(Mouseover any green term to see a pop-up definition.)
Normally, I would limit a discussion in this group to 10 words at a time, but for complete coverage of this topic area, I will cover as many death-related terms as I can think of that are in common use and that you may encounter in your English reading.
Till Death Do Us Part
This quote is part of the formal Christian wedding vow spoken aloud when two people get married. This means they are supposed to stay married until the death of one or both of them ends their marriage.
- Read the definitions of the new vocabulary below. Pronounce these new words.
- Read the accompanying story, “A Murder Mystery”, to see these new words in use.
- Listen to my audio and identify the new words and check them off () on the vocabulary list as you hear them. (TO BE ADDED LATER; I’M OUT OF TOWN NOW)
- Repeat this lesson daily until you can do the self-assessment without error and without hesitation.
Key Vocabulary Words
(presented in approximate order of applicability to a person’s death)
Hear Lee Pronounce the Vocabulary List
(All new vocabulary words are bolded after first mention. Other useful vocabulary words that may be new to you are bolded as well.)
- Euphemism (noun) – A tactfully polite name or term for something whose real name or term is distasteful; that is, the real name may cause sadness, embarrassment, or discomfort for some reason. (Hear it pronounced.)For example, a “garbage collector” may euphemistically be called a “sanitation engineer”. A crime lord may euphemistically refer to his hired killer as his “problem solver”. Since death is a sad and grisly topic, many death-related words will be euphemisms used out of respect for the dead and the living.
- Date of death – The date of one’s death, for example, January 16, 2016.
(Why this needs explanation, I’m not sure, but it was on Holly’s suggested word list.)
- B.C. – A suffix added after a calendar year, such as 1000 B.C. This means 1,000 years Before Christ was born. Jesus Christ is a character in the Christian Bible and is believed by Christians to be the son of God. (This was on Holly’s suggested word list.)
- A.D. – A suffix added after a calendar year, such as 2016 A.D. This means 2,016 years after Christ was born. A.D. stands for “anno domini”, which is Latin for “in the year of our Lord”. (“Our Lord” refers to Jesus Christ, who was born, died, reborn, and is believed to have eternal life. Hence, we are now living in the time when Christ is alive, or “in the year(s) of our Lord”.) (This was on Holly’s suggested word list.)
- Deceased (adjective) – A euphemism for “dead”. He is deceased. He has passed on. A dead person is euphemistically referred to as “the deceased“, “the recently departed”, or “the dearly departed”. (as in “departed from this world”) (Hear it pronounced.)
- Corpse – The body of a dead person. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Posthumous (adjective) – This means “after one’s death”. A postmortem is a posthumous investigation into the cause of a person’s death. (Hear it pronounced.) (sounds like “poss chew muss”)
- Coroner (noun) – A person who works for the Police Department and deals with dead bodies whose deaths are believed to be the result of foul play.
(Hear it pronounced.)
- Postmortem (noun) – A process or procedure by which a coroner determines date, time, and cause of death of a corpse in a police investigation (or police case). A postmortem is also known as an autopsy. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Morgue (noun) – The place where the coroner does his postmortem and stores dead bodies to keep them from decaying, usually done by refrigeration. A slang expression to describe this is “keeping them on ice”. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Obituary (noun) – A newspaper article published posthumously that notifies the public that someone has recently died. It often gives a brief summary of the deceased person’s life, lists his survivors (wife, kids, etc.), the date and cause of his death, and when and where the funeral will be held. The section of the newspaper that lists all obituaries is aptly called “The Obituaries“. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Funeral (noun) – A ceremony or ritual that arranges for the body of a dead person to be prepared, viewed, and then buried in the ground or cremated into ashes.
- Funeral home (or funeral service) (noun) – This is a business that handles and disposes of dead bodies. If a person died of foul play, then the corpse first goes to the morgue so the coroner can do his postmortem. Then the corpse is eventually turned over to a funeral home. Otherwise, for natural deaths such as illness or old age, the corpse goes straight to a funeral home for handling. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Bereaved (adjective) – A euphemism that means “suffering from grief due to the death of a loved one“. The widow (surviving spouse of a dead person), including any immediate family, are called “the bereaved“. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Embalm (verb) – A process that prevents the rapid decay of a corpse. Embalming a corpse means removing all the internal organs and filling the dead body with embalming fluid. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Casket (or coffin) (noun) – A container only slightly larger than a person that a funeral home uses to hold (contain) the corpse. Coffins may be very lavish and expensive, with red velvet lining, brass handles, and polished wood. In the cowboy days of America, a coffin was just a plain, pine-wood box (sometimes just called a pine box). Casket is a euphemism for coffin. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Showing (or wake) (noun) – A ritual in a funeral home in which the body of the deceased is displayed in an open casket so that friends and family can view his face (or upper body) one last time before the casket is closed and buried or cremated. This ritual or ceremony is called “the showing” or “the wake“.
- Gravedigger (noun) – The worker who digs the grave in a cemetery in preparation for a burial ceremony. Once the casket is placed in the grave and everyone leaves, then he fills in the grave with dirt. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Grave – A plot of land in a cemetery where a dead body is buried. It will have some sort of granite headstone to identify who is buried there. This headstone typically lists the person’s name, years of birth and death, and an inscription, “R.I.P.“, that stands for “Rest in Peace“.
