A coffin is a funerary box used for viewing or keeping a corpse, either for burial or cremation.
The word took two different paths, Cofin in Old French originally meaning basket, became Coffin in English and became Couffin in modern French which nowadays means a cradle. A distinction is often made between coffin and casket: the latter is generally understood to denote a four-sided (almost always rectangular) funerary box, while a coffin is usually six sided. However, coffins having a one-piece side with a curve at the shoulder instead of a join are more commonly used in the United Kingdom (UK).
Coffins are traditionally made with six sides plus the top (lid) and bottom, tapered around the shoulders, or rectangular with four sides. Another form of four-sided coffin is trapezoidal (also known as the "wedge" form) and is considered a variant of the six-sided hexagonal kind of coffin. Continental Europe at one time favoured the rectangular coffin or casket, although variations exist in size and shape. The rectangular form, and also the trapezoidal form, is still regularly used in Germany, Austria, Hungary and other parts of Eastern and Central Europe, with the lid sometimes made to slope gently from the head down towards the foot. Coffins in the UK are mainly similar to the hexagonal design, but with one-piece sides, curved at the shoulder instead of having a join. In Medieval Japan, round coffins were used, which resembled barrels in shape and were usually made by coopers. In the case of a death at sea, there have been instances where trunks have been pressed into use as a coffin. Coffins usually have handles on the side so they will be easier to carry.
They may incorporate features that claim to protect the body or for public health reasons. For example, some may offer a protective casket that uses a gasket to seal the casket shut after it is closed for the final time. In England, it has long been law that a coffin for interment above ground should be sealed; this was traditionally implemented as a wooden outer coffin around a lead lining, around a third inner shell. After some decades have passed, the lead may ripple and tear. In the United States, numerous cemeteries require a vault of some kind in order to bury the deceased. A burial vault serves as an outer enclosure for buried remains and the coffin serves as an inner enclosure. The primary purpose of the vault is to prevent collapse of the coffin due to the weight of the soil above.
Source: Coffin from Wikipedia
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