Many different funeral terms have a similar meaning, such as funeral home and mortuary.
But are certain funeral terms used more commonly than others? And do certain geographical regions use a specific term over the other?
Just like with the language of obituaries, everyone discusses death in diverse ways. In this blog post, we’ll analyze a few popular funeral terms, their origin, overall popularity, and the geographical region they’re most common in.
Note, these statistics are from Google Trends results when comparing the popularity and region of the following funeral terms. The results look at the worldwide “interest over time” from the past five years, meaning the popularity of the term.
Funeral Terms: Coffin vs. Casket
Even though casket and coffin are often used interchangeably as the same meaning, they’re slightly different based on their shape. While a coffin has a tapered head and foot and wide shoulders, a casket has a rectangular shape.
Coffin is a Middle English word from between 1300 and 1350 derived from the Old French word cofin and Latin word cophinus, meaning basket.
Casket is a late Middle English word from between 1425 and 1475 derived from the word cassette, meaning little box.
Google Trends results show “coffin” has a slightly higher interest over time than “casket,” although the results are close.
Even though America shows up as blue, there are still results for the term “casket.” The region colors are chosen based on which term has the most popularity in that region.
It’s also important to note that these statistics are calculated from results from all categories, such as news, health, entertainment, etc. But when it comes to the funeral profession, here in America we tend to use the term “casket” more often.
Funeral Terms: Mortuary vs. Funeral Home
Mortuary is a Middle English word from between 1350 and 1400 from the word mortuarie and Medieval Latin word mortuarium.
Funeral Home is an Americanism from between 1935 and 1940.
Google Trends results show “funeral home” clearly having a higher interest over time than “mortuary.”
Even though the term “mortuary” came about much earlier, “funeral home” seems to be more popular now, especially in America. And as seen above, other countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom also regularly use the Americanism “funeral home.”
Funeral Terms: Undertaker vs. Funeral Director vs. Mortician
Undertaker is a Middle English word from between 1350 and 1400.
Funeral Director is an Americanism from between 1885 and 1890.
Mortician is an Americanism from between 1890 and 1895.
Perhaps surprisingly, Google Trends results show “undertaker” as having a higher interest by region than the other two funeral terms, as indicated in yellow. The interest over time isn’t available, because there isn’t enough data for these terms.
Even though “undertaker” dominates the map, there were still search results for the terms “mortician” and “funeral director.” When just considering the use of these terms in the funeral profession, here in America “funeral director” seems to be most popular.
What funeral terms do you most commonly use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.