Graveyard vs. Cemetery

What is the difference between ‘graveyard’ and ‘cemetery’?

( R. Bharath, Chennai)

Though these two words are used interchangeably to refer to a place where people are buried, there is a subtle difference in meaning between the two. ‘Graveyard’ is the older of the two terms, and it is mostly used to refer to a burial ground which adjoins a church. In the old days, people were buried close to the church; the nobles and the rich, in fact, were sometimes buried in crypts beneath the church. With the increase in population, the old graveyards became full and new burial sites, called ‘cemeteries’, came up a little away from the town/city. The word ‘cemetery’ comes from the Greek ‘koimeterion’ meaning ‘dormitory, resting place’. It was seen as a person’s final resting place; unlike a graveyard, a cemetery does not adjoin a church. People are buried in graveyards; in a cemetery, it is possible to bury an individual’s ashes as well.

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