Burial | Direct Burial

What is a burial? Here is a definition of this funeral term. Also includes definitions of direct burial and burial of ashes.

Definition of Burial or Direct Burial


In the context of a funeral, burial is the process of placing a dead body in the ground and cover it over with soil, typically at a cemetery. This process allows a body to decay over time reducing all organic material in the body to liquid leaving behind bones, teeth, nails, and hair.

For a burial, a body can be wrapped in a shroud or it can be placed in a casket or coffin, however, this requirement can vary and is subject to local laws.

A burial can also refer to entombing a dead body in a mausoleum, a vault-like structure typically located within the boundaries of a cemetery.

The province of Ontario requires that corpses be buried 0.6 metres (1.9 feet) beneath the surface of the ground. In Quebec, the required depth is one metre (3.28 feet). In the province of New Brunswick, it's also 0.6 metres (1.9 feet) if the body is in a coffin, however it can be 1.3 metres (4.26 feet) if it isn't. Some provinces and territories don't regulate burial depth.

In the United States, cemetery graves are dug to a depth of four feet (1.22 metres) as a norm, however, depths can vary based on state requirements.

The notion that bodies be buried “six feet under” came from a 1665 outbreak in England that was characterized by the spread of a bacterial infection caused by flea bites. As the infection swept the nation, the mayor of London created a law to bury people killed by the infection at a depth of six feet to avoid further spread.

Related Definitions

Direct Burial

A Direct Burial is a funeral procedure where a body is buried shortly after death, often in a basic container. There is no viewing or visitation of the deceased, so no embalming is needed.

Burial of Ashes

After a body has been cremated and reduced to ashes, it is placed in an urn and the urn is sometimes buried in the ground at a cemetery.