un·​der·​tak·​er | \ ˌən-dər-ˈtā-kər How to pronounce undertaker (audio) , sense 2 is ˈən-dər-ˌtā- \

Definition of undertaker

1 : one who undertakes : one who takes the risk and management of business : entrepreneur
2 : one whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals
3 : an Englishman taking over forfeited lands in Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries

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Did You Know?

You may wonder how the word undertaker made the transition from "one who undertakes" to "one who makes a living in the funeral business." The latter meaning descends from the use of the word to mean "one who takes on business responsibilities." In the 18th century, a funeral-undertaker was someone who undertook, or managed, a funeral business. There were many undertakers in those days, undertaking all sorts of businesses, but as time went on undertaker became specifically identified with the profession of arranging burial. Today, "funeral director" is more commonly used, but undertaker still appears.

Examples of undertaker in a Sentence

the undertaker wore black clothes and a solemn expression
Recent Examples on the Web Surgeons, undertakers and others began performing rudimentary embalming of soldiers using arsenic, zinc chloride or other ingredients. Maggie Jones, New York Times, "The Movement to Bring Death Closer," 19 Dec. 2019 Brooklyn undertaker Thomas Cheeseman said funeral homes are so backed up, some people will inevitably end up being temporarily interred. CBS News, "Images show mass burials at NYC public cemetery as city shortens deadline for claiming dead," 10 Apr. 2020 The undertakers sprang into action and removed nearly 90% of the hot, clean dead bees within half an hour. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "How ‘undertaker’ bees recognize dead comrades," 20 Mar. 2020 Wen then designed a series of experiments to see whether undertaker bees were picking up on this change. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "How ‘undertaker’ bees recognize dead comrades," 20 Mar. 2020 The Funeral Rule, enacted by the FTC in 1985, requires undertakers to provide itemised and detailed price data. The Economist, "Donald Trump wants hospitals to be more upfront about prices," 21 Nov. 2019 Burroughs, who died in 1997 at age 83, may have seemed an unlikely muse, with his gravelly voice and dour, undertaker’s bearing. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "William S. Burroughs: the beat author who became a rock star," 20 Sep. 2019 The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Becca Martin-brown, Arkansas Online, "A Delightful New 'Christmas Carol'," 25 Nov. 2019 The longest was to an undertaker in Los Angeles in which Jensen planned her own funeral. Scott Craven, azcentral, "Phoenix's most notable ghost: The true story of the Hotel San Carlos' 'woman in white'," 28 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'undertaker.' 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 undertaker

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for undertaker

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The first known use of undertaker was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Undertaker.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undertaker. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for undertaker


How to pronounce undertaker (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of undertaker

: a person whose job is to arrange and manage funerals


un·​der·​tak·​er | \ ˈən-dər-ˌtā-kər How to pronounce undertaker (audio) \

Kids Definition of undertaker

: a person whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to take charge of funerals


un·​der·​tak·​er | \ ˈən-dər-ˌtā-kər How to pronounce undertaker (audio) \

Medical Definition of undertaker

: an individual whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals

called also mortician

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More from Merriam-Webster on undertaker

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for undertaker

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with undertaker

Spanish Central: Translation of undertaker

Nglish: Translation of undertaker for Spanish Speakers

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