The Difference Between a Coffin and a Casket

Although the terms coffin and casket are both used to describe a burial box for deceased individuals, they are not one and the same. In the United States, the majority of individuals will use these two terms interchangeably with one another because they serve the same general purpose, however, there is a difference between a coffin and a casket. When you are able to understand the unique characteristics of a coffin vs casket, you are better able to choose one that best suits your loved one. 

A Brief Look at the History of Coffins and Caskets

When we take a look at the history of the coffin, we see that it is defined as a box that was used to transport the deceased and was often referred to as a pall. The actual word is derived both from ancient Greek and from Latin, as cofin and cophinus, respectively. The French used the term Cofin, which meant basket, however, in modern day language it means cradle.

The use of the coffin can be traced back to both the Celts and the Ancient Egyptians, who crafted them out of wood and stone. The Egyptians used stone sarcophagi and decorated wooden containers around 3150 B.C.E, whereas, the Celtic people constructed their burial boxes out of flat stones in and around 700 B.C.E.

When the civil war broke out from 1861 to 1865, coffins were used to transport the dead and bury them. Due to the war, hundreds of thousands of coffins were needed, which resulted in the mass production of them. This event alone was responsible for the booming casket industry during the 19th century. Nowadays, both coffins and caskets are made either out of stainless steel, fiberglass, or wood. The most common is steel, poplar, willow, pine, oak, and birch, with expensive wood being cherry or black walnut and mahogany.

What Are The Differences Between the Two?

One of the biggest differences between the coffin vs casket is the shape.  A coffin is defined by its shoulder width head, narrowed or tapered end, and the removable lid. It generally has six to eight sides and will resemble the shape of a body.  Caskets, however, are rectangular in shape and come with a hinged lid. Coffins and caskets will often feature handles on the side of the box so that they can be handled correctly without fault.

Another big difference is the type of materials used. Generally speaking, caskets lend themselves to a higher level of craftsmanship, which means they will have things like intricate detailing and plush padding. Coffins, on the other hand, will have minimal detailing, and plain fabric lining. With this said, the final difference will be the price point. Coffins will be cheaper because they use less material and require less craftsmanship than a casket.

Why Is Casket Used More Often Than Coffin?

When it comes to the language we use, coffin vs casket, we generally lean towards the use of the casket. This is mainly because the term has been used throughout history to mean “ornamental box” and therefore, does not have a negative connotation like coffin does. A casket feels more comforting to those who are mourning the deceased because the casket is not shaped like a human body, and it feels like you are burying someone beautiful rather than just someone who is dead. Beyond this, a casket feels more unique, since there are plenty of designs, colors, and choices available, which makes it easier to remember and honor them.