Glossary of Funeral Terms

Glossaryof Terms2

Many terms are unique to funerals and our glossary is divided into sections, namely Funeral Arranging, Funeral Service, Burial, Cremation, Financial, Administration and Memorial. Just go to the section and easily find out what is meant by the terminology, words and phrases associated with funerals. Where possible, we feature links to articles that may contain more information. If you do need further clarification of the terms, and of course any help with arranging the funeral, please contact us here at CPJ Field.

Funeral Arranging

  • Chapel of Rest - A room in the Funeral Home where the body can be viewed.
  • Embalming - The process of preserving and protecting the body. It helps to preserve the dignity of the person who has died and improves the experience for those visiting the Chapel of Rest.
  • Floral Tributes - Small bouquets or caskets, which commemorate the life of the deceased. The family usually gives instructions about flowers, which are conveyed by the Funeral Director.
  • Funeral - A funeral is the ceremony to commemorate the death of a person. It is held before the person is cremated or buried and can be religious or non-religious.
  • Funeral Arranger - The person who works for the Funeral Director to arrange the funeral. Funeral Directors can be referred to as Funeral Arrangers.
  • Funeral Director - The person who arranges the funeral. They can organise everything including preparation of the person who has died for burial or cremation, can complete the paperwork and liaise with the various factions involved such as the Church, Crematorium and Celebrant. They can also provide Funeral Transport, Pallbearers, arrange Funeral Flowers, Order of Service and music.
  • Funeral Home - The premises of the Funeral Director, which accommodate all of the Funeral Director’s functions. To find your local funeral director, please see our Contact page.
  • Mortuary - This is a room usually in a Funeral Home or a hospital where the bodies are kept before being collected for the funeral.
  • Mortician - The person who prepares the body for Cremation or Burial. It may involve embalming and dressing them. The mortician can also carry out reconstructive surgery, if the person has been involved in an accident.
  • Public Health Funeral - The local authority arranges this for a person where the family is not known or the family has renounced responsibility for them.
  • Undertaker - An old term for a Funeral Director. The phrase is derived from the fact that it was a person ‘undertaking’ the funeral arrangements.
  • Viewing - The act of seeing the body in a Mortuary or Chapel of Rest.
  • Repatriation - The transfer of a deceased person to or from another country.

Funeral Service

  • Bearer - One of typically four or six people who carry, or help to transport the Coffin throughout the various parts of the funeral. They are also known as Pallbearers.
  • Bereaved - People grieving for the person who has died. Typically, an immediate family member or a close friend.
  • Bereavement - The experience of someone close to you dying.
  • Bier - A device on wheels for moving a coffin during a funeral service, which is moved by the bearers.
  • Celebrant - Also referred to as a Funeral Celebrant. The person who leads the Funeral Service. They have a number of duties including giving a Eulogy in memory of the person who has died. A celebrant can be a cleric for a particular religion, or can be a civil or Humanist Celebrant.
  • Coffin - A coffin contains the body for Burial or Cremation of the person who has died.
  • Committal Service - A graveside ceremony where the Coffin or Casket is buried. It can be carried out immediately after the Funeral Service or at another time.
  • Cortege - The procession of vehicles carrying the deceased and mourners. It is also referred to as the Funeral Procession.
  • Eulogy - The speech given at a funeral, which commemorates the life of the person who has died. Read more.
  • Funeral Procession - A procession of funeral vehicles, which can include the Hearse carrying the deceased and the limousines or funeral cars carrying the family and friends. The procession travels from the Funeral Home to the Funeral Service venue.
  • Green Funeral - An eco-friendly funeral, often referred to as a Woodland Burial. Often a biodegradable casket is used in a green space such as woodland.
  • Hearse - The vehicle carrying the Coffin or Casket from the family or Funeral Home to the Funeral Service and then on to the Crematorium or Cemetery.
  • Humanist Funeral - A non-religious funeral focusing on the life and personality of the person who has died.
  • Limousine - This is used to transport mourners in the funeral Cortege. It is chauffeur-driven and limousines are often referred to as Family Cars.
  • Mourning Clothes - The dress code for those in mourning after a loved one has died. This could be a spouse or parent or child. Read more on what to wear to a funeral on our advice page.
  • Order of Service - Information for the attendees of the funeral, which may include a short Obituary, words, hymns, prayers and readings.
  • Reception - The Funeral Reception is held after the funeral for mourners to informally celebrate the life of the person who has died. It can be held at home, a function room, a restaurant or a public house.
  • Trestles - The Coffin stands on trestles. These are usually wooden and decorative.
  • Unattended Funeral - Available for those who want a simple funeral without a service or ceremony.
  • Wake - A Funeral Reception held after the funeral to celebrate the life of the person who has died. Often it is less formal than the Funeral Service with refreshments provided.


