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Burial Planning & Funeral Glossary

This comprehensive burial, funeral and cemetery glossary defines dozens of terms related to burials and burial planning. And we are always updating our list with new terms. Start browsing the funeral and burial terminology below to learn more about this process. 

Common Funeral, Burial, & Cemetery Terminology

Burial:

The ceremonial act of burying the deceased. Learn about the different types of burials here.

Burial Guide:

An informative, downloadable guidebook of information and advice on planning a burial for yourself or a loved one. Learn more about burial guides here.

Burial Information Kit: 

See Burial Guide.

Burial Planning:

The act of planning a burial, either for yourself or for someone else. Burial planning is often done several years if not decades in advance in order to save money and ensure all details are covered ahead of time. Learn more about burial planning here.

Burial Plot:  

Sometimes called a funeral plot, a burial plot is the cemetery space in which the deceased is laid to rest. Learn more about burial plots here.

Burial Vault (Casket Vault):    

A concrete enclosure that houses the coffin/casket and protects it from the elements, as well as keeps the soil from sinking or shifting. Most states require a burial vault for all burials. Learn more about burial vaults here.

Casket:

A decorative box in which the deceased is buried (and displayed prior to burial in the case of a viewing). Caskets can be made from a number of different materials, including wood and metal. Learn more about caskets here.

Cemetery:         

An area of land that contains multiple graves or tombs. Some cemeteries also offer additional features such as cremation gardens and natural or green burials. Learn more about your local cemeteries here.

Coffin:

A decorative box that contains the deceased. Coffins serve the same purpose as caskets, but feature six sides instead of four. Despite this cosmetic difference, the words coffins and caskets are often used interchangeably. Learn more about the difference between coffins and caskets here.

Columbarium:  

A structure similar to a mausoleum, meant to house cremated remains in an organized space safe from most weather conditions. Learn more about Columbariums here.

Condolence Flowers:     

Floral arrangements gifted to the bereaved in order to honor the deceased and comfort their loved ones. Not to be confused with funeral flowers. Learn more about condolence flowers here.

Condolence Gift:           

A gift given to memorialize the deceased. These gifts can come in many different forms, including donations to a particular charity, and are almost always unique to the deceased in some way. Learn more about condolences here.

Condolences:   

The expression of comfort and sympathy provided to a person who is grieving. Learn more about condolences here.

Cremains:          

The cremated remains of the deceased, often placement within an urn or scattered. Learn more about cremains here.

Cremation:        

The ceremonial act of reducing a body to cremains via fire. Cremation has become a popular funeral method within the past few decades. Learn more about cremation here.

Cremation Garden (Scattering Garden):

A garden with the explicit purpose of allowing loved ones to scatter the cremated remains of the deceased. Cremation gardens are often times part of a cemetery. Learn more about cremation gardens here.

Cremation Urn:

A decorative container in which cremated remains are kept. Learn more about cremation urns here.

Crypt:  

A subterranean chamber within a cemetery that protects the remains of the deceased from inclement weather. Learn more about crypts here.

Direct Cremation:         

Sometimes referred to as immediate cremation, a direct cremation is when the body is quickly cremated (usually within a few days of death) without any type of prior service or ceremony. Learn more about cremation here.

Double-Depth Burial Plot:      

A burial plot that is two-times as deep as a single plot, allowing two bodies to be buried one on top of the other. Learn more about burial plots here.

Embalming:    

The process of using chemicals to preserve a body. This is usually done prior to a funeral service but is not always done, nor is it necessarily required by law. It is most often to preserve the body for as long as possible prior to a viewing or service. Learn more about embalming and the funeral planning process.

Eulogy:

A speech given at a memorial service or funeral that memorializes the deceased. Learn more about eulogies here.

Exhumation:   

To dig a body from out of the ground, for example, for the purposes of moving a grave within a cemetery. Learn more about the burial process and options.

Family (Private) Mausoleum:     

A private, aboveground structure built to entomb multiple members of a family, and to offer protection from most weather. Learn more about private mausoleums here.

Family Plot:   

A private area of a cemetery that has been purchased by a single family. Various family members are then buried in the plot. Learn more about burial plots here.

Flush Grave Marker:      

A flat, decorative stone that is used to mark a grave. The stone is flush with the ground, unlike an upright monument such as a tombstone. There are multiple options for materials, including various types of stones. Messages, quotes, or labels such as Loving Father are often inscribed on the marker, along with the date of birth and life. Learn more about burial monuments here.

Funeral:

The burial or cremation service for the deceased, normally preceded or proceeded by a memorial ceremony. Learn more about funerals and funeral planning here.

Funeral Flowers (Burial Flowers):

Flowers, wreaths, and other floral arrangements used as part of the funeral ceremony. Not to be confused with condolence flowers.

