Outside the funeral industry, the terms “casket” and “coffin” are often used interchangeably to describe the vessel in which the deceased is placed before being buried in the ground. Most people recognize both words, and are comfortable using both in situations related to death and burial.
In reality, a casket and a coffin are not the same things. A coffin (a term that has been around since the 1500s) is the traditional burial box we associate with death. Shaped to fit the human body (with six or eight sides, wider at the top for the arms and torso), a coffin is designed to be built fairly cheaply and with a minimum amount ofmaterials. Because many people in history built their own coffins, or hired a coffin maker to do it, the emphasis was on practical burial that didn’t put a strain on family finances. Coffins are almost always made of wood instead of more valuable metals.