Spelling Bee

Funeral jargon is a bear. Sometimes I wonder if undertakers of yesteryear decided to make up words to sound refined. Nowadays, the vocabulary can get plain confusing. Most funereal words are derived from Greek, Latin or French roots and their pronunciation can be tricky. Spelling them can be trickier. Even the options “to sound them out” or “to use them in a sentence” might not get you very far. The origins of many of these words are fascinating….Here is a list of a few of my favorites! Hope you find it interesting.

Columbarium– (Latin) “Pigeon house or Dove-Cote,” structure or wall for placing containers of cremated remains

Cremation– (Latin) “To burn,” reduction of a dead body to ashes by fire

Crypt– (Crypt) “Secret or hidden,” a vault or room for keeping remains

Embalm– (French) “To apply balm or ointment or to preserve with spices,” temporary disinfection and preservation of tissues and restoration of a natural appearance

Entombment– (French) “Place in a tomb,” generally used for burial in mausoleums

Eulogy– (Latin) “Praise, good or fine language,” a brief speech to offer praise and celebrate the life of someone who has died

Exhume– (Latin) “To unearth,” to take out of the ground and move

Hearse– (French) “Framework for holding candles over a coffin,” a vehicle for transporting a body or casket

Interment– (Latin) “Between or among,” to bury

Mausoleum– (Greek) “Magnificent tomb;” a building housing tombs above ground

Morgue– (French) “A sad expression or solemn look,” a place where bodies are kept to be identified or claimed

Obituary– (Latin) “Register of deaths,” record or announcement of death; biological sketch

Pallbearers– (Middle English) “One who holds the corners of the pall at a funeral,” Also known as casket-bearers. Historically, and in some religious orders today, caskets are covered by a cloth called a “pall.” The term now, however, generally refers to 6-8 men charged with transporting the casket. [Not “Paulbearers,” …unless of course they are bearing a man named Paul…]

Niche– (Latin) “Shallow recess or nest in a wall,” small opening in wall to house cremated remains

Reposing Room– (Latin) “Cause to rest,” More commonly known as a “Visitation” room or parlor

Vigil– (Latin) “Eve of a religious festival,” a ceremony of watch

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