Our A-Z Glossary of Funeral Terms

This is our funeral glossary, designed to help you understand any terms you come across when arranging a funeral, or settling the estate of a loved one.


Administrator (of the estate): The person legally responsible for managing the estate of someone who has passed away, if that person did not have a will.

Ashes: The remains of someone who has passed away, after their body has been cremated. See: What to do with the ashes of a loved one.

Ashes casket: A box for burying the ashes of someone who has died.

Asset: Anything of value, such as property, savings, shares, jewellery, or collectibles, that was owned by the deceased.

Autopsy: A medical examination that takes place after someone has died, usually to determine the cause of death.


Beneficiary: A person who is named in a Will, or through life insurance, to receive an asset (i.e. a specific property) or share of the estate (i.e. ¼ or 25%).

Bequest: A gift (property, money, belongings etc.) that is left to a person or charitable organisation in a Will.

Bereaved: Someone who is mourning the death of a loved one, usually a family member or close friend.

Bereavement leave: Time off granted by an employer to allow a bereaved person time to grieve, make necessary arrangements, and attend the funeral or memorial service.

Bereavement support payment: A benefit paid by the government to people whose husband, wife or civil partner dies, to help ease any financial worries. The money can be paid as a one-off lump sum or monthly payments.

Burial: The act of placing the body of someone who has died in a grave, typically in a coffin or casket.

Burial site: An area of land used for burial, also referred to as a burial plot.


Casket: A rectangular container which holds the body of someone who has died. It is usually made from wood, cardboard or wicker.

Catafalque: A stand or platform, sometimes decorated, which a coffin or casket is placed on during a funeral service or viewing.

Celebrant: A person who helps plan the order of service and leads a funeral ceremony i.e. priest, civil celebrant, friend or family member of the deceased.

Celebration of life: A funeral or memorial service that is not driven by a religion and instead focuses on the life of the person who has died. See: Celebration of life ideas.

Certificate for Burial or Cremation: A free certificate issued by the registrar after someone’s death has been registered – not to be confused with a death certificate or medical certificate of cause of death. It is a legal requirement before the person can be buried or cremated. See: Documents and certificates.

Chapel of Rest: A room in a funeral home where people can view the body of their loved one.

Coffin: A container which holds the body of someone who has died. A coffin has six sides whereas a casket only has four.

Committal service: The conclusion of a funeral service when the coffin or casket is buried, removed for cremation, or remains in sight as people leave the room or venue.

Coroner: A government official who is responsible for investigating any violent, sudden or suspicious deaths, or if the person’s identity is unknown.

Cremation: A process that uses intense heat to turn the body of a person who has died into ashes. See: What happens at a cremation service.

Cremated remains: Another word for ashes. See: What to do with the ashes of a loved one.

Crematorium: A room or building where the body of a loved one is cremated.


Death Certificate: An official certificate, authorised by the Registry Office, which confirms a death has taken place. Not to be confused with certificate for burial or cremation, or medical certificate of cause of death. See: Documents and certificates.

Death notice: A notice, typically found in a newspaper, that announces a person’s death and includes key information such as the time, date and location of their funeral. Online death notices are becoming more common. See: Announcing a death on social media.

Disbursement fees: Third party services paid for by a funeral director on behalf of the bereaved family, such as crematorium fees, venue hire, catering, and flowers.


Eco-friendly funeral: A funeral which considers the environmental impacts, and focuses on making a small or non-existent carbon footprint. It will likely have a biodegradable or eco coffin, minimal vehicles, no headstone or physical marker, and occur in a natural green space i.e. a woodland. See: Eco funerals and woodland burials.

Embalming: The process of using special solutions to preserve a body by delaying the natural effects of death.

Estate: Everything owned by a person at their time of death: money, property, stocks, shares, belongings, land, funds in pension schemes, and life insurance policies.

Eulogy: A speech delivered by a family member, close friend or celebrant during a funeral.

Executor (of the Will or estate): The person, officially named in a Will, who has been selected to settle the estate of someone who has died.

Exhumation: The removal of a body from its original burial ground. This could be for relocation, or if new evidence challenges the original cause of death and another autopsy is required.


Funeral: A ceremony that honours and celebrates the life of someone who has died. It can be religious or humanist (non-religious), and is typically attended by close family and friends. See: A guide to what happens at a funeral.

Funeral director: A person who arranges a funeral for someone who has died, based on the wishes of the deceased and their bereaved family. They typically prepare the body, deal with the church/crematoria, complete paperwork, liaise with third party companies, supply funeral transport, and more. They are also known as funeral undertakers or funeral arrangers.

Funeral expenses payment: A one-off support payment for people who receive benefits and need help covering the cost of a loved one’s funeral.