- Hearse (noun) – A special type of car used by a funeral home to transport a dead body to a cemetery for burial. it is usually long and black with special markings on its side. It travels from the funeral home to the cemetery slowly and somberly with its headlights on. Friends and family follow behind it in their cars with their headlights on. Police on motorcycles will typically escort or accompany this string of cars, which is called the funeral procession. The police will stop traffic as necessary so the procession can proceed without interruption. The hearse is always the first car in the procession. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Eulogy (noun) – A brief speech delivered by a priest (preacher, pastor, etc.) at the grave site just prior to the burial ceremony. The eulogy says good things (Greek “good speak”) about the deceased person’s life. It typically ends by asking God or Jesus to receive the deceased into the Kingdom of Heaven. It always ends with the closing word “Amen”. Family and friends may also say the word “Amen”, either with the priest or after the priest. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Pallbearers (noun) – A group of six people, usually close friends of the deceased, chosen to carry the casket from the hearse to the grave site for burial. The casket is designed with handles for this purpose.
(Hear it pronounced.)
- Burial (noun) The process of placing a dead body into a hole in the ground (a grave) and filling the hole with dirt. The ritual where a casket containing a deceased person is lowered into a grave while family and friends watch. Once the casket is in the grave, everyone leaves before the grave is filled in. We don’t normally stay and watch this part of the burial. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Cremation (noun) – An alternative method of disposing of a dead body, by burning instead of burying. (Hear it pronounced.)
- Exhume (verb) To dig up a dead body after it has been buried. This is NOT a normal procedure. If police later determine that the corpse needs to be dug up and examined for new evidence of foul play, a court order will order the body to be exhumed (dug up and examined). The noun form of exhume is exhumation. (Hear it pronounced.) (pronounced “eck zoom”)
A Murder Mystery
A gunshot rings out in the night. Neighbors dial 9-1-1 to report hearing a gunshot. The police arrive and find a dead body with a bullet wound to the head. The murder victim is dead; foul play is indicated. Neighbors are questioned but there were no witnesses. The corpse is sent to the morgue where the coroner does a postmortem to determine the date, time, and cause of death. He confirms that the deceased died from a bullet to the head. It was a murder, not a suicide. While the case is being investigated, the victim’s next of kin are notified.
“Ma’am, I’m very sorry to have to inform you that your husband has been found dead, the victim of a shooting crime.”
The next of kin include a wife, a son, and a daughter. Many tears are shed. The family members grieve in silence for the rest of the night. The next day, the wife is too bereaved to deal with the situation, so a close friend calls a funeral home and makes all the necessary arrangements.
An obituary for the deceased is published in the newspaper a few days later. The funeral home receives the body from the coroner. The body of the deceased is embalmed, dressed in nice clothes, and groomed to present a life-like, natural appearance. On the day of the showing, the upper half of the casket is opened and family and friends line up and walk by the casket, viewing the face of the deceased one last time before closing the casket. A myriad of flowers adorn the room where the showing is being held.
Once the showing is done, the casket is closed for the last time and moved into the hearse. The hearse then leads the funeral procession down the highway along the route to the cemetery where an open grave is waiting to receive the coffin. Friends and family follow the hearse in their own cars with their headlights on. Police stop traffic so the funeral procession can proceed uninterrupted. The attendees arrive at the cemetery, park their cars, and walk over to the gravesite where a priest is waiting and holding a Bible.
The priest delivers the eulogy for the deceased and concludes with “Amen”. The attendees murmur “Amen” as well. The attendees walk over to the grave, which a gravedigger dug the day before. The pallbearers somberly carry the casket to the grave, and the casket is lowered into the grave. Everyone departs in tears while the grave is filled and the headstone is placed on top of the grave. The gravestone gives the name of the deceased, his birth and death dates, and the inscription “R.I.P.”
The murderer was never found, which was a torment to the family.
(Students, you are welcome to come up with a creative ending to this whodunnit. In other words, who did it and why?
Instructions: Insert the correct word in the blank using words from the new vocabulary list above.
- The detective asked the witness, Did you know the _____ ?
(euphemism for a dead person; also an adjective that means dead)
- A speech praising a recently departed person is called a _____.
- Approximately how many years are in the period from 500 B.C. to 1000 A.D.?
- A _____ (job title) determines the cause of an unnatural death by performing a _____ (procedure) on the corpse.
- A _____ is a place where dead bodies are kept until their cause of death can be determined.
- If I am reading your _____ in the newspaper, then that means you have _____ (two-word euphemism for died).
- A _____ award is one given to someone after they have died.
- At a funeral, the _____ (grieving family members) always wear black, which symbolizes sadness and death in western cultures.
- A _____ is a business that arranges for certain funeral services, such as _____ the body (removing organs and filling the body with fluid), arranging for the _____ (open display) of the body in a _____ (container for a dead body), and performing the _____ (placing of the body into a grave).
- A _____ is a person who digs a _____ (hole in the ground). A headstone is placed on top of it to identify who is buried there.
- R.I.P. on a headstone stands for _____.
- In a funeral _____ (series of cars traveling to a cemetery for final services), the car that carries the dead body is called the _____.
- A dead body may be disposed of in one of two ways: _____ (placement in a grave) or _____ (burning).
- A eulogy praises a _____ person and usually ends with the word _____.
- In rare cases, the police may need to _____ (dig up) a buried body to perform further investigation into the cause of death because of new evidence being discovered.