The Difference Between a Cemetery and a Graveyard

Although it may seem that the terms cemetery and graveyard are interchangeable, there is a difference between the two. A cemetery is a burial ground that is not affiliated with a church, whereas a graveyard is an area adjacent to a place of worship.

During the Middle Ages, wealthy and influential Christian figures were laid to rest inside their place of worship or in crypts beneath it. Less privileged congregants were buried in the graveyard.


The graveyard is an area of land, often near a church, in which dead people are buried. The term is sometimes used to refer to the entire burial ground, although most people who use the term correctly understand it to mean a specific section of a churchyard where the bodies are located.

The name derives from the Greek koimeterion, which means a “sleeping place,” although Pagans referred to such areas as nekropolis, cities of the dead. Christian faith holds that the body lies in the grave only until the resurrection when it will be raised into immortality and rejoin the soul for eternity.

Occasionally, a cemetery or graveyard will also house a mausoleum. Mausoleums are independent structures that can be religious or secular. Because of this distinction, some people may choose to refer to a mausoleum as a tomb rather than a graveyard. However, this is not generally considered a grammatical faux pas.


Historically, people were buried close to the church in graveyards, and the wealthy or influential were also laid to rest inside churches, in crypts below the floor. As the population increased, the capacity of church burial grounds became limited, and new places to bury people, called cemeteries, were established outside of church buildings.

While modern cemetery owners may try to avoid re-using older graves, this is not always possible. Many families have very strong objections to re-use of their loved ones’ graves, and the cemetery authorities might be forced to listen to them.

Often, a cemetery will have specific rules and regulations regarding what can or cannot be placed on a grave. These restrictions are often based on the nature of the object or how the object was placed (on top of or within a gravestone, for example). This is done in order to maintain an efficient maintenance of the cemetery and to make sure that all graves are kept clean and neat.


The biggest clue that distinguishes a graveyard from a regular burial ground is the single word itself. The presence of the word implies that this is a space that has been specifically chosen for burials and that it has more strings attached to it than a random piece of land beside a church.

Because a graveyard is associated with a particular religion, it tends to have strict regulations about how the burial process is carried out and what kind of headstone can be used. These restrictions are typically in place to ensure that the burial site adheres to Christian values and traditions.

A cemetery is a larger, more organized burial ground than a graveyard and can be either public or private. A cemetery may also allow for multiple different religions to be buried on its premises. This can be beneficial for families with members from different faiths as it is possible for them to be buried together in the same place.


Despite the fact that the words cemetery and graveyard are used interchangeably today, they have different meanings. The older word, graveyard, referred to a burial ground that was adjoined to a church, but as population growth increased, church graveyards became full, and new, independent sites called cemeteries were built away from the town or city center.

The word cemetery comes from the Greek koimeterion, which means “sleeping place” (Christians believe that at death, the body sleeps until it is raised to share the Resurrection). Pagans would have viewed the same site as a nekropolis or city of the dead.

A graveyard is a yard that contains many graves, tombs, or funeral urns. People make their way to a graveyard to pay their respects to the dead. It’s also possible to work a graveyard shift, which means that you work late at night. This is because people usually go to their graveyard at night to say goodbye to their loved ones.

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