Terms & Definitions
After Death Arrangements: The array of activities that follow a person's death which include, at minimum, the preparation of the body for its final disposition, and the final disposition of human remains. In addition, any form of gathering, ceremony, service, or rite which may be held in the presence of human remains, or after final disposition.
Alkaline Hydrolysis: The process of preparing a dead human body for final disposition by placing the body in a stainless steel chamber which, when filled with a solution of water and an alkali solution that is heated, reduces the body to soft porous white bone. See Alkaline Hydrolysis for more details.
Alternative Container: A nonmetal receptacle or enclosure designed for the encasement of dead human remains made of cardboard, fiberboard, pressed-wood, or other like materials.
Arrangements for Disposition: Any action normally taken by a licensed funeral provider in anticipation of or preparation for the entombment, burial in a cemetery, or cremation of a dead human body. Arrangements for disposition may be made by a relative or other designated person acting as a funeral director.
At-Need Arrangements: Planning for the final disposition of a person after the death has occurred.
Burial: The act of placing dead human remains (either whole body, parts thereof, or cremated remains) in the ground by excavating a pit or trench, placing the human remains in it, and covering over the remains, usually with soil.
Burial Liner: An outer burial container similar to a burial vault. The main difference between a burial vault and liner is that the liner only covers the top and sides of a casket, whereas a burial vault completely encloses a casket. In a burial liner, the bottom of the casket is in direct contact with the earth. A liner helps keep the ground over the grave from sinking in, and helps keeps the ground even. To prevent sunken graves, most cemeteries – especially in urban areas – require that either a burial liner or vault be used in burials. See also Burial Vault.
Burial Space: A designated location within the cemetery for one individual grave. Also called a burial plot.
Burial Vault: A rigid container that houses a casket when it is buried. The burial vault is placed in the grave, the casket is lowered into the vault and a top (lid) is placed onto the vault before the grave is covered. The purpose of the burial vault is to eliminate soil settlement and protect the casket from the weight of the earth and the equipment used in the maintenance of the cemetery property. Burial vaults are most commonly made from concrete, but are also made from steel and plastic. See also Burial Liner.
Cash Advanced Items: Any item of service or merchandise obtained by a third party and paid for by the funeral provider on the purchaser’s behalf.
Casket: A rigid 4-sided rectangular container designed to hold a dead human body usually constructed of wood, metal, fiberglass, plastic, or like material. The casket is used for transport and burial or cremation of the dead human body, and sometimes for its display. "Casket" is a term for a small container used to hold keepsakes such as jewelry. The term was taken up by the funeral industry, which believed the term "Coffin" to have negative associations. See also Coffin.
Casket/Coffin Bearers: Individuals designated to carry the casket or coffin. Also called Pall Bearers.
Cemetery: An area of ground set aside and dedicated for the final disposition of dead human remains.
Cemetery Property: A grave, crypt, or niche.
Cemetery Services: Opening and closing graves, crypts or niches; setting grave liners and vaults in graves; setting markers; and long-term maintenance of cemetery grounds and facilities.
Coffin: A rigid six-sided container designed to hold a dead human usually constructed of wood, metal, fiberglass, plastic, or like material. The coffin is used for transport and burial or cremation of the dead human body, and sometimes for its display. See also Casket.
Columbarium: An arrangement of niches (small spaces) for the final disposition - entombment - of cremated remains which have been placed in an urn or other permanent, closed container. It may be an entire building, part of a mausoleum, or a free-standing outdoor structure. In some cases they are built into church structures.
Committal Service: See Graveside Service.
Coroner/Medical Examiner: A public official whose chief duty is to investigate certain categories of death, including home deaths and any death not clearly resulting from natural causes.
Cremains: A term coined by the funeral industry to describe the remains of a dead human body following the cremation process. See also Cremated Remains.
Cremated Remains: The remains of a dead human body following the cremation process; synonymous with cremains.
Cremated Remains Container: A receptacle in which cremated remains are placed. Commonly called an urn, but it need not be in the shape of an urn.
