The funeral business is becoming increasingly global, which is why it is essential to have a basic knowledge of funeral vocabulary that will allow you to move around the main funeral fairs around the world, establish commercial agreements and contact clients from all over the world. We have created a small dictionary with the most common terms. We have also compiled some curiosities that you should know to avoid any misunderstandings with your interlocutors.
Why you should know international funeral vocabulary
It is important to learn a new language, especially if you are thinking of going beyond the borders of your own country to start an international expansion or simply don’t want to miss a funeral business opportunity with a client or supplier with a different mother tongue than your own. The easiest thing to do is to start with a basic vocabulary list in English, German and Spanish to get to know the specific terms used in funeral vocabulary.
The aim is not to lose a business deal or a contract just because you don’t know how to say burial in English or funeral home in German. Knowing the customs of each country and knowing languages makes business much easier and, although English is still the universal language of negotiation, it is no longer sufficient. Spanish, German, French and even Chinese are also very necessary.
New alternatives for doing business abroad
Obviously, learning a new language is not something you can solve in a couple of afternoons, and even if you are fluent in another language, it is best to use an interpreter to avoid mistakes. You can also take advantage of platforms such as World Funeral Net, which simplifies the formalities of operating abroad. We take care of coordinating the entire bidding process with offers published by insurers, companies and groups from all over the world through a simple platform, without the need for you to master all the funeral vocabulary or have to hire a professional translator.
Curiosities of funeral vocabulary in Spanish and German
One of the most outstanding curiosities, and also a very common cause of misunderstandings in funeral vocabulary, is that the terms of a foreign language do not always match or cover the same concepts that we use ourselves. This happens even with two countries that share the same language, such as Spain and Mexico. For example, if in Spain you say “caja” to refer to the “casket” or “coffin”, it is possible that others will not understand you or even consider you inconsiderate to the deceased. However, this expression is common in Mexico.
Funeral terms with no equivalent
Another curiosity, in this case very particular to the German language, is that there are many words that have no equivalent in other languages, and therefore can be explained but not translated. This is the case of “the corpse banquet”, which would be the literal translation of “Leichenschmaus”, and which refers to the German tradition of meeting for coffee and a small lunch after the funeral.
In other cases, the difficulty of funeral vocabulary derives precisely from the country’s own customs, which can be very different from our own. In German stationery shops, in addition to greeting cards, there is a section for condolence cards, the “Beileidskarte” or “Trauerkarte”, something that does not exist in Spain, for example.
You should also be aware that all languages have a multitude of variants, accents and slang, depending on the region. “Hochdeutsch” is the normative German, which is the standard language that is taught in language schools, but it is possible that your interlocutor expresses himself or herself and uses funeral vocabulary in a different form of German.
Beware of technical terms
There are also differences between the academic language and the language of the street that can make effective communication difficult. This is precisely what a study presented at the convention of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) states, highlighting that families often do not understand the terms used by American funeral homes when talking about a service.
One of the words that create the most confusion is “columbarium”, very common among funeral home professionals, but unknown to many people, who refer to this space with the terms “wall”, “vault” or “mausoleum”. The same applies to the word “cremains”, a word that is too technical for clients who tend to use a more generic term with the same meaning (ashes).
Dictionary of funeral vocabulary by countries
|Agency||Agency||Gestoría||Tramitología||Agentur für Verwaltungsformalitäten|
|Book of condolence||Book of condolence||Libro de condolencias||Libro de firmas||Kondolenzbuch|
|Columbarium||Columbarium||Columbario||Muro de nichos||Urnenhalle|
|Death certificate||Death certificate||Certificado de defunción||Certificado de defunción||Sterbeurkunde|
|Death insurance||Death insurance||Seguro de decesos||–||–|
|Funeral chapel||Funeral chapel||Capilla ardiente||Capilla ardiente||Aufbahrung|
|Funeral home||Funeral parlour||Tanatorio||Funeraria||Leichenhalle|
|Funeral service||Funeral service||Servicio funerario||Servicio funerario||Trauergottesdienst|
|Hearse||Hearse||Coche fúnebre||Carroza funebre||Leichenwagen|
|Flower arrangement||Flower arrangement||Centro floral||Arreglo floral|
|Funeral parlor||Funeral home||Funeraria||Funeraria||Begräbnis|
|Memorial card||Memorial card||Recordatorio||Recordatorio||Todesanzeige|
|Shroud||Shroud||Sudario||Sabana de difunto||Schweißtuch|