Glossary & Definitions

Every profession adopts its own ‘in house’ terminology. We’ve created a local glossary to define regularly used terms associated with death and funerals.

Here is a printable version of the glossary if you need it.

Advanced Care Directive A patients’ care plan that records their medical and end of life choices.
Arrangement Meeting The meeting between family and funeral director to plan the funeral, this can be at our offices, at your home or wherever is most convenient for you.
Ashes The remains of a body after cremation which are contained in an urn. We can deliver the ashes, personally, to your home usually within 24 hours.
Assisted Dying Recent legislation that allows an eligible, terminally ill patient to end their life under medical supervision.
Autopsy or Post Mortem A medical examination performed by a Pathologist for the Coroner to ascertain cause of death. Locally, usually performed at Wellington Regional Hospital.
Back Fill for Burial The communal and affirming action of filling in the grave by family and friends. Both Karori | Makara and Whenua Tapu cemeteries provide the tools.
Bereavement Room Rooms set aside at Wellington Regional Hospital especially for families to spend valuable time with someone who has died at Wellington Hospital.
Book of Remembrance A book for those attending the funeral to sign with contact details and messages. Also referred to as a Memorial or Remembrance Book. We suggest this book is made available for friends, family and colleagues visiting your home, prior to the funeral.
Burial Plot The grave purchased to inter the body. Can be single, double or triple depth for spouses or family members.

Can only be single depth for a Natural Burial.

Celebrant If the family does not have an affiliation with church and clergy, a Celebrant may lead the funeral ceremony – the content may be secular or have some religious content.

(You can choose to lead the funeral yourselves instead, if capable).

Casket Or coffin, generally interchangeable terms.
Casket Spray Name given to the floral arrangement on top of the coffin.
Chapel A smaller, more compact version of a church or place of worship.
Clergy A representative from your church who leads the funeral service.
Coffin Or casket, generally interchangeable terms.
Committal Service The part of the funeral ceremony when the officiant commits the deceased either to cremation or burial – commonly with the phrase ‘Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’
Compassionate Airfare On application, Air New Zealand may partially reimburse close family members, who have travelled for a funeral, for their flight costs on compassionate grounds.
Coroner In the case of an unexpected, violent or suspicious death, the role of the Coroner is to establish when, where, how and why the death happened and make preventative recommendations accordingly.
Cremation When a body, contained in a coffin or on a shroud bearer, is taken to the crematorium and is incinerated at a high heat (around 900°C). This process takes about 2 – 3 hours. The remaining bone fragments (everything else vaporises) are then pulverised to a coarse sand-like consistency and are referred to as ashes (or cremains). The ashes are then transferred into an urn.
Cup of Tea – COT Colloquial term for the refreshments served after the funeral – an informal opportunity to continue connections and conversations.
Death Certificate Issued in hard copy by Births, Deaths and Marriages (a Department of Internal Affairs). Must be registered within 3 days after burial or cremation. The record is publicly available.
Direct Cremation or Burial When family (or the deceased) chooses not to have any form of funeral and just be buried or cremated.
Disinter or Exhume A body is removed from a gravesite to be relocated. Permission must be granted by the Ministry of Health.
Donations Money given to support a charity chosen by the deceased. ‘In lieu of flowers, donations may be made be made to……’
Dressing Family has the option to dress the deceased themselves. We offer guidance and support for families to do this.
Embalming Akin to a surgical procedure performed by an Embalmer.  Solvents, preservatives and additives are injected into the body’s arterial system, flushing the blood, and slowing down the natural process of deterioration.
Enduring Power of Attorney A trusted person/s nominated to take care of your Personal Care & Welfare EPA and Property EPA should you become incapacitated.
Eulogy The speeches made by family members and friends at the funeral or memorial service.
Executor The person/s or organisation responsible for ensuring that the deceased’s wishes, specified in the Will, are carried out as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Funeral Director The person engaged to take care of the funeral arrangements on your behalf.
Family Directed Funeral When a funeral is managed fully by the family with no or limited services provided by a funeral company.
First Call The initial call made to the funeral home by a family to engage their services.
Funeral Home or Company A place of business that specialises in taking care of all the funeral arrangements.
Funeral Insurance An insurance policy providing financial cover for all or most funeral costs – generally paid out in a lump sum after death.

Always check the fine print on these policies.

Grave Side Service When the funeral ceremony is conducted entirely at the graveside.
Green Burial Adheres to the principals of ‘Natural Burials’, no embalming and an approved natural coffin. Also referred to as Eco or Natural Burial.
Headstone A permanent monument to mark the grave – can be made of marble, stone or concrete.
Hearse The vehicle used on the day of the funeral to transfer the deceased. You are welcome to provide your own suitably lengthed vehicle if you prefer.
Interment The burial of the body or ashes at a cemetery.
Lowering Device A mechanical device used to steadily lower the coffin into the grave should family prefer not to do this physically themselves with ropes or straps.
Medical Certificate of Cause of Death A form completed by the attending Doctor or qualified Health Practitioner stating the time & cause of death. Not to be confused with the Death Certificate.
Memorial Service A ceremony, after the deceased has either been buried or cremated so no body is present. Timing is more flexible for a memorial service.
Monumental Mason A company that produces and installs permanent plaques and headstones for cemetery burials.
Mortuary The facility for the examination, preparation or embalming of a body.
Natural Burial Alternative to conventional burial; the body is buried at a single depth, unembalmed, dressed in natural fibres, in a biodegradable coffin, overplanted with a tree, enabling natural decomposition.
Newspaper Notice The notice that appears in the death section of the printed newspapers. For an extra fee, the notice can also appear online.
Niche A repository for ashes in a wall at a cemetery. Usually also has a plaque with the deceased’s details.
Obituary The publication of  a notable deceased’s biographical events in a newspaper.
Open Coffin When family choose to have the lid off the coffin at the funeral for people to view. Conscious decisions need to be made about body care.
Photo Show A digital compilation of photographs or video clips screened at a funeral service or during refreshments
Pall Bearers The people who carry the coffin at a funeral. Depending on the handles (individual or rail) 4 to 8 people can be involved.
Post Mortem or Autopsy A medical examination performed by a Pathologist for the Coroner to ascertain the cause of an unexplained of death.
Pre Arranged Funeral When someone proactively details decisions about their funeral wishes and choices. See our Easy Peasy Funeral Plan.
Pre Paid Funeral Deciding to set money aside in advance for a funeral in a recognised scheme. Ensure this is secure and does not incur unnecessary administration fees.
Probate Before a Will can be executed an application needs to be made to the High Court to ensure that the Will is authentic and all financial burdens and taxes are settled.
Repatriation The transfer of a body to their home country if they have died overseas.
Service sheets Printed programmes or Orders of Service given to those attending the funeral.
Transfer The body is collected from the place of death and brought to the funeral home or family home.
Urn The vessel containing the ashes of the deceased after cremation.

Any appropriately sized receptacle can be used.

Viewing Visiting the deceased at the funeral home.
Wake Historically a gathering in the home before the funeral, now refers to the gathering after the funeral service.
Will The legal instructions provided by the deceased about their funeral wishes and distribution of their assets and liabilities.