A Glossary of Cemetery Terms


  • Burial Vault

A container placed in the ground, designed to accept the casket or urn, primarily to keep the ground from sinking over time. Burial vaults may be made of a number of materials including concrete, metal or plastics. (aka, outer burial container, vault, rough box) See my links page for links to burial vault information.

  • Columbarium

A columbarium is a free standing structure, often outdoors and faced with granite, containing numerous niches for the entombment of cremated remains.

  • Corner Post

A marker placed in the ground, used to signify the location of a lot or grave. The markers can be cut from granite or marble as well as cast in aluminum with a metal spike that assists in locating a corner post with a metal detector. Corner posts are generally placed in the “corner” of lots or graves.

  • Crypt Space

The space constructed inside a mausoleum for the purpose of receiving the deceased persons remains. Single Crypt – Designed for one entombment Double Crypt – Designed for two entombments True Companion – A double crypt that is general two spaces deep. Side By Side Double – The deceased are place in a crypt that is two wide and may or may not have a dividing wall. Westminster Crypt – A crypt space at ground level that has an additional lower level that is accessed by lowering the deceased from inside the crypt space. These crypts generally hold two or four entombments.

  • Deed

Originally deeds were issued to purchasers of graves. However, with a legal “deed” comes a certain bundle of rights which most cemeteries are not passing on to the purchaser. “Certificates” are generally issued granting the purchaser the exclusive “right” to interment or entombment in the selected spaces in exchange for a dollar amount paid, and subject to certain rules, regulations and conditions. (aka interment/entombment privilege certificate, Certificate of Interment/Entombment Right, Easement)

  • Double Depth Burial

Double Depth burial refers to making two burial in one grave. The first burial is placed deep enough (Double Depth) to allow a second burial to be placed on top at a later time. A few cemeteries also do triple depth.

  • Entombment

Refers to “burial” in a crypt space.

  • Grave

The space in the ground that is set aside for the purpose of receiving the deceased persons remains. (aka plot)

  • Green Burial

Green burial refers to a more traditional way of burial. Green burial generally prohibits the use of embalming chemicals, concrete burial containers and non-biodegradable caskets. Generally there is also an assumed requirement that the cemetery has a special green burial section set aside if the cemetery is not a green burial cemetery.

  • Heir

This term generally refers to those who now hold the right of interment/entombment by reason of lawful transfer due to death of the owner.

  • Interment

Generally refers to “burial” in the ground. (May be used interchangeably with entombment or inurnment.)

  • Interment/Entombment Service Fee

The charge the cemetery may impose for the procedures and equipment necessary in the interment, entombment or inurnment of a deceased person. This charge may include the costs associated with administrative function, filing necessary paperwork, the actual opening and closing of the grave, crypt or niche and the equipment necessary. (aka Opening/Closing Charge, Burial Charge)

  • Inurnment

Inurnment refers to the “burial” of cremated remains in a crypt or niche.

  • Lot

The space in the ground which is made up of multiple graves. (Graves in a lot may be owned by the same persons or different persons. The lot is essentially a numbered, surveyed location.) (aka plot)

  • Lawn Crypt

A lawn crypt is generally a concrete structure (“crypt”) that is set in the ground as part of a larger project, which is then covered over by ground. Lawn crypts can be part of an engineered project that addresses site and layout issues.

  • Mausoleum

A mausoleum is a freestanding structure built as a burial chamber or containing multiple burial chambers (crypts) for the purpose of entombing the remains of a deceased person.

  • Memorial

A marker of varying shapes and sizes generally cut from granite or marble which is placed on a grave or lot in order to “memorialize” those interred at that location. (aka headstone, monument, tombstone)

  • Niche

A space in a mausoleum or columbarium designed to receive the urn containing the cremated remains of a deceased person. Niches may be single or companion.

  • Owner

This term generally refers to the original purchaser of interment/entombment rights.

  • Perpetual Care

These are monies set aside for the care and maintenance of the cemetery grounds, lots and graves, landscaping, and buildings and fixtures. The funds normally do not cover family owned structures or headstones. The name by which these funds referred to and the manner in which these funds are collected will vary state by state and even by cemetery. (aka endowed care, care and maintenance fund)

  • Range

Another designated layout of lots that is generally in the form of a “row”


  1. Barry Hayman says:

    I wonder if you can expand on the “bundle or rights” that aren’t conveyed, and what (precisely) is conveyed by the certificate or ‘deed’. And, since this is real estate, why isn’t the deed recorded with a jurisdiction?
    Thank you.

    • Keeping in mind that I am not a lawyer, a “deed” carries with it certain rights afforded to the owner,and may vary depending on the type of ownership. The most basic description of these rights are The Right of Possession, The Right of Enjoyment, The Right of Control, The Right of Exclusion and The Right of Disposition.
      I should clarify that there are some cemeteries that will issue a deed giving you all of these rights, effectively mitigating much of their responsibility. Most often today, we see cemeteries providing “privilege certificates”. These certificates effectively act as an easement giving you the right to be buried in that specific location, usually along with the right to memorialize the grave space. The cemetery retains control of the land allowing them to maintain order and appearance with a specified set of rules and regulations.
      How the grave space is viewed as a matter of real estate is generally a matter of the state. There are states that regulate the sale of grave spaces through their real estate commissions, often times allowing exceptions for certain organizations.Most cemetery laws are created at the state level and vary widely from state to state.
      I hope this answers your question, feel free to ask if it has not and thank you for the comment.

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  1. […] is dug and your casket or urn is buried in the ground. This may or may not require the use of a burial vault or outer burial container, depending on the local laws and regulations. Often times with […]

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