Casket or coffin?

Technically, both a coffin and a casket has the same purpose—it is used as a container of the remains of a dead person. This sounds brutal the first time you read it, but that is the fact.

The difference is mainly in the design and the level of detail that goes into each.

A coffin is generally plain in design whilst a casket is more complex, leaning more on detailed and masterful craftsmanship.

With a tapered design, coffins have a narrow head and legs, with wide shoulders. Whereas a casket is generally rectangular in shape and is the same width from head to toe.

This is a picture of a typical coffin

Casket or Coffin?

The coffin has a lid that comes completely off. As such it is not generally used when there is a viewing during the wake and burial ceremonies. To resemble the shape of the human body, a coffin often has six to eight sides. This kind of design and build has been around since the 16th century.

Coffin builders say that this six to eight sides actually makes for a cheaper price since the shape allows for less usage of wood. Coffins are generally made from MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) wood, matched with a veneer or of solid wood application.

The price of the coffin would depend on the type of wood that is being used.

The Difference Between a Coffin and a Casket

Casket or Coffin?Today I found out the difference between a coffin and a casket.

The words coffin and casket are often used interchangeably to describe a box used to bury a dead body in.  Although the general purpose of each is the same, there are small differences between the two.

The term coffin has been used to describe a container that holds dead bodies for burial since the early 16th century. The shape of a coffin typically resembles the shape of a body and has six or eight sides.

It is wider at the top for the shoulders and gradually decreases in width toward the opposite end where the feet are placed (picture Dracula’s spider web covered coffin in all the scary movies).

Depending on all the bells and whistles a person chooses to adorn a coffin with, the hexagonal or octagonal shape is considered to save wood for construction and can be cheaper than a casket.

On the other hand, the word casket was originally used to describe a box used to store jewelry and other small valuable items before coming to have an additional  meaning somewhat synonymous with coffin around the mid-19th century.  A casket is typically a four-sided rectangular box and, when used for burying people, often contains a split-lid for viewing purposes.

What is the Difference Between a Coffin and a Casket?

You may never have needed to know that a casket and a coffin are actually two different things. But if you suddenly find yourself having to choose between a casket or a coffin for a funeral, you’ll want to know the difference.

What is the Difference Between ‘Coffin’ and ‘Casket’?

The most obvious difference is their appearance: coffins and caskets are shaped differently. Read on to learn more.


When most people picture a funeral service, they see what’s called a casket. That’s because a casket is used in the majority of funerals in the United States. Therefore, the difference between ‘casket’ and ‘coffin’ is especially important for families who live in the United States.

A casket is a specially-designed box made to contain a deceased person’s body. It’s typically used during a funeral service for viewing the body. Then, if the family has not chosen a cremation burial, the casket containing the body is lowered into the ground during the burial ceremony.

Casket or Coffin? Image Source: Flickr

If the family has chosen cremation for their loved one (or they’ve pre-arranged it themselves), the casket is not always buried. Sometimes it may only be utilized for the viewing, visitation, or wake, as well as the funeral service. But sometimes a cremation urn is placed within a casket and the casket is indeed buried.

Coffin vs. Casket- A Complete Comparison for Clearing Things Out for Good

Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time until we all have to face death. Should you live in the West, you will need to bury the loved one in a coffin.

Even if some people are interested in non-traditional burial methods, the coffin is not going away any time soon.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a degradable coffin or a high-dollar model we’re talking about, coffins aren't going to disappear from our world shortly. Let's not forget that they're also popular props for Halloween parties and decorations.

Don't forget to browse our collection of caskets and coffins.

What’s the briefest definition of coffins?

The coffin is a funerary container and has been used for centuries now, even if the forms were various. No matter the period or the civilization when it was utilized, the coffin has always accomplished the same purpose. It serves as a container for accommodating the body of the deceased.

Truth be told, the variety of coffins when it comes to shapes, sizes, and materials is overwhelming, especially when comparing from different religions, cultures, or counties. Regardless of the variety or the difference, the central concept remains the same.

What’s the origin of the word “coffin”?

In Greek, we notice the word “kophinos,” which literarily means “basket.” Many consider that the name is actually coming from the French word “coffin”.as we all know, in North America, theirs is a difference between coffin and casket, but you need to keep reading for the details.

Coming back to the explanation, the French word “cofin” refers to a small basket. In Middle English, the terms may also apply to a chest, a casket, and sometimes it can define a pie.

