\ˈhərs \

Definition of hearse 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an elaborate framework erected over a coffin or tomb to which memorial verses or epitaphs are attached

b : a triangular candelabra for 15 candles used especially at Tenebrae

2a archaic : coffin

b obsolete : bier sense 2

3 : a vehicle for conveying the dead to the grave


hearsed; hearsing

Definition of hearse (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a archaic : to place on or in a hearse

b : to convey in a hearse

2 : bury

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Synonyms & Antonyms for hearse

Synonyms: Verb

bury, entomb, inhume, inter, lay, put away, tomb

Antonyms: Verb

disinter, exhume, unearth

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The Evolution of Hearse

Medieval French used the word herce for a harrow, a farm tool used to break up and smooth the soil. Herce was also applied to a triangular frame that was used for holding candles. Herce was borrowed into Middle English as herse. In those days, a large and decorative framework might be raised over the tomb or coffin of an honored person. Because this framework was often decorated with candles, the word herse was applied to it. A series of slightly changed meanings led to the use of herse (Modern English hearse) for a platform for a corpse or coffin, and from that to a vehicle to carry the dead. The verb hearse emerged late in the 16th century.

Examples of hearse in a Sentence


the cemetery hearses an average of eight bodies a week

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Henney Motor Company of Freeport, Ill., built hearses out of Packards for many years during the middle of the 20th century. A.j. Baime, WSJ, "The 1939 Hearse That Refuses to Die," 25 Sep. 2018 And Fuad Cochinwala, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Houston, quietly worked to move the casket outside to a waiting hearse. Todd C. Frankel And Brittney Martin, BostonGlobe.com, "At a Texas mosque, the community says goodbye to a girl and the dreams she represented," 21 May 2018 After the funeral, the Honor Guard again will carry the coffin back to the hearse. Dawn Rhodes, chicagotribune.com, "For the fallen Cmdr. Bauer, Chicago prepares for a somber ritual — the police funeral," 16 Feb. 2018 The mourners piled into about 20 cars and followed the hearse about 30 minutes south to Mount Hope Cemetery. Paige Fry, chicagotribune.com, "Family bids farewell to man killed by Chicago police, waits for body-camera footage," 18 June 2018 The National Museum of Funeral History has been offering funeral history enthusiasts the chance to learn about the difference between caskets and coffins, brush up on hearses through history, and learn about funeral rites through the ages. Melissa Locker, Southern Living, "WATCH: Road Trip to the South’s National Museum of Funeral Homes," 26 June 2018 The platoon sergeant ordered the soldiers to move into formation next to the hearse. Greg Jaffe, Anchorage Daily News, "Imperfect answers: A JBER soldier was killed in action, and his parents ask why," 27 May 2018 At sunrise, 36 guns fired for the death of President Abraham Lincoln as hearse is prepared to take his body to Statehouse. Dawn Mitchell, Indianapolis Star, "The epic journey of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train," 30 Apr. 2018 Dykes too old to ride, along with a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence in a nun’s habit and powdered face, followed in a hearse-like sport utility vehicle. Sam Whiting, SFChronicle.com, "On the road with Dykes on Bikes in a pre-Pride run," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hearse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hearse


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hearse


Middle English herse, from Anglo-French herce harrow, frame for holding candles, from Latin hirpic-, hirpex harrow

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Statistics for hearse

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hearse

The first known use of hearse was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for hearse



English Language Learners Definition of hearse

: a large car that is used for carrying a coffin to a grave


\ˈhərs \

Kids Definition of hearse

: a vehicle for carrying a dead person to the grave

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More from Merriam-Webster on hearse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hearse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hearse

Spanish Central: Translation of hearse

Nglish: Translation of hearse for Spanish Speakers

Comments on hearse

What made you want to look up hearse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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