Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Word origin - "Wake" ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Word origin - "Wake"
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: sebastiangard-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 04 Sep 2002 07:41 PDT
Expires: 04 Oct 2002 07:41 PDT
Question ID: 61620
Why is the gathering before a funeral called a wake?
Subject: Re: Word origin - "Wake"
Answered By: morningstar2000-ga on 04 Sep 2002 08:17 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear Sebastian – 

      Wakes are a very old tradition of the Irish/Celtic people.  
Wakes were customarily held the day before a funeral or burial of the
deceased.    It was actually a watch over the deceased to see if there
would be an awakening.   The time during the wake was for family and
friends to come and view the body and pay their respects to the
deceased as well as the family.   It was a process of cleaning and
laying out of the body for burial.   Women from the town who were
experienced in this process would come and assist the house.   Wakes
were held in the house of the deceased.  It has only been in recent
times that the viewing or laying out of the body was held at a funeral
    It was not uncommon that a wake would turn rather festive and
party like during the midnight hour.   Common games were "riddle me
ree" and " Priest of Parish".   It seems that music and stage play
gave the family some relieve from the all night watch and helped in
the grieving process.   Storiestellers were common as well.

This is taken from the American Funeral ( ) “	THE WAKE – Methods
of confirming death were crude. Stories of burying life persons were
not uncommon.  In an attempt to prevent premature burial, families
would sit by the body for several hours or a few days watching to see
if the person awakened.  This became known as the “wake”.  In the
Jewish tradition, this became a religious ritual known as the
“watching”.  They even have special benches used exclusively for this
ritual purpose.  During the wake or watching, families would be joined
by friends.  Today, this tradition is carried on in the form of the
“viewing” or “visitation”.  “

Additional resources:


A site devoted to origins of words and slang phrases.

The American Funeral


Search Strategy:
Wakes Origin
Funeral Wakes Origin
Celtic Wake origin

Hope that helps,
sebastiangard-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy