How coffins became caskets

Most people in the funeral industry no longer use the term coffin when they're describing the vessel that houses human remains. While the casket is a large part of the funeral process if you're having one of the more traditional funerals, it's often seen as a difficult and uncomfortable item to discuss, regardless of what you call it. If you're searching the market, you may be confused by the interchangeable use of the term coffin and casket. There are actually a few different explanations as to why the funeral industry chose to adopt the term 'casket':

For one reason, 'coffin' is an old-fashioned word that often makes us think of 19 th century funerals. It is a colder, stern word, that doesn't necessarily fit with the modern concept of funerals. The more contemporary 'casket' sounds like something you might sleep in or be carried around in - like a basket. For many people in the industry, coffin sounds dour while casket seems comforting.

An alternative explanation is that coffins and caskets are actually two different things, and the use of coffins is simply declining. A coffin is an older design, in which there is a wide allowance for the shoulders and a tapered design toward the feet. The lid is one piece and is completely separate from the coffin. (It will be affixed with screws or nails when it's time for burial.) Most containers today (or caskets) are more rectangular in design, and they also have two-piece lids that are attached to the casket with hinges. Technically, coffins are not used in contemporary funerals unless someone has purchased or made one.


Within the funeral industry, there are sparing references to 'coffin'. Some critics see this as part of our culture's denial of death or our need to sanitize death rituals; and when you think about, the word casket does seem to come across in a more pleasing fashion, compared to the word coffin. One of the healthiest views of death is to see it as a passing into a happier state of being; the term 'casket' seems a gentler signifier of that transition.

Whatever the reason, the word coffin is used less and less frequently in the funeral industry, and amongst the public.

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