In 1700, the coffin was mainly hexagonal, presenting six sides. It was tapered at the shoulders, but also at the feet. The top half of a coffin used to be made for perfect fitting of the deceased's width of shoulders. The anthropometric shape relates to the measurements and shape of the human body, which was quite challenging for some manufacturers.

What does history teach us about coffins?

It seems that coffins were a big thing even during the ancient civilization. Taking a closer look at the old coffins tells historians a lot of things about the afterlife, the death, and the funeral services for a specific time.

Why is Tutankhamen’s Golden Coffin important?

You don't need to be a professional historian to know a bit about Tutankhamen's gold coffin. It's the most significant evidence that coffins were famous even in Ancient Egypt when the human bodies of talented people would be mummified through a long and tricky process.

As he was emperor at the time, Tutankhamen’s body is one of the many mummified. Many of us have seen pictures of the golden coffin with the life-size image on the lid.

Obviously, the coffins would be made of gold for some historical figures, such as Tutankhamen. Alexander the Great, Cyrus the Great, and even Buddha were buried in golden coffins.

As a matter of fact, the ancient Egyptians utilized the golden coffins for entombing the Pharaohs. Nowadays, we can admire the coffins in museums, along with various artifacts that were also discovered in the tombs

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Which materials were commonly used for coffins?

To this date, wood remains the no.1 choice when it comes to materials for coffins. Even if a fiberglass, cast iron, steel, and even wool are used for coffins, wood still is the most popular option.

The interest in saving nature’s resources isn’t new. For instance, in 1784, the Roman Emperor Joseph II tried to use reusable coffins for protecting some of the wood. Back then, the coffins were made with a trap door that was open at the bottom. Therefore, it became possible to drop the body straight into the grave.

Afterward, the coffin was pulled back up and kept until the “next time.” even though the method was mended to be useful, it didn't last for long. The relatives of the deceased would be frustrated with the technique, which seems disrespectful to the dead.

The life of the method was rather short, and it soon disappeared.

Why is the 19th century significant for the history of coffins?

In all fairness, some of the most exciting and beautiful coffins were made of cast-iron. It was 1850 when cast iron coffins would hit the market, but they didn't quite become popular because of their high price.

To this day, cast-iron coffins or coffins made of other metals are a popular option among people with generous budgets. They secure the dead body against rubber and somewhat preserve it for a longer time than the wood models.

Don’t forget that cast-iron coffins are heavyweight, which makes thieves think twice before trying to steal it. It goes without saying that the spending for funeral services runs higher, as there's a lot more effort in carrying the larger box made of cast-iron.

Do coffins come with decorations?

What Is the Difference Between a Coffin and a Casket?

Selecting a coffin or casket is an important choice to make in regard to funeral planning. The difference between a coffin and casket is in the design.

A coffin is a hexagon-shaped box meant to reflect the shape of the human body, and is tapered at the head and foot and wider at the shoulders. Traditionally, the coffin was the only box offered for a funeral. Though it has fallen out of fashion somewhat (in part because of a belief that the body-shaped box too morose for family members), the coffin is still a viable option today.

A casket is rectangular and usually built with a greater emphasis on the quality of workmanship. Thought to be a more comforting shape for mourners, caskets were first used to store jewelry.

Types of Coffins and Caskets:


The traditional coffin or casket comes in many different wood finishes including natural, cedar, maple, rosewood, and mahogany.


These come in a variety of colors, including blue, red, purple, silver, green, and yellow. Steel and other sustainable materials are modern, eco-friendly options for caskets and coffins.

Coffin and Casket Interiors

The interior of a coffin or casket may be upgraded with a mattress, pillow, sheets, and/or quilt. There are various tiers of quality and pricing for these items.

Modern Designs

Some funeral homes offer modern versions of coffins and caskets that feature unique designs on the outside such as flowers, doves, hearts, butterflies, or even candy. Sunsets, mountains, oceans, instruments, various sports team logos, and other designs can also be incorporated as a tribute to the deceased.

Custom Design

Another unique option offered is to personalize the coffin with images of your loved one. Photos of family members, friends, and events can be added to tell the person’s life story.

Want to ensure your final wishes are carried out? Consider funeral pre-planning.


Related to Funeral Planning:

How (and Why) to Pre-Plan a Funeral

How Much Does the Average Funeral Cost?

Burial vs. Cremation: Which Is Best for Your Family?

