Funeral Definitions

This page contains the definitions and illustrations to many of the terms we frequently use in the funeral industry.

Alternative Container –

A non-metal receptacle or enclosure, without ornamentation or a fixed interior lining, designed for the encasement of human remains and made of cardboard, pressed wood, composition material, pouches of canvas or other material.

alternative container

Bereaved –

To leave in a sad and lonely state, as in death.

Bronze –

A metal alloy consisting of 90% copper with tin and sometimes zinc comprising the remaining 10%.

Casket –

A container, usually constructed of wood, metal or fiberglass, designed to hold human remains; a case, or receptacle in which human remains are placed for protection, practical utility, and a suitable memory picture; any box or container of one or more parts in which a dead human body is placed prior to interment, entombment or cremation which may or may not be permanently interred, entombed or cremated with the dead human remains.

Wooden Casket

Cemetery –

An area of ground set aside and dedicated for final disposition of the deceased.

Chevra Kadisha –

The “Holy Society” responsible for the care of the body from the time of death until the burial.

Closed Casket –

When the casket is not open for the public to view the deceased.

Columbarium –

A structure, room or other space in a mausoleum or other building containing niches or recesses, used to hold cremated remains.


Common Carrier –

One who publicly undertakes to transport from place to place for a stated compensation, the property of any person who may request his services up to the capacity of his facilities.

Coroner –

A public officer whose chief duty is to investigate death when the question of accident, suicide or homicide may be evident or where there was no doctor in attendance. Also to hold inquests and affix blame and responsibility.

Cremated Remains –

The bone fragments that are commonly referred to as ashes, which are left after cremation.

Cremation –

The reduction of a dead human body to inorganic bone fragments by intense heat in a specifically designed retort or chamber.

Crematory –

A furnace or establishment for the incineration of corpses.


Direct Burial –

The immediate burial of a body without any type of funeral service.

Direct Cremation –

The immediate cremation of a body without any type of funeral service.

El Malai Rakhamim –

A memorial prayer, asking G-d for compassion for the soul of the deceased.

Embalming –

A process of chemically treating the dead human body to reduce the presence and growth of microorganisms, to retard organic decomposition and to restore an acceptable physical appearance.

Funeral –

A ceremony or group of ceremonies held in connection with the burial or cremation of a dead person.

Funeral Director –

An individual licensed by a state or states to prepare dead human remains, other than by embalming, for interment or other means of disposition; the person who conducts funeral services and counsels with survivors.

Funeral Home –

A building used for the purpose of embalming, conducting funeral and supplying funeral merchandise.

General Price List –

The GPL lists all the goods and services the funeral home offers, along with the price of each. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule
compels funeral homes to give customers a GPL at the beginning of any discussion of arrangements.

Grave Liner –

An outer enclosure, in which the casket is placed, which offers protection from the earth load, after burial, but without sealing qualities.

Graveliner small

Honorarium –

an unsolicited gift, usually an honorary payment for professional services to a clergy member.

Kaddish –

A prayer recited for the deceased, up to a year following the burial, on the anniversary of the death, and at some memorial services. This prayer is said for members of one’s immediate family. A minyan is required for Kaddish.

Keriah –

The ritual of tearing a garment or ribbon upon hearing of the death of a close relative.

Magen David –

The star of David, literally, the shield of David.

Meal of Condolence –

The first full meal eaten by mourners after returning from the funeral, which is prepared by neighbors. Psychologically, it is of great help in assuaging grief and helping in the process of recovery from a painful loss. The meal typically includes round items as symbols of eternal life. Round rolls, bagels or eggs are symbolic of the cyclical, eternal and continuous nature of life.

Memorial Service –

A funeral service conducted in memory of the deceased without the remains being present.

Minyan –

Traditionally, a group of ten men whose attendance is required to recited specific prayers. Today, in more egalitarian communities, women are counted in the minyan.

Mitzvah –

Commandment or obligation of Jewish living; a good deed.

Niche –

A recess or space in a columbarium used for the permanent placing of cremated remains.


Procession –

The orderly movement of cars following a hearse from the location of a funeral to the cemetery.

funeral procession

Removal –

The moving of the dead human body from the place of death to the funeral home or other designated place.

Scattering –

To throw here and there; sprinkle.

Shabbat –

The Seventh day, the day of rest, commemorating G-d’s day of rest after creating the world and all its creatures. “Remember Shabbat” is the fourth of the Ten Commandments.

Shiva –

Seven days of mourning period immediately following burial; Sephardic Jews refer to this period as Siete, which, like the word Shiva, literally means “seven”.

Tahara –

Ritual purification or cleaning of a dead body.

Traditional Service –

A funeral service involving a casket, a visitation with the body present, a type of service and disposition of the body.

Urn –

A container for cremated remains; a vase of varying size and shape, usually having a footed base or pedestal.
Brushed Platinum small

Vault –

An outer enclosure, in which the casket is placed, which offers protection from the earth load, after burial, as well as possessing sealing qualities.


Visitation –

The visiting of the friends and relatives to the residence and/or funeral home to pay respects to the deceased prior to or after the funeral service.

Yahrzeit –

Yiddish word for the anniversary of the death. The comparable Sephardic term is Anos.