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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Ossuary \Os"su*a*ry\, n.; pl. -ries. [L. ossuarium, fr. ossuarius of or bones, fr. os, ossis, bone: cf. F. ossuaire.] A place where the bones of the dead are deposited; a charnel house. [Obs.]
--Sir T. Browne.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"urn for the bones of the dead," 1650s, from Late Latin ossuarium "charnel house," from neuter of Latin ossuarius "of bones," from Latin os (plural ossua) "bone" (see osseous) on model of mortuarium.


n. A container, receptacle, or building, such as an urn or vault, for holding the bones of the dead.


n. any receptacle for the burial of human bones


An ossuary is a chest, box, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary. The greatly reduced space taken up by an ossuary means that it is possible to store the remains of many more people in a single tomb than if the original coffins were left as is.

Usage examples of "ossuary".

They had been under so much pressure, rushing against time to do all the obvious jobs: measure the chambers, remove the ossuaries from the loculi, gather up the pieces of lamps and piriform pots that littered the floor.

Jesus would also have been well known, Professor Lemaire argues that the odds on the ossuary really referring to Jesus Christ would be shorter than twenty to one.

Joining him, I could see they were the ossuary photos Ryan and I had viewed.

Families removed the bones to these individual ossuaries after the flesh had decayed during a year in the huge common sepulchre in the center of the grounds.

However, if the church did not have space or funds to create tombs for an entire family, they sometimes dug an ossuary annex-a hole in the floor near the tomb where they buried the less worthy family members.

What time the persons of these Ossuaries entred the famous Nations of the dead,112 and slept with Princes and Counsellours, might admit a wide solution.

And so the littered gullies and dried-out river beds of Starside's bottoms formed a monstrous ossuary.

He ploughed into the destruction, feet crunching on dry bones, and hauled at the still standing parts of the ossuary.

They passed along the ruinous walls of the cemetery where the dead were trestled up in niches and the grounds strewn with bones and skulls and broken pots like some more ancient ossuary.