Difference between Graveyard and Cemetery

Key difference: The primary difference between a Graveyard and Cemetery is the fact that a graveyard is located right next to a church and if often associated with that church. Whereas, a cemetery is independent of the church and may be located far away from a church.

GraveyardThe terms graveyard and cemetery are often used interchangeably. Both refer to places where people are buried after their death.

The term graveyard dates back to the 17th century. The term is an amalgamation of two words ‘grave’ and ‘yard’. Hence, as these words suggest, the term had been primarily used to refer to a piece of land, i.e. yard where the graves where often located. This land was often the yard of a church; basically it was located next to the church and was often associated with the church.

A cemetery, on the other hand, is similar to a graveyard, especially in the sense that it is a place where people are buried after their death. Hence, like a graveyard, a cemetery also has graves, however unlike a graveyard, it is not often located next to or is associated with a church. Due to which, even people who are not religious or do not attend church regularly can still be buried in a cemetery after their death.

The primary differences between a Graveyard and Cemetery is the fact that a graveyard is located right next to a church and if often associated with that church. Whereas, a cemetery is independent of the church and may be located far away from a church.

CemetaryAdditionally, a cemetery is often much larger in size than a graveyard, as the land allotted to the church was often limited, hence the graveyard would often be restricted in size to the land plot of the church. A cemetery does not have this limitation. A cemetery can be small enough to hold only a few graves, or large enough to cover acres of land.

However, while there used to a clear distinction between the two words, today the terms are often used interchangeably. The term cemetery tends to be more commonly used than graveyard, primarily because today cemeteries are more common than graveyards.

Comparison between Graveyard and Cemetery:

 

Graveyard

Cemetery

Definition (Oxford Dictionaries)

A burial ground, especially one beside a church.

A large burial ground, especially one not in a churchyard.

Description

A place where people are buried after death

A place where people are buried after death

Etymology

From grave +‎ yard.

Late Middle English: via late Latin from Greek koimētērion ‘dormitory’, from koiman ‘put to sleep’.

Church

Usually located next to and in association with a church

May or may not have any direct association with a church

Size

Typically smaller than a cemetery

Typically larger than a graveyard

Location

Located next to the church as part of the churchyard

Independent plot

Reference: Oxford Dictionaries (Graveyard and Cemetery), Wikipedia, QuickAndDirtyTips
Image Courtesy: dalmeny.org, hollywoodcemetery.org

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