Cremation: The reduction of a dead human body to essential elements through direct exposure to intense heat and flame and the re-positioning or movement of the body during the process to facilitate reduction; the processing of bone fragments after removal from the cremation chamber to reduce their size; placement of the processed remains in a cremated remains container; and release of the cremated remains to an appropriate party.
Cremation Chamber: The enclosed space within which the cremation of a dead human body is performed. Also called a Retort.
Cremation Container: A combustible, closed container that encases the body and can be made of materials like fiberboard or corrugated cardboard and into which a dead human body is placed prior to insertion into a cremation chamber for cremation. Cremation containers may be combustible "alternative containers" or combustible "caskets."
Crematory: a building or structure containing one or more cremation chambers or retorts for the cremation of dead human bodies.
Crypt: A chamber of a mausoleum of sufficient size, generally used to contain the casketed remains of a dead person.
Dead: The state of one in whom all physical life has ceased. See also Deceased.
Death: The cessation of physical life, characterized by the absence of metabolism, which is irreversible. An individual is dead if the individual sustains irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.
Death Certificate: The permanent legal record of the facts of death of an individual.
Deceased: The state of one in whom all physical life has ceased. See also Dead.
Demographic Information: Information required by the state registrar to describe characteristics of a registrant, the family of a registrant, and geographic locations pertinent to a registrant and a birth or death. Demographic information does not include health information.
Display Room/Selection Room: That portion of the funeral home which contains caskets, urns and other funeral merchandise for sale.
Direct Cremation: Cremation of a dead human body by cremation, without formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony with the body present.
Disposition: The placement of cremated or whole remains in their final resting place. Often termed "final disposition." Besides burial or entombment, disposition of ashes may be by means of dispersal (e.g., scattering) of ashes, or home-keeping.
Documentation of Death Worksheet: A form used by the Office of the State Registrar to record demographic and cause of death information of a decedent.
Dry Ice: The solid form of carbon dioxide, which with heat converts to a vapor and is used chiefly as a refrigerant.
Embalming: The process of preserving a dead human body by chemically treating the body to delay decomposition and reduce the presence and growth of organisms for the purpose of public funerary display of the body, or its transport over long distances, or its use for medical or scientific purposes. See What is a "Conventional" Funeral? for more details.
Endowment Care Fund: Money collected from cemetery property purchasers and placed in trust for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.
Entombment: The placing of a casketed body into a mausoleum or lawn crypt.
Eulogy: a speech or written remarks in memory of a person who has died, usually included in the funeral ceremony.
Fetal death: Death of a product of human conception before the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, that is not an induced termination of pregnancy. The death is indicated by the fact that after expulsion or extraction, the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life, including beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of the voluntary muscles. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions. Respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.
File: To present a vital record or report for registration to the Office of the State Registrar and to have the vital record or report accepted for registration by the Office of the State Registrar.
Final Disposition: The burial in a cemetery or entombment in a mausoleum of a dead human body, or, following cremation, the burial, entombment, dispersal or home-keeping of cremated remains.
Funeral: Most commonly used to refer to a service or ceremony held in the presence of the body or its cremated remains commemorating the person who has died.
Funeral Director: Any licensed person who, for compensation, arranges, directs, or supervises funerals, memorial services, or graveside services, or engages in the business or practice of preparing dead human bodies for final disposition by means other than embalming.
Funeral Establishment: Any place or premise devoted to or used in the holding, care, or preparation of a dead human body for final disposition.
Funeral Goods: The goods that are sold or offered for sale directly to the public for use in connection with funeral services. These may be purchased through a funeral home, crematory or cemetery, or independently of these businesses.
Funeral Provider: Any person that sells or offers to sell funeral goods or funeral services to the public.
Funeral Rule: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to give consumers accurate, itemized price information and various other disclosures about funeral goods and services. See Legal Rights for more details.
Funeral Services: Any commercially offered services that may be used to care for and prepare dead human bodies for burial, cremation, or other final disposition, and arrange, supervise, or conduct the funeral ceremony or the final disposition of dead human bodies. Such services may include consulting with the family to arrange funeral plans; transportation, shelter, refrigeration, or embalming of remains; obtaining authorizations and permits; and coordinating with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties.
