Glossary of Terms

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Advanced Funeral Planning

See Preplanning

After Care

A program providing grief support, education and resources to families affected by the death of a loved one. Considered by some as an extension of the services a funeral home provides at the time of need.

Alternative Container

A container – typically heavy cardboard or chipboard – which does not meet the standards of a burial casket and is used to hold human remains for cremation; see also cremation container.


The process of dividing cremated remains into portions for separate disposition. For example, cremated remains could be divided into three portions, with one portion placed in an urn in a columbarium, another portion scattered in a favorite place and yet another carried in a locket.


The name generally applied to an individual learning the embalming and funeral directing profession under the supervision of a licensee.

Arrangement Conference

A meeting held between the funeral director and the family members of the deceased to finalize funeral arrangements. During this meeting, the funeral director will discuss the family’s wishes and desires and prepare a contract for the goods and services selected by the family. This meeting usually takes place at the funeral home shortly after death has occurred; see also funeral arrangements.

Arrangement Room

A room at the funeral home used to make the necessary funeral arrangements with the family of the deceased.


See cremated remains.



(n) The immediate family of the deceased. (v) Suffering from grief upon the death of a loved one.


A stand on which a casket is placed before burial; see also catafalque.


The ritual of placing human remains in a grave; see also interment.

Burial Garments

Clothing made especially for the deceased.

Burial Insurance

An insurance policy used to pay for the funeral service and or merchandise; see also funeral insurance.


Cash Advance Items

Goods and services furnished by a third party and paid for by the funeral director on one’s behalf. These items are generally listed separately on the Statement of Goods and Services and may include such things as honorariums, cemetery charges, obituaries and death certificates.


A container designed to encase human remains for burial. Can be constructed of various materials including steel, stainless steel, copper, bronze and/or wood; see also coffin.

Casket Bearer

Typically a friend or relative who is responsible for carrying the casket at a funeral. Generally 6-8 individuals carry the casket; see also pallbearer.


The placement of the body in the casket upon completion of embalming, dressing and cosmetizing.


A stand upon which the casketed remains rest while in state and during the funeral service; see also bier.


An area of ground set aside for burial or entombment of the deceased.


An empty tomb or monument erected in memory of a person buried elsewhere.

Certified Death Certificate

A legalized copy of the original death certificate, issued upon request of the local or state government for the purpose of substantiating various claims by the family of the deceased such as insurance and other death benefits.


A large room of the funeral home in which the funeral or memorial service is held.

Church Truck

A collapsible catafalque with wheels used for funerals.


A six-sided container designed to encase human remains, usually constructed of wood; see also casket.


A memorial structure where inurned cremated remains are entombed. Remains can be placed into private or communal niches; see inurnment.

Committal Service

The final ceremony before the casketed body is lowered into a grave or placed into a mausoleum crypt.


A public official whose duty is to investigate the cause of death if it appears to be from other than natural causes, or if there was no physician in attendance for a long time prior to death.


A funeral procession.


The utilization of cosmetics to restore life-like appearance to the deceased.


See cremated remains.

Cremated Remains

The remains of a human body after cremation, comprised of ash and bone fragments. The term cremated remains is the preferred term.


The reduction of human remains by intense heat and flame to ash and bone fragments.

Cremation Casket

A casket made of combustible material, designed specifically for cremation; see also cremation container.

Cremation Container

Simple containers, often constructed of cardboard or chipboard, which preserve the dignity of remains prior to cremation and to assist with the placement of the remains into the retort.

Cremation Permit

A certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.


A building that houses a retort; see also retort.


A bronze and granite cemetery feature which provides a place for burial for the cremated remains. 


A dry, vented burial chamber for the placement of the casketed body; see also mausoleum and lawn crypt.


Death Certificate

A legal document, signed by a medical professional or a coroner, certifying the death of an individual.

Death Notice

See Obituary.


A person in whom all physical life has ceased; decedent.

Direct Disposition

The disposition of human remains without a formal viewing or funeral ceremony. Also known as direct burial or direct cremation..


The excavation or opening of an occupied burial site with regulatory and family written authorization, and the removal of the remains to be re-interred in another location.

Display Room

See Selection Room.


The means of laying human remains to rest. Methods of disposition may include earth burial, entombment in a crypt, cremation, etc.



One who is trained and licensed in the surgical procedure of disinfecting or preserving deceased human bodies by the injection or application of preservatives and antiseptics.


