Casket

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This "half couch" casket allows the upper portion of the lid to be opened during a visitation or wake. Photo © RubberBall Productions/Getty Images

Definition:
A "casket" is a four-sided, rectangular box with a closeable lid, is typically constructed of wood or metal, and is used to bury a deceased human being. While the lid is generally split (half couch), allowing the upper portion to be opened for viewing the deceased during a wake or visitation, single-lid (full couch) caskets remain popular in some areas, notably Pennsylvania, USA.

Use of the word casket in American English to refer to a "coffin" started in the 1830s, but grew prevalent roughly 100 years later.

In general, both the term and the shape of a casket are considered "softer" or less offensive (versus the word coffin and its shape) to someone coping with the death of a loved one, possibly accounting for the eventual preference of the word.

Note: A casket can also refer to a small ornamental box or chest used to hold valuables, such as jewelry, letters, etc., although this sense has grown less common in American English.

The term casket is possibly derived from the Old North French word "casse" meaning "box."

Contrast with coffin.

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