- to reduce (as a dead body) to ashes by burning
- to burn (the body of a person who has died)
Tips & Help
Synonyms. burn, char, incinerate, scorch, incremate
Cremation is the use of high temperature burning to reduce a dead body to its most bare chemicals and minerals. The process leaves the body in an ash-like state. Cremation serves as an alternative to the burial of an intact body in a coffin or casket. Cremated remains do not constitute a health risk of any kind and may be buried or interred in a memorial site. Sometimes the remains are kept by close relatives in urns or other storage bins at their homes.
People choose cremation for several reasons. Cremation allows for a very economical and egocentric use of cemetery space. The cost factor makes cremation attractive for those on a limited budget for the burial. Others view cremation as a way to simplify the funeral process.
For some, the question of cremation becomes a matter of following religious beliefs. Religions from the East – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and others – dictate cremation as the only acceptable means to dispose of the body. Hindu traditions, for example, believe that cremation induces a feeling of detachment in the disembodied spirit, helping it to pass to its next destination. Their teaching is that if the body remains intact the spirit is strongly tempted to stay near its former body.
Cremation rates vary from country to country. Japan has the largest percentage of cremation to deaths, reporting about a 98% rate. The smallest rate is about 6% and is found in Poland. In 2012, cremation accounted for about 20% of the final resting places of the dead in the United States.