Funeral Glossary

Go to Cemetery Terms.

Go to Common Funeral Industry Acroynyms.

Funeral Terms

Alternative Container

An unfinished wood box or other non-metal receptacle without ornamentation, often made of fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, and generally lower in cost than caskets.

Calling Hours

Also known as Visitation, Viewing, Wake; the time for friends and family to gather whether or not it is an open or closed casket.


An industry term used in place of "cremated remains", the ash and bone mixture that results from a cremation.

Direct cremation

The body is cremated shortly after death without embalming. The cremated remains are placed in an urn or other container. No viewing or visitation is involved, although a memorial service may be held with or without the cremated remains present. The remains can be kept in the home, buried or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite spot. Direct cremation usually costs less than the "traditional," full-service funeral. Costs include the funeral home's basic services fee, as well as transportation and care of the body. A crematory fee may be included, or if the funeral home does not own the crematory, the fee may be added on. There also will be a charge for an urn or other container. The cost of a cemetery plot or crypt is included only if the remains are buried or entombed.

Funeral providers who offer direct cremations also must offer to provide an alternative container (often made of cardboard) that can be used in place of a casket.

Definition from Federal Trade Commission

Green Burial

Additional information can be found at:  or

Green burial or natural burial, ensures the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects.  Interment of the body includes environmentally sound practices such as a locally-sourced bio-degradable vessel, shroud, or a favorite blanket.   It also includes forgoing the use of embalming fluid, concrete or plastic vaults, and metal, steel, or non-sustainably harvested wood caskets. 

Home Funeral

A family or community‑centered response to death and after‑death care. Families and communities may play a key role in:

  • planning and carrying out after‑death rituals or ceremonies, such as laying out the deceased and home visitation of the body
  • preparing the body for burial or cremation
  • filing paperwork, such as the death certificate and burial transit permit
  • transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation
  • facilitating the final disposition, such as digging the grave at a natural burial

Home funerals may occur within the family home or elsewhere, such as nursing homes or hospitals. The emphasis is on encouraging the family to provide care of the body through minimally invasive and environmentally‑friendly care practices.

Home Funeral Guides

Trained individuals who educate and empower families to exercise the innate right of caring for their own dead. 

For more information on Home Funerals visit the National Home Funeral Alliance.

Immediate (Direct) burial

The least expensive type of burial (it can also be a green burial). The body is buried shortly after death, usually in a simple container. No viewing or visitation is involved, embalming isn't performed. A memorial service may be held at the graveside or later. Direct burial usually costs less than the "traditional," full-service funeral. Costs include the funeral home's basic services fee, as well as transportation and care of the body. The purchase of a casket or burial container, and a cemetery plot or crypt is in addition to the Immediate Burial package offered by funeral homes. If the family chooses to be at the cemetery for the burial, the funeral home often charges an additional fee for a graveside service. 

Definition from Federal Trade Commission


Refers to an earth burial as opposed to a crypt or mausoleum which is above ground.

Memorial Service

A term for a funeral service that may or may not have the body present. Often used when the disposition is cremation. It may be officiated by selected clergy, a family member, or friend.


A post-funeral or memorial meal, often with friends and family.

"Traditional," full-service funeral

This type of funeral, often referred to by funeral providers as a "traditional" funeral, usually includes a viewing or visitation and formal funeral service, use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral site and cemetery, and burial, entombment or cremation of the remains.

It is generally the most expensive type of funeral. In addition to the funeral home's basic services fee, costs often include embalming and dressing the body; rental of the funeral home for the viewing or service; and use of vehicles to transport the family if they don't use their own. The costs of a casket, cemetery plot, crypt and other funeral goods and services also must be factored in.

Definition from Federal Trade Commission

Cemetery Terms


Synonymous with Interment, the placing of human remains in an underground enclosure.


Grounds dedicated to the burial and memorialization of human remains.


Sometimes referred to as “Urn Mausoleums”. A building or structure that houses cremated remains within small compartment spaces called niches. Bronze memorial plaques sit on the outside of the niche to identify the individual housed within.

Committal Service

The final portion of the funeral process where the casket is lowered to the ground and final words and prayers are spoken.

Commercial Cemetery

For-Profit and non-denominational cemeteries that are owned by corporations.

Community Mausoleum

An above ground structure that memorialized multiple individuals from various families.

Companion Plot

A ground burial for two caskets for the remains of two individuals. Two plots are sold together as a couple either side-by-side or stacked (one on top of the other).

Cremation Plot

An in-ground space that holds an urn with the cremated remains of an individual.


The reduction of human remains to “ashes” through intense heat produced by a specialized furnace.

Cremation Garden

A designated area within a cemetery where cremated remains are buried or scattered.


An entombment space for caskets typically found within Mausoleums.


The removal of human remains from the ground.

Double Depth Burial

Two caskets are buried within the same grave stacked upon one another.


