Do You Know Your Headstone Terminology?

Headstone Terminology can be confusing if you don’t already know what it means. If your like me when I first started working with headstones, you’ll be asking for definitions every couple seconds. This list should give you a leg up when you go to design your memorial or monument. Take a look at some of these terms and see if you recognize any.


  • Die – a die is the base or bottom part of a two piece monument.
  • Base – the bottom part to a two piece upright monument.
  • Bevel – a flat marker with a slight angle on the top for visibility. Sits above the ground on a foundation.
  • Flush – a flat marker that has no pitch and sits flush with the ground. (also known as a lawn level or grave markers)
  • Slant – a slant is a larger version of the bevel and has a much steeper pitch. the front panel is angled between 45 -60 degrees towards the viewer. Slants can be set without or without a base.
  • Western Slant – Westerns are the same as slants except the polished face that is towards the viewer continues all the way to the ground instead of having a beveled front.
  • Monument – an upright granite headstone or memorial set on a base.
  • Columbarium – A vault with niches for urns which contain human ashes.
  • Serp(serpentine) – a “serp top” or Serpentine is a monument with the top shaped like a wave or swoop. The center of the top is riased higher than the ends.
  • Oval – an upright monument that has more of a half egg shaped top.



  • Shape Carve – the process of chiseling the stone to reveal a certain relief design.
  • Frosted – a type of finish where polish is lightly removed leaving a “frosted” look to the stone.
  • Polished – a type of finish that shows the granite color the best and is highly reflective. This finish is where all headstones start off with.
  • Rock Pitched – a finish where the sides of the stone are hand chiseled to leave a rough natural edge.
  • Sand Blasting – The process of removing the polish off the granite to reveal the stenciled lettering and artwork.
  • Sculpting – the act of hand carving a 3-d image from a single piece of granite.
  • Etching – the process of creating artwork on stone where an artist or computer operated machine uses a miniature diamond tipped impact tool.



  • Panel – The area within a design that frames or shapes the artwork or lettering within it. Panels are usually frosted to add contrast to the layout.
  • Axed Outline Letters – Letters that are outlined and the polish removed for contrast.
  • Raised Letters – letters are left higher and the polish around them is blasted down to leave a raised look.
  • Incised Letters – letters that are blasting into the stone.
  • Recessed – Blasting or carving a spot in the stone that will later be filled with a separate piece of granite or photograph that sits flush with the face of the stone.

There are plenty of other terms out there but this basic list gives you a good foundation to begin designing the style of memorial you need.