General Price List (GPL): The keystone of the FTC Funeral Rule, the GPL must include itemized p;rices for various goods and services sold by funeral homes, allowing the consumer to comparison shop and to purchase, on an itemized basis, only the goods and services they want. See Legal Rights for more details.
Grave: An excavation in the earth as a place for the burial of a dead human body.
Graveside Service: a ceremony or rite, conducted at the place of interment (such as a grave or mausoleum crypt or niche) with human remains present, commemorating the person who has died.
Green Burial: The burial of a dead human body in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition. The body is not embalmed, or is embalmed without the use of chemicals, and is buried either directly in the ground, or enclosed in a biodegradable container. No burial liner or vault is used. The grave should be shallow enough to allow microbial activity similar to that found in composting. See Green Burial for more details.
Green Burial Ground/Cemetery: A cemetery or section of a cemetery that adheres to a number of protocols to ensure that burials never degrade an ecosystem and, where possible, facilitate ecological restoration.The Green Burial Council has classified three levels of green burial ground, each with its own set of standards: Hybrid, Natural, and Conservation. See also Green Burial. See Green Burial for more details.
Home Funeral: A a noncommercial family-centered response to death that involves the family and its social community in the care and preparation of the body for burial or cremation, and/or in planning and carrying out related rituals or ceremonies and/or in the burial or cremation itself. It is marked by minimal, noninvasive care and preparation of the body; reliance on the family's social networks for assistance and support; and the relative or total absence of commercial funeral providers.
See Home Funerals for more detail.
Immediate Burial: Final disposition of a dead human body by burial, without formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony with the body present, except for a graveside service.
Interment: The act or ceremony of interring human remains by means of burial in the ground, or entombment in a crypt or mausoleum or columbarium.
Inurnment: The placing of cremated remains in an urn or other container. Also, a word coined by the death care industry to refer to the interment of cremated remains either below ground in a grave or above ground in a niche. See also Columbarium.
Mausoleum: A large building, or part of a building, designed to provide above-ground entombment for a number of people. Mausoleum Crypts hold casketed remains. Following a casket entombment, the crypt is sealed, and a granite or marble front is attached. Mausoleum Niches hold urns containing cremated remains. Following an urn entombment, a niche front of granite, marble, bronze, wood or glass is attached.
Memorialization: A permanent, temporary, or ongoing means of honoring and remembering a person who has died. It may take the form of: at the place of final disposition, a cemetery grave marker or identifying inscription on a mausoleum crypt or niche; or, at a site other than the place of final disposition, an identifying inscription on a plaque or other stationary object such as a wall or pavement; or, a periodic (e.g., annual) formal or semi-formal memorial event, ceremony, or celebration; or, the performance of prescribed rituals of one's spiritual or religious tradition; or, a gift of money to an organization, or the purchase of an object for an organization (e.g., a work of art) given in memory of - as a memorial to - a person who has died.
Memorial Service: A ceremony commemorating a person who has died, without the body or cremated remains present, held either soon after death, or at a season, time and place chosen to accommodate family and friends, and perhaps the public.
Mortician: any licensed person who, for compensation, engages in the business or practice of preparing dead human bodies for final disposition by means of embalming, and arranges, directs, or supervises funerals, memorial services, or graveside services.
Natural Burial: See Green Burial.
Next-of-Kin: Collectively, a person's relatives, referring to blood relationship or relationship through marriage or adoption.
Niche: A space in a columbarium, mausoleum or niche wall to hold an urn.
Obituary: A notice of the death of a person, particularly a newspaper notice, containing, at minimum, date of death, age, and residence at time of death. May also include names of survivors, time of place of funerary services of any, and a biographical sketch.
Officiant: The person designated to lead or conduct a service, ceremony, or rite of any kind either in the presence of human remains, or in commemoration of a dead person.
Ossuary: A chest, box, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. As offered by some cemeteries, a communal repository for cremated remains.
Resomation: The patented term for the water/alkali based alternative to burial and cremation. See also Alkaline Hydrolysis.
Resomator: The patented term for the alkaline hydrolysis chamber.
Urn: A container to hold cremated remains. It can be placed in a columbarium or mausoleum, buried in the ground.
Vault: See Burial Vault.