Autopsy: An inside and outside examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death and/or to study the effects of a disease or injury. An autopsy is also called a postmortem examination, known as a "post."
Barrow: A large mound of earth or stones piled on top of dead bodies.
Bier: The stand on which a corpse, coffin, or casket is placed.
Body: Another word for a Corpse.
Brain-dead: Traditionally the term meant the determination of death when no activity could be detected in a person's brain. Currently the term brain death has been replaced by the more precise term death by brain criteria.
Casket: A rectangular-shaped burial container for the human body. It is typically fancier than a coffin.
Catacomb: An underground network of corridors and rooms that were once used as burial places. Graves were cut into the walls.
Cemetery: Burial site in the earth. Early Christian writers coined the word cemetery as a euphemism to refer to where dead people were buried. It comes from the Greek word koimeterion, meaning, "to sleep." The first recorded use of the word in English was 1387. The word graveyard came into use in the early nineteenth century.
Cerecloth: A cloth used to cover a corpse. It was treated with a wax or gummy material in order to hold the cloth close to the body.
Charon: An old boatman in Greek mythology who ferried the souls of dead people across the river Styx or the Acheron River to Hades.
Coffin: A traditional wedge-shaped burial receptacle for the human body.
Columbarium: A structure containing recessed niches for urns that contain cremains, or cremated remains.
Corpse: Originally used to signify the body of a living person, corpse is now used to mean a dead body.
Cremated remains: The bone fragments remaining after cremation.
Cremation: The process of using heat to reduce a corpse to bone fragments.
Crematorium: The place that contains the furnace in which bodies are cremated. Also called a crematory.
Cryonics: The practice of freezing at extremely low temperatures the bodies of people who have died of a disease with the hope that the body might be revived and healed if a cure is discovered.
Crypt: A vault with an arched or domed ceiling or a chamber in which a body is placed. A crypt is usually totally or partly underground. Historically crypts were often built beneath the main floor of a church, usually as a burial place. Today the drawers that hold bodies in aboveground mausoleums are often called crypts.
Dead Ringer / Saved by the Bell: A cord was wrapped around the wrist of the "presumed" deceased when they were buried and then attached to a bell above ground, so that if the person woke up "buried alive," they could ring the bell to summon help. [View video clip.]
Decomposition: The natural process through which bodies break down to organic and inorganic parts and eventually disappear.
Dissect: To cut apart a cadaver in order to examine and analyze its parts.
Elegy: A poem or song to honor a dead person.
Embalming: A process to preserve a body.
Epitaph: An inscription or a message on a tomb or gravestone.
Eulogy: A speech that honors a person.
Exhumation: Removing a corpse from a grave.
Floater: Bodies submersed in water for a long enough period of time to have developed enough gas in the abdomen to float to the surface.
Funeral: A ceremony held for a dead person. The body is present.
Grave: An excavation for burial of a body.
Inhumation: Burial in the ground.
Mausoleum: A large tomb built aboveground.
Memorial park: Cemetery where graves are marked with markers flush to the ground.
Memorial service: A ceremonial held for a dead person. The body is not present.
Morgue: A place where corpses are kept until they are claimed or released for burial.
Mummy: A corpse whose skin has been preserved over a skeleton, either through natural or artificial processes.
Necropolis: A Greek word meaning "city of the dead," which is what scholars typically call cemeteries in ancient cities.
Ossuary: Depository for the bones of dead people.
Pyre: An open fire used to cremate bodies.
Rigor mortis: Stiffening of the body after death.
Sarcophagus: A stone coffin. Ancient people excavated stone and carved coffins for dead people. Because materials in the stone were believed to eat the corpse, the coffin was called a sarcophagus, from the Greek word sarkos, meaning, "flesh," and phagos, meaning, "I eat."
Shroud: A white garment in which corpses are buried.
Thanatology: The study of death.
Tomb: A structure or excavation in which a corpse is buried. It can be entirely aboveground or wholly or partly in the ground.
Tumulus: A hill that was built over a grave.
Urn: A receptacle designed to permanently encase cremated remains.
Viewing: A burial ritual during which friends see the corpse and visit with the family.
Wake: The time when people watch over a dead body before it is buried. [View video clip.]