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What is the Difference Between a Casket and a Coffin?

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In the United States, the words “coffin” and “casket” tend to be used interchangeably. However, they are very different from each other, and there is often great misunderstanding surrounding their true meanings.

The word “casket” was first used as a euphemism for “coffin,” when it became seen as a somewhat offensive term. It held a meaning of finality, which is often difficult to face. However, the original meaning of the word “casket” referred to a box that housed special belongings, such as jewelry. Using the word “casket” to mean “coffin” tended to reduce the negativity that often comes with the name of the vessel.

Differences in Shape

There are a variety of things that distinguish a coffin from a casket. One of the most obvious qualities is the shape. Coffins are designed with six or eight different sides and are either octagonal or hexagonal in shape. They are designed to conform to the general shape of the deceased when laid to rest. The coffin is wider at the top and narrower where the feet lay to comfortably fit the departed. Caskets, however, are rectangular, and are generally what people envision when they think of either a coffin or a casket.

Differences in Design

Coffins tend to be much simpler in design, and are often made of wood. They do not typically have designed interiors or handles on the outside. Even in ancient history, when people were first beginning to bury their deceased within vessels, they only adorned the box with a simple cross.
While coffins tend to be simplistic, caskets are more often decorated with accessories and aesthetic elements. They are generally crafted out of hardwood, softwood, or specialized metal. Caskets typically boast handles, metallic details, and silk, velvet or other high-quality interiors.

Choosing a Casket or Coffin

To ensure that burial plans go accordingly, it is important not to confuse these two terms and to understand the differences between them. In doing so, you will be able to pick out the ideal coffin or casket to respect and honor your loved one.

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