How to Find the Best Insurance Policy to Cover Funeral Expenses

What is the difference between a coffin or a casket?

The basic difference between a coffin and a casket is the shape. A coffin gets wider at the shoulders and then tapers thinner towards the feet. A casket is rectangular shape. Overall a casket is bulkier and heavier than a coffin.

There are other differences too. Materials used for construction vary. Caskets are usually constructed from metal or wood, whereas coffins are more varied. Coffins can be constructed from many materials such as veneer or solid wood, cardboard, wicker, wool, bamboo etc.

Cost is another difference. Caskets in general are more expensive, some caskets can cost thousands of pounds whereas most coffins cost hundreds.

Furnishings and linings also contrast. Coffin handles are usually individual handles, intended as decoration or for attaching cords rather than to actually carry the coffin.

A casket is usually furnished with a bar handle running the length of the side of the coffin, this is normally used when carrying or lifting the coffin. Coffin linings are usually silk or satin, subtle or pastel colours are usually provided.

Casket linings are often more lavish, using padded or quilted linings.

A casket for the deceased should not be confused with a cremated ashes casket, which is used for burial or storage of cremated remains.

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Coffins and Caskets | Types of Coffins

This guide will provide you with information on our extensive collection of coffins and caskets, from traditional funeral coffins to unique colourful coffins. Learn about the different types of coffins from which you can choose and what sentimental mementoes you can include before burial or cremation.

This guide covers:

How to choose a coffin or casket

Choosing a coffin or casket for your loved one can often help with the bereavement process and is an important part of the funeral arrangements.

Here are a few things you will need to consider when choosing a coffin or casket:

Coffins and caskets are available in a variety of materials, such as wood, metal and cardboard. The material you choose may depend on the type of service you are arranging.

For example, if you choose a cremation then the coffin cannot be made of metal. Should you choose to organise a woodland burial or an eco-friendly funeral, you may wish to choose an environmentally-friendly alternative, such as a wicker or cardboard coffin.

  1. Consider the size of coffin required

When it comes to choosing a coffin or casket, it’s important to get the size right. It's helpful if you know the approximate height and weight of your loved one so our funeral professionals are able to advise you on the size of coffin that will be required.

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Caskets vs. Coffins: 11 Differences to Know | Cake Blog

When you begin your end-of-life planning, there are a lot of details to consider. You might start researching burial plot costs at your local cemeteries. Or dive into learning about columbarium niches and eco-friendly burial options. There are a lot of new funeral trends to learn about. And the options for passages to be read at your funeral service is almost endless.

Jump ahead to these sections:

There is a lot of vocabulary specific to the funeral industry. It can be hard to know if you’re using the right words. Before you visit with your local funeral director, familiarize yourself with some of the vocabulary related to funerals. 

Two of the most commonly confused words are “casket” and “coffin.” Often used interchangeably, these words have different meanings. What makes them different? And how do you know if you’re using the correct word? Keep reading to find out the answers.

What’s a Coffin?

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “coffin” as “a box or chest for burying a corpse.” 

It came from the Latin word “cophinus,” meaning “basket or hamper.” It may have also derived from the Greek word “kophinos,” meaning “a basket.” The word coffin has been used to describe a box for a corpse since 1525. 

What’s a Casket?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word casket is defined as “a small chest or box (as for jewels)” and “a usually fancy coffin.” It is from the Middle English and may have been a modification of the Middle French word “cassette” meaning box. 

The word casket began being used to describe a burial container in the 1800s. The uptick in this word usage coincided with the recognition of undertaking as an official profession. In today’s world, it is considered an American euphemism for the word “coffin.”

11 Differences Between Coffins and Caskets

The dictionary definitions of the two words do little to describe the differences between caskets and coffins. Let’s dig a little deeper to understand whether there are slight differences in the meanings of these two words. 

1. Coffins are usually six-sided boxes

Nothing in the etymology of the word would imply that a coffin is a six-sided box. But according to Merriam Webster’s report titled “Words at Play,” a coffin describes a box that is tapered in the form of a human body. It is wider at the shoulders and narrower at the head and foot. 

Imagine a coffin that you might see in a movie. Dracula or anything from the old-west genre would feature a coffin. Coffins are more austere design-wise. Historically, they were made without any padding inside. But even that is not always the case. Many people are buried in coffins with padding. 

