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Morgue, Mortuary, Crematorium: What’s the Difference?
Do you know the difference between a morgue, mortuary and crematorium? Find out how they compare and what makes them different.
Morgue, Mortuary, Crematorium: What’s the Difference
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There’s a lot of terminology in the funeral industry, some of which can get pretty confusing. Some terms sound completely foreign while other terms sound almost exactly the same. Just defining what a funeral home is can be challenging given that two businesses could both be funeral homes but provide different services. 

Three terms that get confused a lot are morgue, mortuary and crematorium. And as you’ll find out in this quick read, there are reasons for the confusion. 

Morgues: Where Bodies Are Stored

Most adults have seen a depiction of a morgue in a movie or television show, but it’s not the most accurate portrayal. A morgue serves a very specific and practical purpose – it’s where bodies of the recently deceased are stored. Bodies remain in a morgue temporarily until the body is identified, an autopsy is performed and/or the body is transported for disposition.

One thing that movies and TV do get right is the storage compartments. All morgues have the refrigerated drawer-like compartments where bodies are stored. 

Most of the time a morgue is within or adjacent to a hospital or medical center. Morgues can also be located at retirement homes and hospice care facilities. 

Mortuaries: Where Bodies Are Prepared for Disposition

There’s a reason why many people think morgues and mortuaries are interchangeable. Some mortuaries have a morgue. However, a morgue is never going to have a mortuary.

Mortuaries are multi-purpose facilities that typically provide some combination of body storage, embalming and direct cremation. They aren’t quite what you’d call a funeral home, but it’s more than a place for temporary storage. The true focus of a mortuary is to prepare the body for burial or cremation and care for the body temporarily until it’s time for transport to a funeral home. 

The term mortuary is actually more common in the U.K. though it is used in the U.S. That’s another reason there’s some confusion surrounding what a mortuary does and how it’s different from a morgue or funeral home. 

Crematoriums: Where Bodies Are Cremated

Crematoriums are better understood, but there’s still some terminology overlap that can cause confusion. A crematorium qualifies as a full-service funeral home. Some crematoriums specialize in direct cremation, but others offer viewing and memorial services just like you would have with a burial. A crematorium also provides more assistance walking the family through the cremation process.

Families have a wider selection of services to choose from at a crematorium compared to a mortuary. As a funeral home, crematoriums can offer specialty services and personalize services upon request. Mortuaries are more practical than personal. 


Direct Cremate is a crematorium that offers direct cremation services that are both practical and personal. If you’d like to know more or need assistance making funeral arrangements, call or text us any day of the week.

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