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The difference between a eulogy and obituary

If you have recently lost someone close to you, there is a lot to organise and think about. If it’s the first time you have been involved in making arrangements after a death, there can be new terms to become familiar with. You may be asked to write a eulogy, or, an obituary and be wondering about the difference. Both help us to remember a person who has died, and reflect on the life they have led.


While these two words are used to describe things a little differently in some countries, the most usual and obvious difference between a eulogy and an obituary is how they are delivered. A eulogy is spoken. An obituary is written. 

The word eulogy means “a good word” and is a speech that is given, usually at a funeral, to honour the person who has died. A eulogy allows you to share information about the life of the person with those who have gathered together in mourning. 


The eulogy is usually delivered by someone close to the deceased. The content is different from the messages that are stated by the religious leader who is officiating at the funeral. A eulogy may cover where a person was born, where they studied and worked, and some information about their partner and children.  But, often a eulogy is more focused on particular stories that help the speaker to share favourite memories of their loved one. The eulogy helps those in attendance to remember the characteristics and traits of the person who has passed.


Sometimes, a eulogy contains content and reflections that are deeply personal. The person delivering the eulogy might cry or become upset and unable to finish. Other eulogies are really funny. A well written eulogy expresses sorrow about the person’s passing, yet celebrates their achievements and their life.


Although some eulogies are recorded, the main purpose of the eulogy is to allow those who have gathered to share their memories and pay their respects. 


Obituaries on the other hand will last forever. An obituary is a written record that is commonly printed in a newspaper or online. An obituary also helps those who are grieving to pay tribute to someone that has died. But an obituary is typically more formal than a eulogy, and focused on the key dates and details of the person’s life.  The obituary is like a biography; it will typically include date and place of birth, the names of immediate family, and often details of the funeral. Some choose to include more detail in an obituary; this may be details about their employer, voluntary service or religious affiliations. Sometimes, a personal statement is included in an obituary, but it is usually short and simple. 


You may wish to select a photograph to accompany your obituary. Because it will be printed and form part of population records, if you are preparing an obituary, it is important you check that you have details and spelling correct. It would be a shame if the memory of your loved one be immortalized with an error.


A eulogy is spoken, and personal. An obituary is printed, and factual. They both help you remember and pay tribute to a loved one you have lost.