One important element of funeral planning is choosing the casket or coffin. It can serve for viewing at funerals and a final resting place, but some are unaware that caskets and coffins are not the same things.

What’s the difference between a casket and a coffin? This is what you need to know to distinguish one from the other, and potentially decide on the right option for the future.


What is a Coffin?

The term coffin derived from the Old French term cofin, with the original meaning as basket. The definition eventually changed to reference a sarcophagus.

In North America, the term was borrowed and changed to mean a funeral box that contains a human body. Hence, this is why a coffin is wider at the shoulders and tapers at the feet. In fact, this is one of the biggest differentiation of casket vs. coffin---the design.

A coffin typically has six sides and often does not have a hinged lid. This served as the standard shape of a coffin beginning in the 1700s. At this point, casket was still not a typical term that was used.

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that funeral directors began referencing caskets in terms of a place for burial or viewing at a funeral.


What is a Casket?

Similarly to coffin, the term casket also had a different original definition than today. It referenced an ornamental box used for storing jewelry. The traditional coffin evolved into a casket with a rectangular shape and a hinged top. A casket contains four sides, unlike the coffin that takes on a more hexagon shape. Some families preferred the casket style over the traditional coffin due to its streamlined shape.

Today, both coffins and caskets are used for funeral viewing and burial. These are some of the options you can choose for either a coffin or a casket:


  • Materials: Both caskets and coffins can be made from wood or metal. You can also find stainless steel options that are rust-resistant. There are many types of finishes available, such as mahogany, walnut, and cherry finish for wood options. Metal materials can come in bronze or copper, which are also rust-resistant.
  • Interiors: The interior of a casket or coffin can vary in terms of color and material type. Velvet and crepe are two of the most popular. Velvet is viewed as the most comfortable and luxurious, although both options look nice at funeral viewings.
  • Budget: Both caskets and coffins can suit a variety of budgets. They can range from thousands of dollars to tens-of-thousands. A funeral home will give you pricing information to review.


Whether you choose a casket or a coffin, there are many beautiful and quality options available today. Use this information as a starting point and consult your funeral director for additional assistance.