Glossary of Terms

When you’re in the midst of planning for a loved one, there can be a lot of funeral and cemetery terms that are unfamiliar. All you’re really looking for are some straightforward answers, with no jargon. That’s why we've created this simple guide to make it easy for you to understand what’s out there. 

Bereaved The immediate family of the deceased.

Burial Placing the deceased's body in an underground chamber as a final resting place.

Burial certificate/permit A legal paper that is issued by local government to authorize the burial.

Burial Vault The purchase of a “burial container” or “grave-liner.” Burial vaults are useful, as they prevent the ground around a casket from deteriorating over time. Also known as an “Outer Burial Container (OBC).”

Casket A receptacle made of wood, metal or plastic into which the deceased is placed for burial. This can also be referred to as a “coffin.”

Columbariums A miniature version of a mausoleum that is designed for storing urns. This type of resting place can offer significant value over a full-sized space, yet still offers many of the benefits of larger-sized mausoleums.

Committal Service (Also known as a graveyard service). The final portion of a funeral service when the deceased is interred or entombed into their final resting place.

Cemetery A place for burying the deceased. Cemeteries often have grave markers, but that may not always be the case.

Church Cemetery A cemetery that is specifically owned by a church, located on or off church property.

Cremains A term for cremated remains.

Cremation The reduction of a body into ashes for final resting.

Cremation Garden A dedicated section of a cemetery that's designed for the burial, scattering or other permanent placement of cremated remains.

Cremation Permit A certificate issued by local government authorizing cremation of the deceased.

Crematory A furnace for cremating remains.

Crypt A vault or room used for keeping the remains of the deceased.

Death Certificate A legal paper signed by a physician showing the cause of death and data pertaining to the deceased.

Deceased The person who has died.

Embalm The process of preserving a dead body with embalming fluid.

Epitaph A brief saying or note inscribed in a grave marker, often used to honor the deceased.

Eulogy A speech that offers praise and celebrates the life of a loved one.

Exhumation The removal of the deceased from a grave.

Family Stone A gravestone that marks an entire family’s plot, not just one individual’s grave.

Final Rites The funeral service.

Funeral Director A person who prepares for burial or disposition of the body and supervises it. This person can also be referred to as a mortician or undertaker.

Funeral Home A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals.

Funeral Service The religious or other rites conducted immediately before the final resting of the deceased. This service is used to honor the life of the deceased.

Grave An excavation in the earth for the purpose of burying the deceased.

Grave Landscaping A modification of the grave area using items like plants, gardens, fountains or the like, often designed to honor and celebrate a life.

Gravestone A headstone that identifies the occupant of a grave and memorializes that person. Typically includes details like the loved one’s name, date of birth, and place and date of death. This can also be referred to as a memorial marker.

Graveyard An area set aside for the burial of the deceased.

Headstone or Grave Marker A stone or marker that identifies the occupant of a grave and memorializes that person.

Inhumation The burial of a body into the ground.

Inscription The writing on a grave marker that honors and memorializes the life of the deceased.

Interment The burial or other disposition of the deceased.

Ledger Stone A grave marker that is placed horizontally, flush with the surface of the earth.

Lot An area of a cemetery owned by an individual family and meant to serve as a final resting place for multiple members of that family.

Memorial A grave marker. A memorial type of marker usually refers to a more complexly designed marker.

Memorial Park A commemorative outdoor place to honor and celebrate the deaths of many lives, with no gravestones or grave mounts.

Monument A grave marker that is usually more intricate and large in nature. Often, monuments are upright, as opposed to flat with the ground.

Mound A pile of earth or similar material put over a grave as a form of marker.

Mausoleum A casket placement in an above ground building, where a casket is placed in a drawer-like space with a plaque bearing the name of the deceased.

Next-of-Kin A person’s nearest relative; the person who holds the responsibility for making decisions on behalf of the deceased.

Obelisk A gravestone that is tall, slender and pointed at the top.

Obituary The paragraph in a newspaper, or on the Internet, publicizing the death of a person and honoring that person’s life. An obituary often includes details of the funeral service that family and friends wish to have published.

Opening/Closing Cost Charges related to digging a grave and filling it back in once the casket or urn is placed. The opening/closing charge may also occur if you’re entombing a casket or urn in a mausoleum space.

Pallbearer An individual whose duty it is to carry the casket during a funeral service, when necessary. In some areas and communities, pallbearers are close relatives and friends of the loved one, and in other places, they can be hired as needed.

Paving The surface of concrete, brick or stone placed on the ground over a grave.

Perpetual Care A one-time fee (that is typically between 5-15%) that you pay to help a cemetery maintain its cemetery grounds and graves over the years.

Plot A measured piece of land in a cemetery in which interment rights are purchased by a family or individual. A plot usually contains two or more graves.

Pre-plan The process in which someone creates their statement of wishes for their final event plan. Pre-planning allows loved ones to focus on celebrating a life lived.

Private Cemetery A cemetery that is owned and operated by a corporation, community organization, military or specific family, and can be restricted to the public in some cases.

Private Family Estate A small section of a cemetery, usually bordered by gates, shrubbery or other dividers, that allows for ground burial of several members of the same family.

Private Family Mausoleum An above-ground structure designed to hold about two to twelve decedents, usually members of the same family.

Procession When a vehicle drives a funeral from the place where the funeral service was conducted to the cemetery. This term also applies to a church funeral where mourners follow the casket as it is brought into and taken out of the church.

Public Cemetery Plots of land owned by a governmental unit within a town, city or county. By law, this type of cemetery must remain open to the public and are always an option that is always available for your needs.

Right of Interment The purchasing of “the grave,” or in other words, the right to be buried in a particular space.

Sarcophagus A stone coffin or monumental chamber for a casket.

Scattering Garden A dedicated section of a cemetery where families can scatter the ashes of their loved ones. Often plaques are available to memorialize the loved ones whose remains have been scattered there.

Sepulcher A burial vault or crypt.

Tomb A burial receptacle in which bodies are stored in above ground drawers.

Undressed A stone marker that has not yet had its surface smoothed or finished.

Vault A modern concrete shell placed over a casket to prevent sinking of the ground surface in a cemetery. Sometimes also referred to as a “Lawn Crypt” or “Outer Burial Container (OBC).”

Veteran’s Cemetery A military cemetery in which veterans are buried.