Last night my youngest asked me "Hey, what's the difference between a graveyard and cemetery?" As I sat there feeling dumb as I normally do, because he's a lot smarter than I am, I had to eventually admit defeat and confess I had no idea what the difference was. So, we looked it up and here's what we found out...

Obviously, a graveyard and a cemetery both serve the same purpose, but there has to be a reason they have different names. Does it have anything to do tombstones? Is it because the positions of the graves face different directions?

Nope, and the answer is actually pretty simple.

Starting at around the 6th Century C.E., or A.D., churches buried their dead on the lands near the church building, called the churchyard.

Eventually, churches throughout Europe began to run out of room on the churchyards. As a result, "new burial sites had to be created that weren’t attached to a church" according to

So, what's the difference between a graveyard and cemetery?

A graveyard is attached to a church, or rather part of the churchyard.

A cemetery is a burial site not adjoined to a church, and not in a churchyard.

There's also one more difference between the two.

"You can bury ashes in a cemetery but you cannot do so in a graveyard.

The etymology is also very interesting. Graveyard comes from the words ‘grave’ (from the Proto-Germanic ‘graban’ which means ‘to dig’) and ‘yard’. The word Cemetery comes from the Old French ‘cimetiere’ which comes from the Greek ‘koimeterion’ meaning 'a sleeping place'".

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