There are many phrases and terms that are unique to the funeral industry, and if you’ve never needed to organise a funeral before, you might not be quite aware of what they all mean. 

Here is a thorough list of funeral terms and their definitions. 

Traditional funeral terms.

  1. Coffin - A container used for holding the deceased during the funeral or cremation process. The shape is the main difference between a casket and a coffin. Coffins are often wider compared to caskets, with more room around the top, and taper in towards the bottom. The lid of a coffin flips open, with handles on either side to carry it.
  2. Casket - A container used for holding the deceased during the funeral or cremation process. Caskets are rectangular, with no differences in width or length. Caskets generally have a split lid, which allows the upper half to be opened as needed for an open-casket viewing or during the funeral.
  3. Embalming - The process of preserving the body of the deceased for transporting or viewing. Chemicals are injected into the bloodstream to delay the body’s natural decomposition process.
  4. Eulogy - A speech given at a funeral or memorial service in honour of the person who has died. Eulogies commemorate and celebrate the life of the deceased, so sharing a life story gives purpose to that life and communicates a legacy for those they love.
  5. Funeral Director - The person who arranges and supervises the funeral or memorial service.
  6. Graveside Service - A service held at the gravesite of the deceased.
  7. Memorial Service - A service held in honour of the deceased without the body present. Click here to learn more about Bare Memorials.
  8. Pallbearers - The people who carry the casket or coffin during the funeral procession.
  9. Urn - A container used for holding the cremated remains of the deceased. 
  10. Visitation - A time set aside for family and friends to view the deceased and offer condolences to the family.
  11. Wake - A gathering held before or after the funeral or memorial service to offer condolences to the family.
  12. Shiva - A period of mourning in the Jewish tradition where family members gather to mourn and receive visitors.
  13. Death Certificate - A legal document that certifies the cause and manner of death.
  14. Obituary - A written notice of someone's death, usually published in a newspaper or online.
  15. Funeral procession - The line of cars or people that follow the hearse from the funeral home to the cemetery or crematorium.
  16. Flower arrangements - Floral arrangements that are typically displayed at the funeral or memorial service.
  17. Funeral home - A facility where funeral services are held and the deceased are prepared for burial or cremation.
  18. Pall - A cloth used to cover the casket or coffin during the funeral service.
  19. Memorial donation - A charitable contribution made in honour of the deceased. This can be requested by the family in place of sending flowers.
  20. Death notice - A brief announcement of someone's death, usually published in a newspaper or online.
  21. Cremation chamber - The furnace or retort where the cremation takes place. The body is usually placed into a wooden coffin before entering the chamber. 
  22. Cremains - The remains of the deceased after cremation, also referred to as cremated remains or ashes. This term can be less humanising than cremated remains.
  23. Direct cremation - A type of cremation where the body is cremated soon after death, without a funeral or memorial service.
  24. Memorial urn - An urn used for holding the ashes and displayed during a memorial service or kept in a home.
  25. Scattering - The act of scattering the ashes in a meaningful location, often outdoors.
  26. Columbarium - A structure or room used for holding urns containing remains, often located within a cemetery.
  27. Cremation jewellery - Jewellery that contains a small portion of the ashes, allowing loved ones to keep a physical connection with the deceased.
  28. Cremation niche - A small compartment or space within a columbarium used for holding an urn containing ashes.
  29. Final disposition - The final resting place of the ashes, which can include scattering, burial, or placement in a niche or urn.
  30. Funeral pyre - An outdoor structure or platform used for burning the body during cremation, primarily used in certain cultures and religions.
  31. Ash scattering ceremony - A formal or informal ceremony that is held to scatter the ashes of the deceased in a meaningful way.
  32. Mortician - A professional who is licensed to prepare the body of the deceased for burial or cremation. This may involve performing embalming or dressing and putting makeup on the deceased.

Green funeral and non-traditional funeral terms.

  1. Green burial - A type of burial that emphasises the use of environmentally sustainable and biodegradable materials, and avoids embalming. The body is covered in a shroud or biodegradable container, and buried only 3ft into the ground, rather than the traditional 6ft.
  2. Biodegradable casket - A casket made from sustainable materials that are designed to break down naturally over time.
  3. Shroud - A cloth made from natural and biodegradable that is used to wrap the body of the deceased for burial or cremation, often used in natural and green burials.
  4. Aquamation - A water-based cremation process that uses less energy than traditional cremation and produces fewer emissions.
  5. Resomation - A water-based cremation process that uses an alkaline solution to break down the body of the deceased.
  6. Tree burial - A type of burial where the body of the deceased is buried in a biodegradable container or shroud, and a tree is planted on top of the burial site. The tree becomes the natural grave marker.
  7. Green cemetery - A cemetery that is designed to be environmentally sustainable and encourages natural burial practices.
  8. Home funeral - A funeral or memorial service that is held in the home of the deceased or their loved ones, often emphasising simplicity and natural practices. Home funerals are still common in many countries across the world.
  9. Death doula - A professional who provides support and guidance to individuals and families during the dying process and after death, often emphasising natural and holistic practices.
  10. Sustainable funeral products - Products such as caskets, urns, and memorial items that are made from sustainable materials and designed to minimise environmental impact.
  11. Eco-friendly funeral transportation - Transportation options for the deceased, such as hybrid or electric hearses or transportation that utilises bicycles or other sustainable means.
  12. Donation of body to science - A way of giving back to society through the donation of one's body to scientific research, which can help further medical knowledge and advancements.

Hopefully these terms can give you an overview and understanding into the funeral industry and different funeral practices.

Whether you are looking to organise a direct cremation, a memorial or funeral service, we would be honoured to support you. To find out more, visit our Bare website here, or call our 24/7 hotline 1800 071 176.