What does wake mean?

A funeral wake is a gathering of family and friends to celebrate the life of someone who has passed away. Traditionally it takes place before the funeral, in the home of the deceased, with their body present. Nowadays, however, wakes are often taking place at a funeral home or an alternative space. In some cases, it may even be held instead of a service itself as a time for people to come together and remember the life of the person. In the United States and Canada this gathering is often referred to as 'viewing'.

The term wake is most commonly associated with funerals today, but it originally referred to a late-night prayer vigil. While the modern usage of the verb wake is "become or stay alert", a wake for the dead goes back to the vigil, "watch," or "guard" of earlier times. Contrary to popular belief, those gathered at a wake are not waiting in anticipation of the departed waking up.