a vehicle for conveying a dead person to the place of burial.
a triangular frame for holding candles, used at the service of Tenebrae in Holy Week.
a canopy erected over a tomb.

1250–1300; Middle English herse < Middle French herce a harrow < Latin hirpicem, accusative of hirpex

hearselike, adjective
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World English Dictionary
hearse (hɜːs)
a vehicle, such as a specially designed car or carriage, used to carry a coffin to a place of worship and ultimately to a cemetery or crematorium
[C14: from Old French herce, from Latin hirpex harrow]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1291 (in Anglo-Latin), "flat framework for candles, hung over a coffin," from O.Fr. herce "long rake, harrow," from M.L. hercia, from L. hirpicem (nom. hirpex) "harrow," from Oscan hirpus "wolf," supposedly in allusion to its teeth. The Oscan word may be related to L. hirsutus "shaggy, bristly." So called
because it resembled a harrow, a large rake for breaking up soil. Sense extended to other temporary frameworks built over dead people, then to "vehicle for carrying a body," a sense first recorded 1650.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
In a balmy spring breeze, eight police officers lifted the ebony coffin from
  the hearse and hoisted it to their shoulders.
The hearse followers mournfully announce that no one reads these days, can't
  read, won't read.
He stopped at an open grave and soon a hearse pulled up, leading a long line of
They say that intellectual history travels slowly, and by hearse.
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