Differences Between a Graveyard and a Cemetery

Photo by Kenny Orr

Cemeteries and graveyards are places where people bury their loved ones. But, if you’re not familiar with the differences between a cemetery and a graveyard, you might think they’re interchangeable. So, what’s the difference between these two burial grounds? Let’s start with how their similar.

Graveyards and cemeteries both have to do with burial

They both have grave sites, headstones, and mausoleums. If a person dies in a hospital or anywhere else they will end up in either of these two locations.

Graveyards and cemeteries also share the same basic purpose. They serve as places to visit loved ones who have passed away. And this doesn’t apply only to traditional burials. It’s also true whether you decided to cremate the deceased. In this case, you may have placed the ashes in an urn for burial alongside other loved ones’ remains.

So at a first glance, cemeteries and graveyards are the same. But how true is that?

Location of the grave site

The first main difference is about where the graves are exactly. Cemeteries are generally in neighborhoods while graveyards are often in or beside a church. In other words, graveyards are often on church property and cemeteries are generally not.

The big clue is that one word: cemetery. That tells you right away that people have chosen this area specifically for burials. It’s not just some random patch of ground that happened to be available beside a church. It’s likely to have lots of rules about what you can do there. This is because by design there’s more thought into it than just digging holes and burying people when they die.

Graveyards, on the other hand,  were often a result of religious efforts. For instance, early settlers would always build churches or other religious buildings, part of which was a graveyard. In many cases these are still active today. Some even contain only gravestones without any bodies beneath them!

Graveyards are usually smaller than cemeteries

A graveyard is in most cases a lot smaller than a cemetery. A graveyard usually contains only the graves of one family or group of people like an old local community. A cemetery can be much larger, instead, and contain many different types of burials. For instance, it’s not uncommon to have members of multiple religions within the same cemetery.

Cemeteries usually offer more services than graveyards, like information about funeral planning and monuments

Cemeteries usually offer more services than graveyards, like information about funeral planning and monuments.

If you’re interested in burial options, a cemetery might be the right choice for you. At cemeteries, you can visit loved ones who have passed away and pay your respects. Cemeteries may also hold memorial services that allow people to gather together to honor their deceased loved ones.

Cemetery is an open space of ground in which people use graves as the final resting place of their loved ones. Some cemeteries contain vaults or tombs grouped together on the sides of a path leading up to a chapel.

It’s also good to know the origin of the word cemetery. It comes from Latin coemeterium “burial place”, ultimately derived from Greek koimētērion (= bedchamber)”.

Graveyards are generally older than cemeteries

While cemeteries are a relatively recent invention, graveyards have been around for thousands of years. It all started when people began to bury their dead in large groups. Prior to that they kept them at home with the family or near their work site.  People often refer to these early graveyards as “cemetery” or “burial ground”. In most cases, they were located outside the city walls when cities had walls surrounding them.

Cemeteries are also often more organized than graveyards since they were built after graveyards became outdated.

Final Thoughts

We hope that by now you have a better understanding of the differences between cemeteries and graveyards. Both are places where we can pay our respects to those who have passed on, but they serve different purposes and offer different services. If you’re looking for a place to bury your loved one or just want information about how funerals work, then a cemetery may be right for you!

Regardless, if you want to share your own burial wishes with your loved ones, check out our Funeral Plan. Ready to experience Myend’s revolutionary end-of-life planning services? Sign up today completely for free!

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Myend is not a law firm, it does not engage in the practice of law, and it does not render any official legal advice. Therefore, you are hereby advised to seek your own legal counsel regarding any legal issues. Myend’s articles are meant to be taken as suggestions and therefore Myend carries no responsibility for the user’s actions.