What’s the Difference Between a Casket and a Coffin?

Although the terms are still sometimes used interchangeably in general society, there is, indeed, a difference between a casket and a coffin. Let’s take a closer look at each of these burial vessels, considering how they differ and how they are alike:

The Coffin

Chances are you haven’t seen many (if any) coffins up close recently. However, a coffin is probably what you saw in many old movies, especially movies set in earlier time periods. A coffin – then and now – is most often made of wood (perhaps even as the proverbial “pine box”), although some metal coffins are used today.

A coffin is six-sided to be more form-fitting for the human body. This tapered hexagonal box is wider at the shoulders and narrower at the head and foot; in fact, some have called coffins “toe pinchers”. Early coffins had lids that nailed in place, but modern coffins typically use hinged lids.

Coffins are more commonly used in foreign countries, and residents in many countries continue to use the term “coffin” even when describing what we call a casket here in the United States.

The Casket

Unlike the tapered coffin, a casket is typically rectangular, as wide at the bottom and top as it is in the middle. Typically having a split lid to allow viewing the body from the waist up, caskets are what most of us in modern society are familiar with.

Many caskets are made from attractive and sturdy varieties of wood such as mahogany, walnut and cherry, designed to provide a beautiful and dignified resting place. Caskets are also quite commonly made from a variety of metals, including stainless steel, copper, and bronze.

The term “casket” was adopted by the funeral industry in North America in the late 19th century and gained favor in society over the often negatively considered term “coffin”.

The Casket AND the Coffin

Yes, there is a difference between a casket and a coffin, but there are similarities, too. Modern caskets and coffins may both be outfitted as desired by families to properly pay tribute to their deceased loved one. Handles and other hardware, or fittings, are available in many finishes and styles. A variety of linings may be considered. And other ornamental accessories, decorations, and embellishments are available to personalize the casket in a way that honors the departed.

Regardless of the choice of a coffin or casket, at Stillinger Family Funeral Home we work with families to make final resting choices that offer a fitting tribute to their loved ones. To learn more about choices and alternatives available, contact us at (317) 462-5536.

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