust until it is needed to pay for funeral costs.
Pre-Planning or Pre-need: working with a funeral director to plan one's funeral in advance of death; the process includes selecting the type of funeral or memorial service, method of disposition, funeral merchandise, cemetery plot locations, memorials, songs, pallbearers, etc.; many people who preplan their funeral services also prepay for them through an insurance policy, a trust, or other investment means.
Probate: court process that proves the validity of a will.
Right of Survivorship: occurs when joint property owned by the deceased is granted to the surviving joint owner.
Testator: person making valid will.
Transit Permit: a legal paper issued by the local government authorizing removal of a body to a cemetery for interment. Some cities also require an additional permit if the deceased is to be cremated.
Trust: monetary fund held and managed by one person to benefit an individual or others.
Viatical: purchase of a life-insurance policy from a terminally ill person.
Will: legal document stating intentions of deceased on the care of their remains and dispersal of their belongings along with other relevant issues.

People you may encounter

Bereaved: (N) The immediate family of the deceased. (V) Suffering from the grief upon the death of a loved one.
Coroner: public official and in some cases a constitutional officer whose duty is to investigate the cause of death if it appears to be other than natural causes, or if there was no physician in attendance for a long time prior to death.
Embalmer: one who preserves bodies by the injection or external application of antiseptics, disinfectants or preservative fluids.
Flower bearer: an individual who walks before or behind the casket carrying flower tributes sent to the family.
Funeral Director/ Mortician: A professional, who prepares for the burial or other disposition of bodies, supervises such burial or disposition, maintains a funeral establishment for such purposes, and counsels survivors. Also known as undertaker.
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.
Medical Examiner: a government official who is usually appointed and has a thorough medical knowledge whose function is to perform autopsies on bodies dead from crime, violence, suicide, etc., and investigate circumstances of death.
Mourner: someone who is present at a funeral out of affection or respect for the deceased.
Pallbearers: individuals whose duty is to carry the casket when necessary during funeral service. Pallbearers can be hired or are close friends and relatives of the deceased.
Survivors: the persons outliving the deceased, particularly the immediate family.

Funeral Service Workers


Funeral service workers typically do the following:

Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
Prepare the remains (body)
File death certificates and other legal documents
Train junior staff