Cemetery Glossary

BARROW: A mound stones placed on an otherwise unmarked grave site

BEREAVED: The immediate family of the deceased. (V) suffering from grief upon the death of a loved one

BEQUEST: A gift made by the deceased as described in his/her will

BEVEL MARKER: A low rising rectangular grave marker

BIER: A stand on which a body or coffin is placed prior to burial.  

BIOLOGICAL GROWTH:  Surface growth or coloration indicative of biological colonization.  May be of varying thicknesses, colors (generally black, green, yellow or orange), or biological origin (micro-flora such as fungi, lichen, algae, bacteria).  

BURIAL CERTIFICATE OR PERMIT:  A legal paper issued by the local government authorizing burial. The permit may authorize earth burial or cremation or removal to a distant point

BURIAL GROUND: A place dedicated to the interment of human remains

BURIAL VAULT: A box, generally constructed of concrete, set within the grave to receive the casket.  Its primary purpose is to prevent the ground from settling into a depression when the casket collapses.

CAIRN: A pile of rocks beneath which a body is placed

CAMBERED: A gravestone with a soft arced top

CASKET: A rectangular box into which a body is placed for burial or entombment.  

CATACOMB: A network of subterranean niches used for the burial of the dead.

CATAFALQUE: A bier or table used to rest a casket during a wake or funeral service.  

CEMETERY: A place dedicated to the interment of human remains, from the Greek 'koimeterion' or 'sleeping place'. An place used to burial or entomb the deceased.

CENOTAPH: A monument erected in honor of a deceased individual who is buried elsewhere, generally erected in honor of a distinguished individual

CHURCH MONUMENTS: Box shaped monuments inside a church placed over a grave.

CHURCH TRUCK:  A collapsible catafalque used for funerals

COFFIN: A tapered box into which a body is placed for burial or entombment from the Greek 'kophinos,' generally a six-sided construction tapered at the head and feet.

COLUMBAREUM: A structure (singular) of vaults lined with recesses for urns containing cremated remains; pl., COLUMBARIA

COMMITTAL SERVICE: The final interred or entombed of the deceased after the funeral service.

CONTUMULATION: The sharing of a grave or a tomb

COPING: A set of long rectangular stones used to form a box around a burial lot.

CORPSE: From the Latin corpus meaning a body.

CORRODED FERROUS ANCHORS: Iron pins which have oxidized due to exposure to water and air.  Corroding ferrous anchors may cause cracking and spalling of stone

CORTEGE: The funeral procession following the hearse

CREMAINS: The ash residue resulting from the cremation or burning of a body

CREMATION: The burning of a body for disposal.

CRYPT: A vault or chamber beneath the a church used for entombments of deceased members of the church.   

CUPROUS STAINING: Green staining, characterized by random or localized pigmentation of the surface, related to the presence of corroding copper elements.

DEATH NOTICE - That paragraph in the classified section of a newspaper publicizing the death of a person and giving those details of the funeral service the survivors wish to have published. Most such notices list the names of the relatives of the deceased.

DECEASED; One in whom all physical life has ceased; (V) dead

DELAMINATION: Splitting of the outer surface of a stone into laminae or thin layers along the natural bedding planes of sedimentary stones.

DETATCHMENT: Separation of pieces of stone from the main body of the stone which can appear planar in nature in metamorphic or igneous stones, but it refers to any separations within the stone

EMBALM: The process of sanitizing, disinfecting and temporarily preserving a dead body by means of circulating preservative and antiseptic through the veins and arteries.

EMBALMER: One who disinfects or preserves dead human bodies by the injection or external application of antiseptics, disinfectants or preservative fluids; prepares human bodies for transportation which are dead of contagious or infectious diseases; or uses derma surgery or plastic art for restoring mutilated features.

EMBALMING FLUID: Liquid chemicals used in preserving a dead body

ENGRAVING: Lettering or symbols etched into stone

ENTOMBMENT: The placing of a casket or coffin into a tomb.

EPITAPH: An inscription on a gravestone honoring the deceased.

EROSION: The slow wearing away of the surface, edges, corners or carved details of a stone.  Erosion may be caused by abrasion, acid precipitation, and biological growth.

EXFOLIATION: The peeling, scaling, or flaking off of the surface of stone in thin layers resulting in an unevenly layered surface

EXHUME: To dig up the remains; to remove from the place of burial

FLAKING: The detachment of small, flat, thin pieces of the outer layers of stone

FRIABILITY: Stone is soft and easily eroded, often resulting in crumbling and associated material loss.  This term is generally applied to sandstones.

FUNERAL: A commemorative or religious service held in honor of the deceased.

FUNERAL DIRECTOR: A professional who prepares for the burial or other disposition of dead human bodies, supervises such burial or disposition, maintains a funeral establishment for such purposes, counsels with survivors. Synonym: mortician, undertaker.

FUNERAL HOME: A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals.

