The terms “casket” and “coffin” are now often used interchangeably to mean any type of box that a deceased person’s body is buried in. However, there are differences between a casket vs coffin. If you were to ask a funeral home for a coffin, you might be given a casket. Inquire about a casket and a coffin might be provided. These words, although not entirely synonymous, have taken over each other’s meanings and there is often misunderstanding or confusion over their true meaning.
There are several things that distinguish a casket from a coffin. The most obvious casket vs coffin distinction is the shape. Coffins have either six or eight sides, either hexagonal or octagonal. Remember those old horror movies filled with vampires and other creatures of the night? Those are coffins depicted in those movies. Coffins are shaped that way to conform to the shape of the human body: narrow around the head, broad on the shoulders area and much narrower down to the feet. Meanwhile, caskets are rectangular and are what most people picture when they think of a casket or coffin.
Another casket vs coffin distinction is the design. Coffins are very simple in design, they are made of wood, and often do not have handles or interiors. Even way back in time when people were only beginning to adapt the practice of burying the dead in vessels, a cross right above deceased’s head is the only adornment a coffin would have. Whereas coffins are very simple in design, caskets are full of aesthetic accessories. Caskets are typically made of softwood or hardwood, or 16, 18, or 20 gauge metal. They are beautifully designed and have engravings, imagery, gold or silver details, handles, and much more. Furthermore, caskets also have beautiful interiors often made of silk, velvet, or other high-quality fabrics.
Now, considering these casket vs coffin distinctions, then why are the two words typically used interchangeably? The term “casket” was initially used as a euphemism for “coffin” when funeral parlors started replacing mortuaries. “Coffin” somehow seemed offensive with the sense of finality and death that comes with it, while the original meaning of “casket” was a box for keeping precious belongings like jewelry. Using “casket” to mean “coffin” somehow diminished the negative connotation that comes with the burial container.
Nowadays, in North America the word casket is used so often, most people picture a casket when they hear the word coffin. However, in many other parts of the world simple wood coffin is the primary method of burial. It is possible to find coffins in North America; however, they are uncommon. The majority of funeral homes will only carry caskets that are rectangular in shape. Now that you know the differences between a casket vs coffin, you will be able to choose the perfect casket or coffin to bury your loved one.