Funeral Music: 

Religious or secular music used as part of the funeral ceremony. Music is usually chosen based on significance to the deceased. Learn more about funeral music now.

Funeral Planning:         

See Burial Planning.

Funeral Plot:    

See Burial Plot.

Funeral Service:

A service to memorialize the deceased, usually with the body present, typically at the burial site or a cremation scattering site. Learn more about funeral service planning here.

Grave:  

A hole that is dug in the ground and marked by a monument. Learn more about graves and burial plots here.

Grave Back-Filling:        

The process of filling a grave with earth, completing the burial process. Sometimes referred to as closing the grave. Learn more about grave opening-and-closing here.

Grave Liner:      

See Burial Vault.

Grave Marker: 

A decorative marker placed at the head of the grave. The markers are usually (but not always) made of stone and can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Learn more about grave markers here.

Grave Opening & Closing:           

A service performed by the cemetery that involves either opening a grave and back-filling it with earth, or opening a mausoleum crypt and closing it following the funeral ceremony. Learn more about grave opening-and-closing here.

Grave Plot:     

See Burial Plot.

Green Burial:   

A burial process that uses no chemicals, casket, or burial vault, and is carried out in a cemetery that uses no artificial pesticides. Not all cemeteries offer this option. Learn more about green burials and the difference between green and natural burials here.

Headstone:       

A decorative, upright grave marker, sometimes referred to as a tombstone and usually made of stone. These can be made of stone and even take shapes such as angels or crosses. The deceased's name is enscribed in the stone, along with the date of birth and death, and often a message, quote, or label. Learn more about headstones and other types of burial markers here.

Hearse:

A vehicle that transports the casket from where the ceremony is held to its final resting place. Learn more about the various aspects of a typical burial here.

Interment:        

The burial of the deceased in a crypt, mausoleum, or grave. Learn more about the burial planning process now.

Lawn Crypt:       

See Crypt.

Ledger Grave Marker:   

A decorative stone slab that covers the entire grave. Learn more about grave markers here.

Legacy Planning:

Financial strategy of bequeathing assets after death. Learn more about legacy planning here.

Mausoleum:     

An aboveground building or structure housing multiple deceased individuals. Learn more about mausoleums here.

Memorial:         

Something that keeps the memory of someone deceased alive. This can come in many different forms, such as a keepsake, a monument, or an annual event. Learn more about memorials here.

Memorial Bench:            

A customized bench, often times made of granite, placed adjacent to the deceased's grave. There is usually some type of memorializing inscription. Learn more about memorial benches here.

Memorial Service:          

A service to memorialize the deceased, usually prior to burial. The body or cremains of the deceases may or may not be present. Learn more about memorial service planning here.

Natural Burial:  

A burial that uses no chemicals, such as formaldehyde, no heavy machinery for digging the grave, and no casket or burial vault. This is different from a green burial. Learn more about natural burials here

Obselik Burial Monument:         

A tall stone pillar used to mark a grave and memorialize the deceased. Learn more about burial markers here.

Pre-paid Burial Plan:      

A burial plan that is arranged and paid for prior to death. Burial plans are frequently planned in advance in order to save money, avoid inflation costs, and ensure that the deceased's plans are honored. Learn more about burial plans here.

Public Mausoleum (Community Mausoleum):    

An aboveground structure that houses numerous deceased individuals. Learn more about public mausoleums here.

Remembrance Quotes:

A meaningful quote, such as a Bible passage or song lyric, used to memorialize the deceased and comfort the bereaved. Learn more about remembrance quotes here.

Shiva:   

A Jewish mourning period after the death of a loved one. It lasts one week and typically involves the immediate family remaining at home while friends and family visit to pay their respects. Learn more about Jewish funerals here.

Side-by-Side Burial Plot:

A burial plot with space to fit two bodies side-by-side. Learn more about burial plots here.

Single Space Burial Plot:

A burial plot with space to fit one body. Learn more about burial plots here.

Slanted Headstones:     

A grave marker to memorialize the deceased, similar to a traditional upright tombstone, but with a dramatic slant. Learn more about slanted headstones now.

Sympathy Card:

A card given to the bereaved following the death of a loved one. Learn more about sympathy cards here.

Tombstone:      

See Headstone.

Traditional Funeral:       

A standard funeral service followed by an in-ground burial in a cemetery. Learn more about traditional burial options.

Upright Tombstone:      

A decorative tombstone that is customized and placed at the head of the grave. An upright tombstone is the most common burial marker. Learn more about burial monuments here.

Viewing:

A ceremony allowing visitors to pay their respects to the deceased after the body has been prepared by a mortician. Learn more about viewings here.

Wake:  

A traditionally Catholic ceremony in which visitors pay respects to the deceased after the body has been prepared by a mortician. Learn more about wakes here.

 

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