GRAVE: A burial site, A hole dug in the ground to bury a body

GRAVE CUT: The hole excavated for an interment  

GRAVELINER: A box placed in a grave into which a casket is placed.  Its primary purpose is to prevent the ground from settling into a depression when the casket collapses.

GRAVEYARD: A place, generally around a church, for the burial of human remains.

GREEN BURIAL: An environmentally-friendly interment requiring the absence of embalming fluids and non- biodegradable elements or caskets

HEARSE: A vehicle made to carry a deceased individual to a graveyard.

INSCRIPTION: Lettering or symbols etched into stone.

INTER, INTERMENT: To bury the deceased in a grave

INTERMENT CERTIFICATE: A legal permit issued by a local government authorizing burial. Also: DISINTERMENT.

INTERNMENT: A temporary employment or housing situation, often misused to mean interment.  

INURNMENT: The burial of a urn containing human remains.

LAWN CRYPT: A series of burial vaults pre-set into the ground for easy access at time of need. Also: Garden Crypt.

LOT: A number of plots together for burying human remains.

LOWERING DEVICE:  A mechanism used for lowering the casket into the grave  Apparatus is placed over the open grave which has two or more straps which support the casket over the opening. Upon release of the mechanism, the straps unwind from a cylinder and slowly lower the casket into the grave.

MARKER:   A monument or memorial to mark the place of burial.

MEDICAL EXAMINER:  A government official, usually appointed, who has a thorough medical knowledge and whose function is to perform an autopsy on bodies dead from violence, suicide, crime, etc., and to investigate circumstances of death.

MAUSOLEA: Plural of MAUSOLEUM, free standing buildings used to place caskets or urns, generally architecturally adorned.

MEMORIAL GARDEN: A modern cemetery designed for ease of maintenance with flat markers rather than upright headstones.

MONUMENT: An upright grave marker generally larger in size than a standard gravestone  

MORGUE: A place to where bodies found dead are removed and exposed pending identification by relatives

MORTICIAN: A person who prepared the deceased for burial or cremation.

MORTUARY: A facility for the preparation of human remains for burial or cremation.

NICHE: A small place, often in a wall, made to hold cremated human remains.

OBELISK: A tall tapering grave monument ending in a pyramidal top

OBITUARY: A published remembrance of a recently deceased individual

OBSEQUIES: Funeral services

OSSUARY: A place for the storage of human bones.

OUTER BURIAL CONTAINER: A burial vault  Its primary purpose is to prevent the ground from settling into a depression when the casket collapses.

PALL: A cloth draped over a casket or coffin.  Also the transportation of a casket or coffin to the gravesite

PALLBEARER: The individuals who carry a casket or coffin to the gravesite

PEDESTAL: A stone or series of stones set upon a plinth to raise up a monument.

PITTING: Formation of numerous and densely distributed surface recesses or holes with a maximum diameter of a few millimeters, potentially related to the petrography of the stone, in which weaker pockets of stone erode more quickly than the whole

PLAQUE: A stone tablet upon which in inscribed the name of the deceased.

PLINTH: A flat stone slab upon which a gravestone tablet it placed.

PLOT: A single burial space in a graveyard or cemetery.

PRENEED, PREARRANGING or PREPLANNING: Planning a funeral in advance of the death, usually consisting of a list of your preferences for funeral arrangements.

PYRE: A structure used to hold a corpse during a ceremonial cremation.  

REGISTER: A book made available by the funeral director for recording the names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased. Also has space for entering other data such as name, dates of birth and death of the deceased, name of the officiating clergyman, place of interment, time and date of service, list of floral tributes, etc.

REMAINS: The deceased.

SARCOPHAGUS (plural: SARCOPHAGI): A stone container for a coffin or body, generally placed in a tomb

SEPULCHER: A tomb carved into a hillside

SPALLING:  Detachment or loss of stone fragments, generally conchoidal and of deeper material than exfoliation, often related to geologic bedding planes, the infiltration of water beneath the surface, expansion of ferrous pins or anchors, or manufacturing defects

SPOIL: Dirt removed from an excavation.   

SUGARING: The Disaggregation and loss of material in granular form on marble.  Numerous marble grains are loose on the surface, and come away in the hand if touched.  Sugaring results from erosion of the carbonate binder of the stone, but a marker erode without exhibiting sugaring.

TABLESTONE: A memorial in the shape of a table

TAPHOPHILE: An aficionado of cemeteries and associated accoutrements

TABLET: An upright grave marker.

TOMB: An enclosed space intended for the placement of the deceased that may range in size from just large enough to hold a casket to enormous pyramids.  

TUMULUS: The mound covering a gravesite

UNDERTAKER: A person who 'undertakes' to assist with the preparation and burial of the deceased.

URN: A container into which cremated remains are placed, or in which they are kept; may be made of various materials, including wood, marble or metal.

VAULT: An underground or partly structure used for the placement of the dead

WAKE: A gathering in honor of the deceased immediately after death.


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