2. Caskets are usually four-sided boxes

Caskets usually describe a rectangular box for burying the dead. As previously mentioned, the word is derived from the term describing a box that holds something precious or valuable, such as jewelry.

Caskets are thought of as a plush version of a coffin. They are more typically used for modern funeral services. 

3. The word “coffin” is older than the word “casket”

We learned earlier that the word coffin was used as early as 1525. In England, only the wealthiest members of society were allowed to be buried in a coffin. If you weren’t wealthy you were wrapped in cloth and placed directly in the ground. 

This changed in the 1700s when new laws were passed in England. These laws allowed people of all classes to be buried in a coffin. New settlers in America were happy to follow the rules of their motherland. Six-sided coffins started being used to bury the dead in the U.S. as well. 

4. The traditional shape of the American “coffin” changed during the Civil War

In the U.S., the popularity of these two burial options changed from the coffin to the casket during the middle of the 1800s. 

Although there are many theories about why the shape changed during the 1860s, many say that change occurred because of the Civil War. There was so much death during this time caused by the war and disease that attempts were made to “soften” or “beautify” death. 

Larger coffins were created with softer interiors. The word changed to describe the receptacle as well. Since “caskets” were terms traditionally used to hold items of great value, Americans began to use the word as a euphemism for “coffin.” Subsequently, these words began to be used interchangeably. 

5. For 19th Century Americans, the word “coffin” was seen as old fashioned


Container for transport, laying out and the burial of a corpse
For other uses, see Coffin (disambiguation).
A shop window display of coffins at a Polish funeral director's office
Recreation of President Abraham Lincoln lying in repose in replicated coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History, Houston TX, with a police man standing guard

A coffin is a funerary box used for viewing or keeping a corpse, either for burial or cremation.

The word took two different paths. Old French cofin, originally meaning basket, became coffin in English; its modern French form, couffin, means cradle.

[note 1] A distinction is often made between coffin and casket: the latter is generally understood to denote a four-sided or eight-sided (almost always a rectangular or long octagonal) funerary box, while a coffin is usually six-sided or twelve-sided (almost always an elongated hexagonal or elongated dodecagonal) funerary box.

[1] However, coffins having a one-piece side with a curve at the shoulder instead of a join are more commonly used in the United Kingdom (UK).


The side of an Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus

First attested in English in 1380, the word coffin derives from the Old French cofin, from Latin cophinus, which means basket,[2] which is the latinisation of the Greek κόφινος (kophinos), basket.[3] The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ko-pi-na, written in Linear B syllabic script.[4]

Any box in which the dead are buried is a coffin, and while a casket was originally regarded as a box for jewelry, use of the word “casket” in this sense began as a euphemism introduced by the undertaker's trade.

[5] A distinction is commonly drawn between “coffins” and “caskets”, using “coffin” to refer to a tapered hexagonal or octagonal (also considered to be anthropoidal in shape) box and “casket” to refer to a rectangular box, often with a split lid used for viewing the deceased as seen in the picture.

Receptacles for cremated and cremulated human ashes (sometimes called cremains[6][7]) are called urns.


The earliest evidence of wooden coffin remains, dated at 5000 BC, was found in the Tomb 4 at Beishouling, Shaanxi. Clear evidence of a rectangular wooden coffin was found in Tomb 152 in an early Banpo site. The Banpo coffin belongs to a four-year-old girl; it measures 1.4 m (4.6 ft) by 0.55 m (1.8 ft) and 3–9 cm thick.

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As many as 10 wooden coffins have been found at the Dawenkou culture (4100–2600 BC) site at Chengzi, Shandong.[8][9] The thickness of the coffin, as determined by the number of timber frames in its composition, also emphasized the level of nobility, as mentioned in the Classic of Rites,[10] Xunzi[11] and Zhuangzi.

[12] Examples of this have been found in several Neolithic sites: the double coffin, the earliest of which was found in the Liangzhu culture (3400–2250 BC) site at Puanqiao, Zhejiang, consists of an outer and an inner coffin, while the triple coffin, with its earliest finds from the Longshan culture (3000–2000 BC) sites at Xizhufeng and Yinjiacheng in Shandong, consists of two outer and one inner coffins.[13]


Plain bespoke stone coffin, circa 7th century

A coffin may be buried in the ground directly, placed in a burial vault or cremated. Alternatively it may be entombed above ground in a mausoleum, a chapel, a church, or in a loculus within catacombs. Some countries practice one form almost exclusively, whereas in others it may depend on the individual cemetery.

