Where Did the Name Cemetery Come From?

The word cemetery is taken from the Greek word Koimeterion, which is the word for ‘sleeping place.’ The word implies that the land has been set aside as a burial ground. Although the word graveyard is often used interchangeably with cemetery, a graveyard is only a type of cemetery. A graveyard refers to the burial ground within the churchyard.

Cemeteries are thought to have first come about in the 7th century when burials were firmly controlled by the church in Europe. The church was the only institution allowed to bury the dead. There were no other grounds to bury the dead in aside from the churchyard. Part of the churchyard was therefore converted into a graveyard.

However, as the population in Europe began to grow, the capacity of the graveyards was quickly surpassed. Graveyards were no longer sufficient as a burial place. People were being buried on top of each other. Graves were sometimes even dug up to create space for the burial of other bodies.

As a result, people began to seek new places to bury the dead. This became even more urgent as the health risks of overcrowded graveyards became apparent. Garden cemeteries were therefore adopted by the end of the 18th century. These were run by government bodies, private companies and sometimes private citizens.

Modern day cemeteries are usually expansive landscapes located far away from heavily populated areas. They are often located outside large cities and town centers. They are independent of churches or religious organizations. They therefore provide services to people of different cultures and beliefs.

There are various different cemetery styles in use today. These styles reflect the diversity of the cultural practices that surround death.

Samantha Milano 7/12/18