The Difference Between a Coffin and a Casket

Caskets, Urns, Shrouds, Vaults

Posted on November 03, 2015 by Rachel Zeldin

How a Coffin and a Casket are Different

The terms “coffin” and “casket” are often used interchangeably. However, contrary to popular belief, a coffin and a casket are not the same thing. While both a casket and a coffin serve the same general purpose, the difference between the two is found in the design. To further understand the difference between a coffin and a casket, read below.

A Coffin

example of a coffinThe term coffin is derived from the Old French word “cofin,” meaning basket. In today’s funeral industry a coffin is a narrow box used to hold a deceased body for burial. A coffin is a hexagonal shaped container with six sides. The six sides conform to the shape of a body, with a narrow headspace, a wide shoulder design, and a tapering shape down to the feet. Coffins are often referred to as “toe pinchers,” as they have a slim space for the feet at the bottom of the box. A coffin originally had a removable lid, but now generally has attached hinges. The exterior parts  of the container, such as the handles and ornaments, are called the coffin furniture. Although less popular in North America, coffins are still widely used in the rest of the world. In addition, most countries almost exclusively use the word “coffin,” regardless of the shape of the box. They are generally made of wood or metal.

A Casket

example of a coffinThe original definition of the word casket is, "a small ornamental box or chest for holding jewels, letters, or other valuable objects." It was not until the late 19th century that the North American funeral industry came to adopt the word “casket” as a synonym for the word coffin. Caskets have four sides, and are rectangular in shape. In addition, they often have a split-lid, which is designed to enable people to view the decedent at a funeral viewing. The word casket became increasingly popular in North America because it was thought to have a less negative connotation. The rectangular shape of the casket itself was also thought to be more favorable than a coffin because it does not resemble the shape of a deceased body. The most popular materials used to make caskets are wood, metal, and stainless steel.

Choosing the Right Option

Both coffins and caskets can be customized in a variety of ways, ranging from personalized ornaments to interior materials. So, the main difference between the two truly lies in the shape. Ultimately, the decision between which one to pick depends on personal preference. 

Caskets and coffins can typically be bought form funeral homes and 3rd party casket retailers including storefront shops and online outlets like: Willow & WorthAmazonWalmartYou can also build your own casket if you feel so inclined.

To learn more about caskets: Casket Guide & Can I Bring My Own Casket or Urn?

For further definition on casket related terminology: Casket Terminology You Should Know