Cemetery Definitions

Burial ground - A cemetery containing the remains of Native Americans.

Cemetery - A burial ground containing the remains of non-Native Americans. The term is derived from the Greek Koimeterion, literally a “sleeping place” or “dormitory”.

Cenotaph - Literally “an empty tomb”. A memorial in honor of a deceased person who is interred elsewhere.

Columbarium - A columbarium was originally a dovecote. Modern morticians gave the name to a building with hundreds of little niches in the wall for urns holding cremated remains.

Contumulation - The sharing of a grave or a tomb.

Crematoruim - A facility for the reduction of nonfunctional human bodies into carbon, steam, and assorted air pollutants. Cremationists are people who advocate the practice. A cremator is the individual who actually loads the body into the furnace and scoops out the residue; it can also refer to the furnace.

Crypt - A concrete enclosure for interment. Mausoleum crypts are generally above ground and in buildings. Crypts in garden mausoleums also are usually above ground but are open to the outside rather than being in an enclosed building.

Mausoleum Crypt - Interior
Garden Crypt - Exterior; Lawn
Crypt - Below Ground

Epitaph - Originally a funeral oration (in Latin, epitaphium) which, being a speech made by the living, was said “over the tomb”.

Footstone - A stone marking the foot of a grave.

Gravestone - A stone that marks a grave

Headstone - A memorial stone set at the head of a grave

Inter - To bury or put a dead body into a grave.

Mausoleum - Named for Mausolus, King of Caria, whose wife, Artemisia, built one of the seven wonders of the world. A chamber or structure used, or intended to be used, for entombment. A building that houses crypts for burial. A community Mausoleum is for many families, and a private Mausoleum is generally sold for the use of a single family.

Memorial Park - A cemetery which has adopted a park like style and abolished the use of upright memorials. As envisioned by Hubert Eaton who coined the term, a memorial-park has “sweeping lawns” and must also be inspirational.

Memorial Service - A ceremony commemorating the deceased without the remains present.

Monument - An upright memorial, including what used to be called a tombstone, also includes large structures like obelisks, usually made from granite.

Niche - A space within a columbarium used or intended to be used for inurnment of cremated remains.

Obelisk - Though the name is derived from the Greek obeliskos, meaning “a small spit”.

Ossuary - The elegant way to say “bone-pit” or “charnel house”.

Placophobia - Fear of tombstones. Other notable cemetery dreads include Taphephobia (fear of being buried alive) and Necrophobia (fear of dead things).

Plot/Plat - A small piece of ground.

Polyandrium - A cemetery. Originally a cemetery for the victims of great battles.

Potter’s Fields - A cemetery for paupers. The term comes from Matthew 27:7 when the chief priests determined what to do with the thirty pieces of silver returned by Judas: “So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in”.

Pyre - A ceremonial construction made of wood and fire, designed to reduce a corpse to ashes.

Reliquary - A container for the preservation of relics of a saint.

Sarcophagus - Early sarcophagi were made of limestone, a flesh-eating stone which when carved in the shape of a coffin quickly disposed of the corpse so that the monument could be used for another family member. Modern sarcophagi are made of granite or other fasting stone.

Sepulchre - The Latin sepulcrum meant only “ a burial place”.

Taphophile - One who loves cemeteries and funerals. Taphophiles show an interest in the trappings of death.

Tomb - The Greeks called the swollen ground or mound which marked gravesites a tumulus. Tombs take many forms and the word is now synonymous with grave.

Vault - Cemetery vaults are underground tombs. The word comes from the Latin uoluere, which suggests a turning, referring in the case of vaults to the curving roof of the structure.

Vivisepulture - Burial alive. By implication, an enforce fast unto death.

Wake - The Irish practice of watching over the body by candlelight the night before the funeral and the often wild feasting which follows. This may have developed simply because mistakes sometimes happened. The purpose of the wake, hence, was to ensure that the deceased was truly dead.

Will - A legal document which allows its creator a limited afterlife during which it may choose to placate, amuse, gratify, or anger the survivors.



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Santa Clara Memorial Park
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California, USA 95648