Funeral language

There are many words relating to funerals that you may hear for the first time when you have to arrange or are attending a funeral. We call this “funeral language”.

We have listed below the most common words and phrases you might come across:

Beneficiary
Any recipient of the proceeds of a Will

Bereaved
The family and friends of the person who has died. Also see Mourners

Bequest
Any gift or property detailed in a will

Book of Remembrance
An ornate book, often at a crematorium, in which details of the person who has died can be recorded, for a charge.

Casket
The American term for a coffin, sometimes used in the UK to describe more ornate types of coffin

Cardboard Coffin
Environmentally friendly coffins made of thick card

Catafalque
The large flat table that the coffin is placed on in a crematorium

Celebrant
A professional person who is trained to deliver a funeral ceremony

Cemetery
Also referred to as a graveyard or burial ground, a location for graves

Chapel of Rest
Often at a funeral home and sometimes at a hospital, this is a quiet place where the person who has died is taken after death, where families can visit

Civil Funeral
A funeral which is driven by the wishes, beliefs and values of the deceased and their family, not by the beliefs or ideology of the person conducting the funeral. Conducted by a professional Civil Funeral Celebrant

Columbarium
A granite wall where cremated remains are placed, usually in the grounds of a crematorium

Committal
The part of a funeral ceremony where the coffin is actually laid in the grave in the case of a burial or words of final farewell are said at a cremation to signify the removal of the body from the mourners before cremation.

Coroner
An official who holds inquests into certain types of death including those that are unexplained.

Cortege
This is the funeral procession to the funeral and is made up of those attending the funeral

Cremation
A regulated process using intense heat in a chamber to burn human remains.

Crematorium
A place where cremations take place

Cremated Remains
A term used to describe the ashes of the person who has been cremated

Death Certificate
Can also be referred to as the MCCD  (The Medical Cause death Certificate), a legal paper signed by a doctor detailing the cause of death

Deceased
The person who has died

Embalming
A procedure using chemicals, such as formaldehyde, to temporarily preserve human remains.

Epitaph
The writing on a memorial headstone

Eulogy
A speech about the life and character of the person who has died, given as part pf the funeral ceremony that offers praise and celebrates the life of the person who has died.

Executor
A person appointed under the terms of a will to carry out the terms of the will

Funeral Home/Parlour
Sometimes called a funeral parlour, this is the funeral directors' premises, where they are based and where you might view the person who has died before the funeral takes place.

Funeral Service/Ceremony
The event that takes place at burial or cremation, attended by mourners, before disposal of the body by cremation or burial. A ceremony to remember the person who has died.

Green Funeral
Sometimes referred to as natural, woodland, eco burial and there are other terms. The aim of such a burial is to return the body to the earth in a manner that is environmentally friendly

Hearse
A funeral car provided usually by a funeral director, in which the coffin is taken to the funeral

Humanist Funeral
Conducted by a humanist officiant, these ceremonies do not contain any religious content

Inquest 
A judicial inquiry to determine the facts relating to a death

Interment
The act of burying a body in a grave

Intestate
This is the situation when someone dies and leaves no will

Living Will
A document that lays out the wishes of an individual about their medical care, especially with respect to resuscitation should they be unable to make decisions at that time.

Memorial
Sometimes referred to as a headstone or a tombstone

Memorial Mason
Sometimes referred to as a Monumental Mason or a Stone mason, who makes and sells headstones

Memorial Service
A memorial service is one that occurs without the body present, usually after a funeral. Family and friends will contribute to the event which is often attended by large numbers

Mortuary
Often in a hospital, this is a place where the person who has died is placed and sometimes kept before burial or cremation

Mourners
Those who are attending a funeral

Natural Burial Ground
A location, sometimes wooded, where natural or green burials are held

Pallbearers
Those people, who may be employed by the funeral director, or family members, who carry the coffin in to the graveside or into the crematorium

Pre-planned funerals
It is now possible to pre-arrange all aspects of a funeral (including the payment for the funeral) in advance.

Probate
This is the court process of proving that a will is valid and the sorting out of financial arrangements in connection with the person’s estate.

Obituary
The words that are written about the person who has died and places in a newspaper or on an online obituary site

Urn
A container specifically made to hold the ashes or cremated remains of the person who has died.

Wake
A term often used to describe the gathering of mourners or those attending a funeral

Will
A legal document containing the intentions and wishes of person who has died about what should happen to their property and belongings, it may include the care of their remains and other matters.

Woodland Burial Ground
See Natural Burial Ground

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