  • Burial At Sea - The person who has died is laid to rest on the ocean bed. Typically, the coffin has been specially adapted. Those with a connection to the sea such as fishermen or naval personnel may request this. A special licence is required.
  • Burial Fees - The Church or cemetery authority charges fees for the rights to a burial and the purchase and preparation of a grave. These are also referred to as Interment Fees.
  • Burial Ground - Land used for burial. It is owned by a council or private organisation and should not be confused with a Cemetery, Natural Burial Ground or Garden of Remembrance.
  • Burial Plot - The person or family reserves the burial plot in the cemetery in advance for when they die. The plots can be large enough for multiple burials.
  • Casket - A type of coffin, which is defined by its rectangular shape.
  • Catafalque - A stand or support on which the casket or coffin is placed. It can be decorated with a drape called a Pall.
  • Cemetery - An area of land for burials, which is usually attached to a Church or Synagogue or owned by a secular organisation such as a council.
  • Churchyard - A Cemetery attached to a Christian Church.
  • Exhumation - The transfer of human remains from the place of burial or entombment.
  • Grave - The plot where the Coffin, Casket or Ashes are to be received.
  • Gravestone - A stone marker to indicate where the deceased has been buried. It is usually engraved with the name, family ties, dates of birth and death and an inscription about the person who has died. It is often referred to as a headstone.
  • Graveyard - The place for burial and can be referred to as the Churchyard although should not be confused with a Cemetery.
  • Interment - The process of burying a Coffin, Casket, or Urn of the Cremation Ashes. This is also know as the Burial.
  • Mausoleum - A building where tombs above the ground are housed.
  • Natural Burial - This is aimed at protecting the environment and adheres to strict rules such as not embalming the body and using biodegradable coffins. See also Green Funeral.
  • Pall - A decorative drape placed over the coffin.
  • Pallbearer - A person who carries or escorts the coffin. Pallbearers can be family or friends of the deceased or can be provided by the Funeral Director.
  • Woodland Burial - An environmentally friendly alternative to a traditional Burial or Cremation. It is also known as a Green Funeral or Natural Burial.


  • Cremation - The reduction of human remains to basic elements through flame, heat, and vaporization. A Cremation may be preceded by a service in church, the Crematorium chapel or other suitable venue.
  • Direct Cremation - A service without any form of preceding ceremony. A Direct Cremation includes the conveyance of the deceased person from the place of death, or our premises, to a Crematorium.
  • Ashes - The remains of the person who has died, after their body has been cremated. They are sometimes referred to as cremated remains.
  • Ashes Casket - A container for the ashes, which is buried.
  • Columbarium - A building for storing Cremation Ashes. It typically has recessed niches for individual Urns.
  • Crematorium - A place where the Coffins are burned.
  • Scattering - The process of spreading the Ashes, which can be scattered over land or water. They are normally scattered in a place that was important and significant to the person who has died. Read more in our guide on Scattering Ashes.
  • Urn - A container that holds the cremated Ashes. It is available in various shapes, sizes and materials. Also referred to as an Ashes Casket.


  • Beneficiary - A person entitled to something in a will whether property, money or possessions. They are the recipient of a bequest.
  • Bequest - Property, money, land or possessions left to a person in a will.
  • Funeral Plan - A way to pay for a funeral in advance. It is paid for at current prices. Please see our Prepaid Funeral Plan page for more information.


  • Administrator - The person responsible for managing the estate of the person who has died. An administrator is required if the deceased has not written a will, has not named an executor in their will or the executor has renounced their responsibilities.
  • Body Donation - A decision taken by the person who has died to donate their body to science for medical research.
  • Certificate for Burial or Cremation - Once a person’s death has been registered, this certificate is issued free of charge. It should not be confused with a Death Certificate. The certificate is a legal requirement and must be issued before a person is cremated or buried.
  • Condolence Message - A card or letter sent to a person after a loved one has died.
  • Coroner - A local government official responsible for investigating a person’s death if the cause or identity of the person are unknown. The coroner is usually a lawyer or doctor.
  • Death Certificate - A certificate confirming the death, which is registered at a Registry Office.
  • Death Notice - An announcement of the death placed in a newspaper. It can also include funeral details.
  • Disbursements - Costs relating to a funeral that are the charges due to the Funeral Director. These could include Ministers Fees, Cremation Fees and Florist Charges, which are paid by the Funeral Director who is then reimbursed by the client before the funeral.
  • Estate - Everything owned by the person who has died at the time of their death including property, land, possessions, and finances. An Executor of the will often handles this.
  • Executor - The person responsible for managing the estate and named in the will as thus. It can be a family member, close friend or a solicitor.
  • Interment Fees - The charges from the Church or Cemetery for the rights to a burial as well as the purchase and preparation of the grave. These can be referred to as Burial Fees.
  • Intestate - When a person dies without having written a will. Their estate will go to the closest family member.
  • Letters of administration - The legal authorisation to act as the administrator of the estate of the deceased person.
  • Living Will - This records a person’s advance wishes for their end-of-life care in the event they are not able to state them at the time.
  • Medical Certificate of Cause of Death - A certificate issued by a doctor, which confirms the cause of death. It needs to be presented to register the death.
  • Next of Kin - The closest living relative to the deceased, which is usually a spouse, partner or child.
  • Obituary - An announcement in a newspaper or website announcing a person’s death. It may describe their life and the meaning to their family. It can also include funeral details.
  • Post-mortem - A medical examination to determine the cause of death. It is carried out by a pathologist and ordered by a coroner.
  • Probate - The legal process for dealing with the Estate of the deceased.
  • Register Office - A place where the death is registered. When someone dies, the death will have to be officially registered and a Death Certificate obtained.
  • Registration - A legal requirement involving the act of recording the death for government records. It is carried out at the Register Office by a relative or someone close to the deceased.
  • Will - A legal document, which outlines what happens to the estate of the deceased. The Executor has the responsibility of ensuring the wishes of the person who has died are carried out.


  • Celebration Of Life - A funeral ceremony or memorial service focusing on the positive and joyful memories of the person who has died.
  • Memorial - This can be a private or public object that is dedicated to someone who has died. It could be a piece of jewellery, a gravestone, a bench, a monument, a statue, plaque or Gravestone. Please see our Memorial page for more information.
  • Memorial Service - A ceremony to commemorate the person who has died. It can be in addition to the Funeral service.
  • Monumental Masonry - The design, construction and fitting of a permanent tribute in stone or the removal and modification of an existing stone tribute.
  • Thanksgiving Service - A service giving thanks to the deceased and usually a more open event that anyone can attend. It is similar to a Memorial Service.