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What Is a Eulogy?

by Jessica Campbell

What is a Eulogy?

A eulogy is a remembrance speech that pays tribute to someone who has died.

Given at a funeral or memorial service, the eulogy highlights the deceased’s unique qualities, importance in the lives of loved ones, and lasting impact on family and community. Most funerals include at least one eulogy, if not two or more, and the eulogy is often delivered by someone who knew the deceased well — a close family member, friend, or colleague.  

Purpose of a Eulogy

A eulogy reflects on what was special about a person, how they impacted those around them, and how they will be remembered now that they’re gone. The eulogy may include anecdotes about the person who has died, a list of accomplishments, their favorite quotes, or lessons learned. A eulogy may be a highly personal reflection that describes the speaker’s relationship with the deceased; or a eulogy may incorporate the memories and perspectives of many family members, friends, or colleagues.  


Difference Between A Eulogy, Elegy and Obituary

People often confuse the three words but each have different purposes. While eulogy and elegy are closely related, the difference lay in the way each is expressed. A eulogy is a written speech that pays tribute to the deceased while an elegy is either a poem or song mourning the loss of a loved one. An obituary, however, is a published notice of death, typically seen in a newspaper, that includes a short biography of the life of someone who recently died.

The tone of a funeral eulogy may vary depending on the personalities of the deceased and the writer/speaker. One eulogy speech may be somber and straightforward, another lighthearted or poetic.

Sometimes people wonder: Does a eulogy always have to be serious? Not necessarily, says eulogy expert Florence Isaacs. While it’s important to remember that the goal of the eulogy is not to entertain, it’s usually OK to include a funny memory or humorous story. A successful eulogy is about capturing the essence of the person, and naturally, for most of us, that would include some humor. Plus, a little laughter can be helpful in a time of sorrow.  

It used to be that only public figures were given eulogies. Today, the eulogy has become a popular way to pay tribute to any person who has died. This trend reflects changes in where people live and how they deal with death. “Often families got together and prepared the body for burial themselves at home,” says Isaacs. “Eulogies were less necessary than they are today because friends and relatives lived near enough to naturally congregate to reminisce about the dead.” With families dispersed and most funeral preparations handled by funeral homes, eulogies provide an opportunity for meaningful reflection that is much needed after the death of a loved one.  

Anyone can write and give a great, meaningful eulogy. A successful eulogy doesn’t have to be written by an expert to be eloquent or moving. What matters is that the eulogy is heartfelt, respectful, and true to the memory of the deceased. When you give a eulogy, you help to honor a life, bring comfort to family and friends, and keep a legacy alive. Eulogies are meaningful tributes that can endure long after the funeral. Some families share a printed copy of a eulogy at the funeral, or even include it as part of the published obituary. 

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