What’s the Difference Between a Graveyard and a Cemetery

A short history of cemeteries and burial.

The practice of burying the dead dates back to prehistoric times, it is obvious in Egypt with the Pyramids built for burials around 2500-3000 BC and even the Saxons buried their dead, who date back to at least the 2nd century.

In the Middle Ages, burial began to take place in “Graveyards” which were predominantly plots of land surrounding churches, as most of Europe was controlled by the church. But by the late 18th and 19th centuries, Graveyards were being replaced by Cemeteries.

With a rise in disease outbreak and an increasing population and limited space, governmental and religious authorities began to create new regulations. These regulations began to require larger tracts of land away from densely populated areas to be utilized for burial. As these areas were set aside specifically for the purpose of burial, they became more commonly known as”cemeteries”. The term cemetery originates from the Greek language meaning “sleeping place”. During this time many graveyards were abandoned, stone and bodies were removed and new uses were found for the land.

Today, the term cemetery is often used to refer to both cemeteries and small church graveyards.


  1. […] a graveyard was a plot of land surrounding a church, and with the onset of intensely infectious diseases, […]

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