AskDefine | Define pyre

Dictionary Definition

pyre n : wood heaped for burning a dead body as a funeral rite [syn: funeral pyre]

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin pyra "pyre, funeral pile," from Greek "fire"



  1. A funeral pile; a combustible heap on which the dead are burned; hence, any pile to be burnt.
    • For nine long nights, through all the dusky air, The pyres thick flaming shot a dismal glare. - Homer Iliad, p. 31


a funeral pile


Extensive Definition

A pyre is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon the pyre which is then set on fire.
Traditionally, pyres are used for the cremation of the deceased in Hinduism. In England, the coffin is placed on an unlit pyre; however, in India, the pyre is lit. Pyres are uncommon in the Western world in modern times and have been replaced by the idea of indoor cremation in a crematorium. In a Viking funeral, the pyre was built on a ship, which was usually shaped like a dragon's nose.

Other uses

Pyres are used in celebrations and remembrance, in services such as Guy Fawkes Night and Swiss National Day. They were used in the Sobibór extermination camp to cremate bodies as opposed to the crematoriums used in most camps.

See also

pyre in German: Scheiterhaufen
pyre in Portuguese: Pira

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

backfire, balefire, beacon, beacon fire, blaze, bonfire, burning, burning ghat, campfire, cheerful fire, combustion, conflagration, corposant, cozy fire, crackling fire, cremation, crematory, death fire, fen fire, fire, flame, flashing point, flicker, flickering flame, forest fire, fox fire, funeral pile, funeral pyre, ignis fatuus, ignition, incineration, ingle, lambent flame, marshfire, open fire, prairie fire, raging fire, reduction to ashes, sea of flames, sheet of fire, signal beacon, smudge fire, three-alarm fire, two-alarm fire, watch fire, wildfire, witch fire
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