The printed contract and agreement made between cemetery staff and the individual purchasing the rights of interment.

End-to-End Crypts

An entombment space within a Mausoleum that contains the casketed remains of two individuals in an end-to-end fashion.


The process of placing a casket in a Mausoleum.


A synonym of disinter, the process of bringing human remains out of the Earth.

Family Plot

A family can purchase and designate an area for use by only their family members. They are typically delineated by a single family headstone but each individual may have his/her own headstone.


The designated space in the ground that receives the remains of a person.

Grave Depression

A furrow or sink-hole in the ground directly over a grave, caused by the degradation of the coffin.

Grave Liner

An outer burial container that sometimes covers just the tops and/or the sides of the casket. Its main purpose is to support the weight of the ground above the casket and prevent grave depressions. Usually made of concrete or steel.

Green or Natural Burial Ground

A burial ground that carries out interment in a way that allows the body to decompose as a naturally as possible. Embalmed bodies are not permitted, nor are outer burial containers. Often the ground is designated as preserved space.

Green Burial

Burials carried out in a biodegradable casket or shroud and without embalming or vaults/grave liners to allow a natural decomposition of the interred body and cause the least amount of environmental damage.

Ground Burial

The disposition of human remains in the ground.


A marker placed at the head of a grave indicating the identity of the interred.

Historic Cemetery

Cemeteries that harbor cultural significance and historic individuals from the past. Usually non-profit and closed to new burials.

Hybrid Burial Ground

A burial site where both green/natural and "traditional" burials occur.


The burial of human remains within a grave.


The process of placing an urn inside a niche.


Above-ground structures which houses caskets within spaces called crypts.


Any object or identifier used to commemorate the deceased including monuments and markers.

Municipal Cemetery

Burial grounds that are owned and maintained by a particular city’s governing body.


Small compartment spaces found within Columbariums that house ashes in urns

Opening and Closing

Performed by Cemetery staff, opening and closing refers to the digging of the earth or opening of the mausoleum crypt and other preparations for interment of human remains as well as the filling in of the grave or closing/locking of the crypt once the casket or urn has have been successfully interred.

Outer Burial Container

vault or grave liner designed to encase the casket to prevent the ground from sinking as the casket deteriorates, making it easier for ground maintenance.

For more information on vaults and grave liners, see our article: What is a Burial Vault

Perpetual Care

Money set aside to fund the continued care and maintenance of cemetery grounds.


A designated section of land within a cemetery for which a right of interment can be purchased. A single grave or many can make up a single plot.


Arranging burial proceedings and/or purchasing cemetery property before someone’s passing.

Private Mausoleum

An above ground structure that is reserved for the entombment of a single family.

Religious Cemetery

A cemetery owned by a religious group or establishment.

Side-by-Side Crypts

An entombment space within a Mausoleum that is double the size of a single crypt and contains the casketed remains of two individuals in a side-by-side fashion.

Single Crypt

An entombment space within a Mausoleum that contains the casketed remains of a single individual.

Single Plot

A ground burial for a single casket containing the remains of one individual.

The Right of Interment

The right to bury human remains in a particular plot in a cemetery. Upon purchasing a “grave” the individual gains the right to bury their loved ones in the purchased location but does not own the land itself.


A container which contains the cremated remains.


An outer burial container that fully encompasses the casket. Its main purpose is to support the weight of the ground above the casket and prevent grave depressions. Usually made of concrete or steel.

Veterans Cemetery

Burial grounds dedicated to the interment of Veterans.

Westminster Family Crypts

Large entombment spaces within a Mausoleum that house families. Individual crypts are arranged in both a side-by-side and end-to-end fashion to accommodate each individual within the family.

Common Industry Acronyms

American Society of Embalmers American Society of Embalmers
APFSP The Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice
BBB Better Business Bureau
CANA Cremation Association of North America
Delmarva Delmarva Peninsula (include DE, MD, and VA)
DSFDA Delaware State Funeral Directors Assoc.
FFDA Federated Funeral Directors Association
FSCA Funeral Service Association of Canada
GCU Greek Catholic Union of the USA
ICCFA Int'l Cemetery, Cremation, & Funeral Assoc.
JFDA Jewish Funeral Directors of America
NFDA National Funeral Directors Association
NFDMA National Funeral Directors & Morticians Assoc.
NHFA National Home Funeral Alliance
NJSFDA New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association
OGR or Golden Rule International Order of the Golden Rule
PCCFA PA Cemetery, Cremation, & Funeral Assoc.
PFDA Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association
PFDA Preferred Funeral Directors International
QSFDA Quaker State Funeral Directors Association
SIFH Selected Independent Funeral Homes
THANEXUS NJ Independently Owned Funeral Home Co-op
Veterans & Family Memorial Care Veterans & Family Memorial Care

Go to Funeral Terms. Go to Cemetery Terms.

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