The Difference Between a Graveyard and a Cemetery


A graveyard is a place where people are buried. The word “graveyard” comes from the Greek word koimeterion, which means bedroom or resting place.

Historically, a graveyard was affiliated with a church. Therefore, only members of that religion could be buried there. Cemeteries, on the other hand, are not tied to any particular faith and can be much more expansive.

What is a graveyard?

People often use the terms graveyard and cemetery interchangeably. However, if you are planning your own end-of-life arrangements, it is important to understand the differences between these two burial sites.

For starters, a graveyard is typically located on church property and only allows traditional burials. A cemetery, on the other hand, is a large burial ground that is not attached to a church. It also allows cremation and ashes burials.

Moreover, a graveyard tends to have older tombstones and is often unkempt. Cemeteries, on the other hand, are usually newer and more organized.

The difference between a graveyard and a cemetery is important to know because it will impact your decision-making process. Especially if you are considering joining your loved ones in a specific location after your passing. Make sure your next of kin understands the difference between these two sites, so they can carry out your end-of-life wishes. Create a free Cake end-of-life planning profile and share your wishes instantly with family members.

Where is a graveyard located?

For some, it may seem like the words graveyard and cemetery are interchangeable — but for those who choose to honor their loved ones in a traditional manner with a casket or urn burial, there is a difference between these two types of final resting places. The main differences between a graveyard and a cemetery are their location, religion, and whether they are tied to a church.

Traditionally, graveyards are located within the grounds of a church. This is because, until about the 7th century in Europe, burials were firmly controlled by the church and could only take place on consecrated church ground.

As populations in Europe began to grow, church burial grounds quickly filled up, and independent sites called cemeteries were developed. As a result, those who were buried in a cemetery weren’t necessarily church members. Today, many people are buried in both a graveyard and a cemetery, depending on their preferences.

What is a cemetery?

A cemetery is a place where individuals are buried, or in some cases entombed in mausoleum crypts or sarcophagi. Many people visit cemeteries to pay their respects, offer prayers or simply seek solace in a serene environment. Graveyards also serve as historical sites, showcasing the evolution of burial practices and memorialization over time.

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences. The term graveyard is typically associated with smaller, older or church-associated burial grounds, while the term cemetery refers to larger, more modern and secular burial spaces.

The etymology of the word “graveyard” is fairly straightforward; it literally means a yard filled with graves. The word cemetery, on the other hand, is derived from the Greek word koimeterion, meaning bedroom or resting place. The development of the term cemetery came about as church-affiliated graveyards became full and new, independent burial grounds were needed. As the population of Europe grew, the capacity of church-affiliated graveyards began to run out, and completely new burial places popped up, including those that were more secular.

What is the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?

There are many words that are often misused or used interchangeably, especially when it comes to death and funerals. Understanding the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery will help you be clear when explaining your end-of-life plans to your next of kin.

The word graveyard originally referred to a burial ground that adjoined a church. As churchyards became full, new burial grounds were established outside of the church and these are now referred to as cemeteries.

Cemeteries are generally more secular and can have fewer restrictions on the headstones that may be used. They can also be much larger than a graveyard.

As the practice of cremation becomes more accepted, the distinction between a cemetery and a graveyard may become less important. However, if you want to stick with linguistic precision, then it is better to use the term graveyard for a burial ground within a churchyard and to refer to a cemetery as an unaffiliated burial site.

Related Posts