A Karo coffin in Northern Sumatra

In part of Sumatra, Indonesia, ancestors are revered and bodies were often kept in coffins kept alongside the longhouses until a ritual burial could be performed. The dead are also disinterred for rituals. Mass burials are also practiced. In northern Sulawesi, some dead were kept in above ground sarcophagi called waruga until the practice was banned by the Dutch in the 19th century.

The handles and other ornaments (such as doves, stipple crosses, crucifix, symbols etc.) that go on the outside of a coffin are called fittings (sometimes called 'coffin furniture' – not to be confused with furniture that is coffin shaped) while organizing the inside of the coffin with fabric of some kind is known as “trimming the coffin”.

Cultures that practice burial have widely different styles of coffins. In Judaism, the coffin must be plain, made of wood and contain no metal parts or adornments. These coffins use wooden pegs instead of nails.

All Jews are buried in the same plain cloth shroud from shoulder to knees, regardless of status in life, gender or age. In China and Japan, coffins made from the scented, decay-resistant wood of cypress, sugi, thuja and incense-cedar are in high demand.

Certain Aboriginal Australian groups use intricately decorated tree-bark cylinders sewn with fibre and sealed with adhesive as coffins. The cylinder is packed with dried grasses.[14]

Sometimes coffins are constructed to permanently display the corpse, as in the case of the glass-covered coffin of the Haraldskær Woman on display in the Church of Saint Nicolai in Vejle, Denmark or the glass-coffin of Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, which are in Red Square, Moscow and Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

When a coffin is used to transport a deceased person, it can also be called a pall, a term that also refers to the cloth used to cover the coffin.


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The glass-covered coffin of the Haraldskær Woman

Coffins are traditionally made with six sides plus the top (lid) and bottom, tapered around the shoulders, or rectangular with four sides. Another form of four-sided coffin is trapezoidal (also known as the “wedge” form) and is considered a variant of the six-sided hexagonal kind of coffin. Continental Europe at one time favoured the rectangular coffin or casket, although variations exist in size and shape. The rectangular form, and also the trapezoidal form, is still regularly used in Germany, Austria, Hungary and other parts of Eastern and Central Europe, with the lid sometimes made to slope gently from the head down towards the foot. Coffins in the UK are mainly similar to the hexagonal design, but with one-piece sides, curved at the shoulder instead of having a join. In Medieval Japan, round coffins were used, which resembled barrels in shape and were usually made by coopers. In the case of a death at sea, there have been instances where trunks have been pressed into use as coffins. Coffins usually have handles on the side so they will be easier to carry.

They may incorporate features that claim to protect the body or for public health reasons. For example, some may offer a protective casket that uses a gasket to seal the casket shut after it is closed for the final time.

In England, it has long been law[citation needed] that a coffin for interment above ground should be sealed; this was traditionally implemented as a wooden outer coffin around a lead lining, around a third inner shell.

After some decades have passed, the lead may ripple and tear. In the United States, numerous cemeteries require a vault of some kind in order to bury the deceased. A burial vault serves as an outer enclosure for buried remains and the coffin serves as an inner enclosure.

The primary purpose of the vault is to prevent collapse of the coffin due to the weight of the soil above.

Some manufacturers offer a warranty on the structural integrity of the coffin. However, no coffin, regardless of its construction material (e.g.

, metal rather than wood), whether or not it is sealed, and whether or not the deceased was embalmed beforehand, will perfectly preserve the body. In some cases, a sealed coffin may actually speed up rather than slow down the process of decomposition.

An airtight coffin, for example, fosters decomposition by anaerobic bacteria, which results in a putrefied liquefaction of the body, and all putrefied tissue remains inside the container, only to be exposed in the event of an exhumation.

A container that allows air to pass in and out, such as a simple wooden box, allows for clean skeletonization. However the situation will vary according to soil or air conditions, and climate.

Coffin of the ancient Egyptian high status priest Khnum-Nakht, from the Tomb of two Brothers at the Deir Rifeh cemetery

Coffins are made of many materials, including steel, various types of wood, and other materials such as fiberglass or recycled kraft paper.

There is emerging interest in eco-friendly coffins made of purely natural materials such as bamboo, X-Board, willow or banana leaf.

[15] In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century in the United States, glass coffins were widely sold by travelling salesmen, who also would try to sell stock of the companies making the coffins.[16]

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