Funeral plan: A payment scheme which lets people pay for their funeral in advance so their relatives aren’t left with the bill.

Funeral procession: A ceremonial convoy of vehicles, usually carrying the coffin or casket and close family of the deceased, driving at a slow speed to the venue of a funeral.

Funeral service: The ceremony held to pay tribute to the life of the deceased.


Grant of probate: An official document which allows the executor of a Will (or their professional representative) to deal with the estate of the person who has died.

Grave liner: An outer burial container that is designed to support the weight of the earth around the casket to prevent the grave collapsing over time.

Grave marker: An object placed on a grave, usually a plaque, to help friends and family find their loved one’s burial plot. See: Choosing a memorial.

Gravestone: A permanent stone marker that identifies where someone has been buried. It usually has their name, date of birth and death, and a few words. See: Choosing a memorial.

Green burial see ‘eco-friendly funeral’


Headstone see ‘gravestone’

Hearse: A vehicle designed to carry a coffin or casket in a funeral procession.

Humanist funeral: A non-religious funeral service that celebrates the life of loved one.


Inheritance Tax: A one-off tax payment taken from the estate of someone who has died, if the value of their total assets is above a certain threshold.

Intestate: If someone dies without leaving a will, their estate will go into ‘intestate’ and the court will decide who is entitled to a share of the inheritance using intestacy laws. See: How does a Will work after death.


Keepsake: A container or piece of jewellery designed to hold a small amount of ashes. See: What to do with the ashes of a loved one.


Letter of administration: If there is no valid Will, this official document gives legal authorisation for a person to act as the administrator of the deceased’s estate.


Memorial: A physical object, such as a piece of jewellery, engraved bench, grave marker, gravestone, or memorial tree, which is dedicated to someone who has died. See: Choosing a memorial.

Memorial service: A ceremony to commemorate the life of someone who has died. It differs from a funeral in the fact that the deceased’s body is not present.

Mortician: A person who looks after the deceased and prepares the body for burial or cremation.

Mortuary: The room or building in which the bodies of people who have died are cared for, before they are buried or cremated.


Next of kin: Someone’s closest living relative, usually a spouse or child.


Obituary: A news article announcing a person’s death and giving a brief overview of their life. See: How to write an obituary.

Officiant: A person who conducts a funeral service, such as a religious representative or celebrant.

Order of service: An overview of what is going to happen in the funeral, like an itinerary, with a brief obituary and words for any prayers, readings or hymns.


Pallbearer: A person who carries or escorts the coffin at a funeral, typically a close friend or family member. There are usually 6-8 people carrying the casket.

Post-mortem: A medical examination of a body to find out the cause of death. This is carried out by a medical examiner called a pathologist.

Procession: see ‘funeral procession’

Probate: The legal process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died, in accordance with their Will.


Registry office: A local government office where deaths, births, marriages and civil partnerships are recorded. It’s also known as a register office.

Repatriation: The process of transporting the body of someone who has died from one country to another. This is common if the person has died abroad.

Ritual washing: The process of family members and close friends washing and dressing the body of the deceased, in accordance with certain rites and rituals. See:  Hindu funerals, Buddhist funerals, Jewish funerals, Muslim funerals, and Sikh funerals.


Survivors: The family members left behind by the person who has died, such as a spouse, partner, children, and grandchildren. It is written as: Kate is survived by her husband Simon, 66, and her daughter Jane, 32.


Undertaker: The person in charge of the body and funeral service, most commonly referred to as the funeral director.

Urn: A special container for cremated ashes.


Viewing: In the context of funerals, the act of viewing the body of the deceased, typically in a mortuary or chapel of rest.


Wake: A gathering for friends and family of the deceased, usually after the funeral service, where mourners can reflect on the person who has died.

Will: A legal document that explains what will happen to a person’s estate – house, money, belongings etc. – after they die. It also names the executor of the Will. See: How does a Will work after death.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?

If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, please get in touch with our friendly team and we’ll be happy to help.

Registering a death

A death should be registered before arranging the funeral and is usually carried out by a relative.

How to pick a funeral director

You can be assured that every funeral home that is part of the Funeral Partners family will provide outstanding client service.

Documents and certificates

Certificates you will need to enable you to start arranging the funeral and sorting out the affairs of the person who has died.

Letting people know

Picking up the telephone to tell close family or complete strangers such as an employer about the death is usually difficult.

Compare Cremation Funeral Services

Cremation services usually involve a gathering of family and friends and a cremation committal to say goodbye to a loved one.

Bereavement and Compassionate Leave in the UK

Arranging compassionate leave in the UK will remove unnecessary pressure and give you space to focus on the tasks ahead.

Further Reading: Arranging a funeral

Read about how funerals are arranged and what services you can expect to get.