Funeral Terminology

    There is a bit of specific terminology in the funeral industry.  But actually not that much, especially when compared with other areas such as psychology, medicine, etc.

General Terminology:
  • DC - Death Certificate, the original is essential with all burials and cremations.  Also used as authority to transfer a body.
  • CC - Cremation Certificate, the original is essential with all cremations.
  • Intrim - A temporary DC used to transfer a body.  It is not suitable for burial or cremation.
  • NDY or Not Dead Yet - Someone who is soon to die and is arranging their funeral.
  • Decomp - Short for 'decomposing'.  Used to refer to a body which is at any stage of decomposition.  The body may just be slightly 'ripe' or could be completely decomposed.

Transfer Terminology & Tools:
  • Transfer - The process of moving a dead body prior to any service, such as collecting a body from the hospital to bring to the funeral home.  Or taking the body to the airport to be sent overseas.
  • Transfer VehicleAmbulance Hearse - Although 'ambulance hearse' is a much older term often considered inappropriate by many, it can still be used.  Either way this is the vehicle used to transfer the body.  It is usually a white Toyota Hiace van.
  • Ambulance StretcherCollapsible Stretcher - A stretcher used to transfer bodies.  It has collapsable legs, like an ambulance stretcher, which fold down and in with the use of a handel.
  • Two-Man StretcherCarry Stretcher - A stretcher used to transfer bodies.  It has no legs, instead only two wheels on the foot end of the stretcher.  It is much lighter and cheaper than the ambulance stretcher but the lack of legs makes it difficult to carry heavy bodies.
  • Slide Sheets - Large slippery sheets made from parachute material.  They are used to slide or carry bodies about, often in small or awkward spaces.  Although these sheets are not cheap they are durable and reusable.
  • Pat Slides - A flat, thin board, smaller than the average person.  It is used in hospitals and nursing homes as well to slide a body from the bed to stretcher.  Or to slide a body up or down small heights.
  • Evacuation Pod - This is basically like a hammock that is sealed with buckles.  Used to move a body up or down stairs.  One person will hold the long handles at both the foot and head end which makes the weight even and controllable, even down steep stairs or slopes.
  • Seat Slide - A cloth basket like carrier with four handles.  It is used to move a body from a seated position (such as on the toilet or in a chair) and onto the stretcher.
  • Body Bag - A blue large plastic bag made out of tarpaulin like material used for containing and moving a body.  It has a long zipper from head to toe and can be unzipped so it is completely open.  Although most body bags are simple and have no handels lately there have been more with handels, and more cloth style body bags.
  • Valuables - Anything on the body other than clothes.  Such as jewellery, pictures, watches, money, etc.  It does not have to be worth anything.  All valuables should be noted on the transfer sheet and in the mortuary book.
  • ID TagWrist Tag - An armband placed around at least one, but sometimes both wrists of the deceased.  There should always be at least one on the body at all times.  The wirst tag is similar to a hospital or club wrist band, plastic and secured with one press button that cannot be undone once fastened.  Some places use different colours to represent different things, such as yellow for valuables to be returned to the family and blue for valuables to stay with the body or red for no valuables.

Funeral & Hearse Terminology:
  • Goose Neck - The stopper used in a hearse to keep the coffin in place.  It is slotted into special holes along the middle of the hearse and tightened with a horizontal screw with a rubber stopped on the end.
  • Pegs - The small metal 'sticks' used to keep the coffin straight as it is loaded or unloaded from the hearse.  They have rubber on the top to prevent damage to the coffin.
  • Wing DroosSide Doors - When referring to the hearse this is describing the small doors on either side that open to the space under where the coffin sits.  The space underneath the coffin is completely hollow and designed to store things, these doors give access to that area.
  • Coffin Bars - Long bars used to carry a coffin.  At least two are placed under the coffin, one at each end, and one person will carry the bar on either side.  This means at least four people will carry the coffin with both hands, which makes it much easier.
  • Catafalque - A special and specific object at crematoriums.  This is what the coffin is placed on at the crematorium, be it fixed to the front or movable and on wheels.
  • CryptVault - A special above ground 'burial' for the deceased.  Usually refers to a small stone building where four to ten coffins can sit on each level.  It sometimes has two levels, one on the surface and one underground.
  • Cortege - The process of cars following the hearse.  They should (by law) have their lights on, but not hazard lights or high beams.  The cortege should also have right of way (by law) at roundabouts and other intersections without lights.  It is also highly illegal to cut-off a cortege, but this is difficult to prove or police.
  • Police CortegePolice Honour Guard - A special cortege which has police guiding it or blocking traffic at least part of the way.  Very rare now with few funerals having police escorts unless the deceased had direct ties to the police or was extremely important.  This type of cortege will often speed slightly and run read lights.  They will also follow each other a lot closer in this type of cortege.
  • Family CarMourning Car - The car provided by the funeral company to transport the family, friends of the deceased or the priest or celebrant.  For example Greek Orthodox funerals must provide a free car for the priest, although they will often charge the family secretly.
  • Zink Liner - A special inside lining made of zink.  It is used for international transfers or for coffins going into a vault.  The zink liner prevents fluids and gases getting in or out of the coffin.
  • Grave Marker - A simple marker used to indicate where someone was recently buried.  It can be used temporarily or in lieu of a gravestone.  Most often it is a simple white wooden cross.
  • Lawn Grave - One of the more common grave types where the grave is dug into the lawn.
  • Automatic Lower - A device used at the graveside to lower coffins automatically.  It can only be used on certain lawn graves.  Basically it uses clockwork style gears inside to keep the speed steady and slow.
  • Ropes - The long flat ropes used to manually lower the coffin at the grave.
  • American Style Grave - This is a style of burial used in America that has recently been introduced to certain cemeteries in Sydney.  It involves a lawn grave and a mechanical lowering device.  Except in this case the lowering device is at about weist hight and not on the ground as with the Australian style.  An issue with this is that it can damage the coffin as it is lowered and means the staff have to bend in an awkward way.
  • Monumental Grave - This is where the grave has a stone or concrete cover over it.

Mortuary Terminology:
  • TP - A temporary, simple embalming of the body.  It is much quicker and easier than a complete embalm.
  • Aneurysm Hook - Perhaps one of the most useful and versatile tools in the mortuary.  And it looks and feels great! With a flat hook on one end and a rounded scraper on the other it can be used in endless ways.  Plus the gap in the middle makes it great for tying suture corde to, this means the needle wont go falling off the table.
  • Forceps - Scissor like tool that seals, grabs and clamps rather than cuts.
  • Trocar - An ancient device used to inject and/or remove fluids from a body.
This is a picture of just about every tool used in embalming or the mortuary in general.  Starting from left to right at the top you can see the trocar, other similar fluid removing/adding tools, forceps and clamps and finally the different gauges of needles used for suturing and other such tasks.  On the second, bottom row we see scalpels, scissors, a few different aneurysm hooks, tweezers and finally different attachments for the trocar.