Funeral glossary

Burial

The ceremonial act of burying the deceased.

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.

Burial Plot

Sometimes called a funeral plot, a burial plot is the cemetery space in which the deceased is laid to rest.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Columbarium

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

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.

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.

Condolences

The expression of comfort and sympathy provided to a person who is grieving.

Cremains

The cremated remains of the deceased, often placement within an urn or scattered.

Cremation

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

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.

Cremation Urn

A decorative container in which cremated remains are kept.

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.

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.

Eulogy

A speech given at a memorial service or funeral that memorializes the deceased.

Exhumation

To dig a body from out of the ground, for example, for the purposes of moving a grave within a cemetery.

Family (Private) Mausoleum

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

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..

Funeral

The burial or cremation service for the deceased, normally preceded or proceeded by a memorial ceremony.

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 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 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.

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.

Grooming and dressing

Similar to conservation care but simply allowing a better presentation of the deceased, without impacting on its conservation.

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.

Hearse

A vehicle that transports the casket from where the ceremony is held to its final resting place.

Interment

The burial of the deceased in a crypt, mausoleum, or grave.

Ledger Grave Marker

A decorative stone slab that covers the entire grave.

Legacy Planning

Financial strategy of bequeathing assets after death.

Mausoleum

An aboveground building or structure housing multiple deceased individuals.

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.

Pallbearers

People who carry the coffin during the ceremony. There are usually four pallbearers, but there may be as few as two if crematorium staff are available to take their place. The family may also choose to carry the coffin themselves to pay their last respects to the deceased. However, care should be taken to ensure that the weight is high and that the casket is well synchronised with the other pallbearers.

Pre-casket transfer

Transport of the deceased when not in a coffin, usually in the case of a death at home for transport to a funeral home.

Post-cremation transfer

Transport of the deceased when in a coffin, usually to the place of ceremony, burial or cremation.

Police visit

Presence of a police officer during specific operations, in particular for an exhumation or for a burial during a cremation. This is a flat-rate fee charged by the undertakers and redistributed to the police force. It is therefore included in the column “Costs advanced on behalf of the family” of the regulatory estimate.

Public Mausoleum (Community Mausoleum)

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

Repatriation

Transport of the deceased from abroad to Switzerland, from Switzerland to abroad or from two distant places to Switzerland. The repatriation of the deceased is becoming more and more frequent with the increasing distance between families, generally due to work.

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.

Slanted Headstones

A grave marker to memorialize the deceased, similar to a traditional upright tombstone, but with a dramatic slant.

Sympathy Card

A card given to the bereaved following the death of a loved one.

Thanatopraxy

Synonym for thanatopraxy or conservation care. It is a care that allows a better preservation and presentation of the deceased. It gives the deceased a peaceful appearance and ensures that he or she is preserved in good condition while awaiting cremation or burial.

Tombstone

See Headstone.

Traditional Funeral

A standard funeral service followed by an in-ground burial in a cemetery.

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.

Viewing

A ceremony allowing visitors to pay their respects to the deceased after the body has been prepared by a mortician.

Wake

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