un·der·tak·er | \ˌən-dər-ˈtā-kər, 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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Synonyms for undertaker


funeral director, mortician

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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

In the past, this small-town undertaker had always been there for his bespectacled friend. Frank Fitzpatrick, Philly.com, "The undertaker who brought Jim Konstanty to life | Frank's Place," 23 June 2018 At the cemetery, as undertakers moved the coffin underground, the sorrowful multitude broke into applause. Juan Montes, WSJ, "Barricades and Empty Streets: Nicaragua’s Leader Loses Control," 18 June 2018 No more undertakers in black suits clutching handkerchiefs, old buddies weeping in corners, telling off-color stories, nipping shots, no more covered mirrors, black dresses, skullcaps and crucifixes. Edward Hirsch, The New Yorker, "My Friends Don’t Get Buried," 16 June 2018 Overall, personal care and service work — including movie projectionists, ticket takers, child care workers and undertakers — is the second-lowest paying field in the state, with an average salary of $31,180 per year. Rebecca Lurye, courant.com, "Connecticut's 10 Lowest-Paying Jobs May Surprise You," 2 May 2018 The teacher/undertaker/tinkerer was astonished one morning to learn from the newspaper that a friend had died. Darryl Levings, kansascity, "Kansas City has been dialed in to telephone innovations from the very beginning," 2 June 2018 Within two decades, the undertakers say, 4 out of 5 people will be. Steve Rubenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, "Colma cemeteries rapidly running out of space for plots," 5 May 2018 Huck attends the funeral of Colonel Grangerford, where the undertaker sets up the coffin in the middle of the parlor with chairs fanned out around it. Ellen Wayland-smith, Longreads, "Death Rattle: The Body’s Betrayals," 21 Mar. 2018 But a gender-swap role as the undertaker’s son in Oliver managed to sway her ambitions toward the dramatic. Chelsea Stone, Glamour, "Kristen Bell Kicked Off the 2018 SAG Awards With a Hilarious All-Female Intro," 21 Jan. 2018

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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Last Updated

31 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for undertaker

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

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More Definitions for undertaker



English Language Learners Definition of undertaker

: a person whose job is to arrange and manage funerals


un·der·tak·er | \ˈən-dər-ˌtā-kər \

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 \

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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