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Glossary of Frequently-Used Funeral Terms


Listed below are some of the terms commonly used when referring to funeral care and services. Your local Selected funeral home can provide you with additional explanations and information.

Arrangement Conference
A time when the funeral director meets with an individual or family, typically in a private area at the funeral home, to discuss preferences and make the necessary arrangements for at-need or pre-need services.

At-Need
Refers to services rendered at the time of death, in contrast to "pre-need" which include planning and other services offered prior to or in preparation for a death.

Beneficiary
The recipient of any proceeds from a will or insurance policy.

Bereavement
The state of grief experienced by survivors after the death of a loved one. The family and friends of the deceased are referred to as the bereaved.

Bier
A raised platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket. Sometimes called a catafalque.

Burial
Generally refers to ground placement of a body in a casket.

Burial Permit
Some jurisdictions require a permit or certificate for human remains to be buried or cremated. This can be provided by your funeral director.

Casket
A container of wood, metal, fiberglasss or other material designed specifically for holding human remains for burial or other disposition.

Cortege
The procession of people or vehicles escorting the deceased to a cemetery or other final resting place.

Columbarium
A structure or building with niches designed to house cremated remains in urns.

Cremation
The process of using intense heat in a specially-designed chamber to render human remains into fine ash. It is a regulated and controlled process that can typically take from two to four hours. The cremated remains (sometimes called "cremains") are placed in a vessel called an urn.

Crematory
A building or facility with the equipment needed for cremating human remains.

Crypt
An individual chamber in a mausoleum that can contain casketed human remains.

Death Certificate
A legal document, signed by a coroner or other medical health professional, certifying the death of an individual. The death certificate is used for many legal processes pertaining to death, from arrangement for interment to the settlement of estate assets.

Display Room or Selection Room
An area in a funeral home provided for viewing samples of available caskets, urns and other funeral merchandise. Samples also may sometimes be viewed on interactive electronic displays.

Disposition
The manner in which human remains are finally handled, including burial, interment, scattering of cremated remains and other forms of placement.

Embalming
The process of temporarily preserving human remains by use of chemicals such as formaldehyde, iodine, soy and alcohol.

Eulogy
Public speaking at a funeral to honor the deceased.

Funeral Director
The trained professional who supervises and coordinates the various services provided to honor the deceased, assists and supports survivors, and prepares the body for final disposition.

Funeral Home
A licensed, regulated business that provides for the care, planning and preparation of human remains for their final resting place. A funeral home also arranges and conducts funeral and memorial services and sells caskets and other funeral-related merchandise.

Funeral Service
The ceremony in which the bereaved pay tribute and say good-bye to the deceased prior to final disposition.

Funeral Spray
A large bouquet of cut flowers designed as a tribute to the deceased.

Grave Liner
A box or receptacle made of concrete or other durable material into which the casket is placed to prevent the ground from collapsing onto it.

Green Burial
The preparation and disposition of human remains without use of toxic chemicals and non-biodegradable materials to help in the preservation of the environment.

Interment
The act of burying human remains in a grave.

Inurnment
The act of placing cremated remains in an urn.

Living Will
A legal document detailing a person's wishes regarding medical care and resuscitation.

Mausoleum
A above-ground structure or building, often in a cemetery, that holds caskets and remains.

Morgue
The official location where the deceased are held pending identification by next of kin.

Niche
An individual chamber in a mausoleum in which an urn is placed.

Personalization
The act of creating a unique, non-traditional funeral or memorial service that truly reflects the life of the deceased.

Pre-Need
Activities related to arranging aspects of a funeral in advance of actual need.

Probate
The court process of proving the validity of a will.

Remains
The body of the deceased.

Urn
A container made for holding cremated human remains.

Vault
A solid container, usually made of concrete, to prevent undue damage to or leakage from an enclosed casket.

Visitation
A scheduled time, typically at a funeral home, when the body of the deceased is on display, facilitating friends and family to pay their final respects.

Wake
A traditional watch over the deceased, usually conducted by family members and close friends.

Will
A legal document stating the intentions of the deceased concerning the dispersal of belongings and other relevant matters.

Talk-Of-A-Lifetime

What people are saying about Selected members

"I wanted to thank the funeral directors for their handling of the funeral. They took care of everything from beginning to end without any of us having to think about anything but our love for our father. They were very attentive to the family. It was a very dignified funeral."

– A.J.., Carlisle, PA
Served by member firm Hoffman-Roth Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc.

Read more quotes from people Selected members have served.