Share this entry

Share this page

hearse

Line breaks: hearse
Pronunciation: /həːs
 
/

Definition of hearse in English:

noun

A vehicle for conveying the coffin at a funeral.
Example sentences
  • Fire trucks, ambulances, hearses and the vehicles of law enforcement officers on duty are also allowed unhindered passage, but not most do not realize that either, or do not care.
  • Some smugglers even use wedding cars and funeral hearses as cover.
  • The research also indicates that 100 mm-high humps pose a greater possibility of pollution, property and vehicle damage and grounding, specifically to buses, emergency vehicles and hearses.

Origin

Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French herce 'harrow, frame', from Latin hirpex 'a kind of large rake', from Oscan hirpus 'wolf' (with reference to the teeth). The earliest recorded sense in English is 'latticework canopy placed over the coffin (whilst in church) of a distinguished person', but this probably arose from the late Middle English sense 'triangular frame (shaped like the ancient harrow) for carrying candles at certain services'. The current sense dates from the mid 17th century.

More
  • In English a hearse has always been a part of a funeral, but its origin is agricultural. The word derives from Old French herce, which meant ‘a harrow’ and goes back to Latin hirpex, a name for a kind of large rake. This came from Oscan, an extinct language of southern Italy known only from early inscriptions, where hirpus meant ‘wolf’: people were making a comparison between a wolf's teeth and the teeth of a rake. The earliest uses of hearse in medieval English were for a triangular frame, shaped like an ancient harrow, used for carrying candles at certain church services, and a canopy placed over the coffin of a distinguished person while it was in church. The modern meaning, ‘a vehicle for conveying the coffin at a funeral’, appeared in the mid 17th century.

Definition of hearse in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day gourmand
Pronunciation: ˈɡʊəmənd
noun
a person who enjoys eating…