The process by which a trained and licensed embalmer chemically treats a body to reduce the presence and growth of microorganisms, retard organic decomposition and restore an acceptable physical appearance. Embalming offers temporary preservation of a deceased person’s body and allows for funerals to be held several days after the death has occurred by keeping the body in a viewable state.

Endowment Care

A process whereby funds are held in trust for the maintenance of a cemetery. Sometimes called perpetual care.


The placement of a casketed body into a mausoleum or lawn crypt; see also crypt.


A commemorative inscription on a memorial marker or monument.


A form of public speaking at funerals or memorials used to honor and pay respect to the person who has died.


A person who gives a eulogy at a funeral or memorial service.


Family Room

A room in the funeral home which allows the immediate family to have privacy during a visitation or funeral service.

Final Rites

The Funeral Service.

First Call

The initial call of the funeral director to the place of death for the purpose of removing the body. Also called a removal.


A service, held with the body present, that commemorates the life of the deceased.

Funeral Arrangements

See arrangement conference.

Funeral Coach

A motor vehicle designed and used for the conveyance of the casketed remains from the place the funeral service is conducted to the cemetery; see also hearse.

Funeral Director

A trained and licensed individual who provides support to the bereaved during initial stages of their grief. Arranges and directs funeral ceremonies. Arranges for the removal of the deceased from the place of death. Prepares the body according to the wishes of the survivors and requirements of the law. Secures information for legal documents. Files death certificates and other legal papers. Assists survivors with filing claims for death benefits. Helps individuals adapt to changes in their lives following a death through after care services. The terms “mortician” and “undertaker” have fallen out of favor in many circles; “funeral director” is the preferred term.

Funeral Home

A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals; see also mortuary.

Funeral Insurance

An insurance policy, normally written for a small amount, which provides money for a funeral upon the death of the person insured; see also burial insurance.

Funeral Procession

The assembly of cars following the funeral coach enroute to the cemetery following a funeral service; see also cortege.

Funeral Rule

Established in 1984 by the Federal Trade Commission, the Funeral Rule protects consumers’ rights.

Funeral Service

The rites conducted immediately before the disposition of the dead human body; see also funeral and funeral rites.

Funeral Trust

See prearranged funeral trust.


General Price List

A price list of all goods and services provided by a funeral home, including disclosures required by the Federal Trade Commission; see funeral rule.


An excavation in the earth for the purpose of burying the dead; see interment.

Grave Liner

A permanent outside container, generally consisting of a concrete box and a lid. It is not intended to demonstrate any sealed protection to the casket; see also outer burial container.

Grave Marker

A method of identifying the occupant of a particular grave, usually including such data as the name of the individual, date of birth and date of death.

Graveside Service

See Committal Service.


See Monument.

Green Burial

In 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.


Intense sorrow caused by the loss of a loved one or close friend.



See Monument.


A specially designed vehicle provided by the funeral home to transport remains; see also funeral coach.

Honorary Casket Bearer

A person that is accorded the honor of escorting the casket, similar to a casket bearer, but does not actually carry the casket; also called an honorary pallbearer.


In State

The status of a casketed body which is ready for viewing in the privacy of a funeral home. Also known as visitation.


The placement of the deceased in a grave.

Interment Fee

See opening and closing fee.


The placement of cremated remains in an urn.


Keepsake Urns

Miniature urns designed to hold a small portion of cremated remains. Cremated remains are placed in keepsake urns and distributed among immediate family members. Also known as memento urns.


Lawn Crypt

A permanent underground crypt usually constructed of reinforced concrete or similar material installed in multiple units for the entombment of human remains.


A chauffeured automobile designed to seat six or more persons behind the driver’s seat. Generally used to transport the immediate family from the place of the funeral service to the cemetery.


See Plot.

Lowering Device

A mechanical device used for lowering the casket into the grave.



A public or private building with crypts for the entombment of casketed remains or cremated remains; see also crypt.


A monument or grave marker identifying a grave or graves. A nameplate or inscription identifying a crypt or niche. A marker, garden bench, statue, etc., placed in a meaningful location to honor the dead.

Memorial Service

A service, held without the body present, that commemorates the life of the deceased.


Typically made of granite, monuments can take on various forms. They are engraved with the names of the deceased and dates of birth and death. Depending on the size of the stone, anniversary dates, names of children, favorite sayings, poems, scriptures or songs may be included. Sometimes called a headstone, tombstone or gravestone.


See Funeral Director.


See Funeral Home.

Mortuary Science

An aspect of the funeral service profession dealing with the preparation of the body for final disposition.


The outward expressions of sorrow manifested in dress, actions and performance of routine activities.


Natural Burial

See Green Burial.


The individual above-ground space dedicated for the permanent placement of an urn containing cremated human remains; see also columbarium.

Niche Garden

An outdoor garden containing structures with niches.



A notice of a person’s death published in a newspaper. Usually contains biographical details and information about funeral or memorial services. If the funeral home has a website, the obituaries can also be found there.


A person who leads or officiates at a funeral or memorial service; see clergy.

Opening and Closing Fee

Cemetery fee for the digging and refilling of the grave; see also interment fee.

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 the interment; also called a vault or grave liner.

Online Condolences

An expression of sympathy with another’s grief. If the funeral home has a website, online condolences may be shared with family and friends.



A cloth used to cover the casket. The expression “pall bearers” refers to those who carry the cloth and/or the casket. 


Typically a friend or relative who is responsible for carrying the casket at a funeral; see also casket bearer.

Perpetual Care Trust Funds

A portion of the burial plot cost set aside in a trust fund for its ongoing care.


An area of ground in a cemetery used for the interment of human remains. The term includes and applies to one, or more than one, adjoining grave and or space; one, or more than one, adjoining crypt; or one, or more than one, adjoining niche.

Prearranged Funeral

A funeral that has been arranged and paid for prior to a person’s death; see also preplanning.

Prearranged Funeral Trust

A trust fund where money is held until needed to pay for funeral costs.

Pre Need Insurance

See funeral insurance or burial insurance.

Preparation Room

A room in the funeral home where remains are prepared for viewing. Preparation includes embalming, clothing the body, applying cosmetics, styling the hair and placing the remains in a casket.


The process of 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, methods of disposition, funeral merchandise, cemetery plot locations, memorials, songs, casket bearers, etc. Many people who preplan their funeral services also prepay for them through an insurance policy, a trust or other investment means. Also referred to as advance funeral planning.


See funeral procession.


Register Book

A book made available by the funeral director for the recording of names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased, as well as those in attendance at the funeral or memorial service.


See First Call.


The chamber in which a body is cremated.



The physical process of spreading cremated remains over land or water in a random manner, with the intended purpose of final disposition of such cremated remains. While there are few prohibitions against scattering, families are advised to be aware of local ordinances and to obtain permission from landowners before scattering.

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 select for purchase while planning a funeral or memorial service. Also known as a display room.

Statement of Funeral Goods and Services

An itemized list of the goods and services that the consumer has selected during the arrangement conference. The Statement allows consumers to evaluate their selections and make any desired changes.

State Room

A room in a funeral home where visitations are held. The term is derived from a body lying in state for viewing by friends and family; see also visitation room.


Those who have outlived the deceased, especially family members.



A chamber excavated from earth or rock specifically for receiving human remains.


See Monument.

Transit Permit

A permit issued by a local or state authority allowing a body to be transported to the place of burial or cremation, usually out-of-state.



A term used following the Civil War to describe those who “undertook” the preparation of the dead for final rites and burial, which many times included construction of the coffin. The term undertaker has been replaced by the term funeral director; see funeral director.


A container designed to hold cremated remains. Urns can be made of wood, metal, glass or other natural materials.

Urn Garden

A garden containing urn burial sites.

Urn Placement

The permanent placement of an urn into a niche or urn burial site.

Urn Vault

A permanent outside container with an interior encasement, made of concrete, plastic, fiberglass or stone materials wherein the cremated remains are placed.



A permanent outside container of grade better than a grave liner or concrete box, which is sealed and affords protection to the casket; see also outer burial container.

Video Tribute

A memorial DVD that uses photographs or home movies to honor the life of a loved one. Can be played during the visitation or funeral service.


See Visitation.


A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service. May include the recitation of the Rosary.


A gathering held with the deceased’s body present. A time for family and friends to express condolences and support one another. Also called a viewing or calling hours.



An expression used by certain religious and ethnic cultures where family members maintain watch over the loved one who has died.


An innovative technology that allows family and friends to participate in the funeral or memorial service through streaming video over the Interment. This video can be viewed online or archived for delayed viewing. It is unique solution for family and friends who cannot attend the funeral or memorial service in person.

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