Etymology
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coffin (n.)

early 14c., "chest or box for valuables," from Old French cofin "sarcophagus," earlier "basket, coffer" (12c., Modern French coffin), from Latin cophinus "basket, hamper" (source of Italian cofano, Spanish cuebano "basket"), from Greek kophinos "a basket," which is of uncertain origin.

Funereal sense "chest or box in which the dead human body is placed for burial" is from 1520s; before that the main secondary sense in English was "pie crust, a mold or casing of pastry for a pie" (late 14c.). Meaning "vehicle regarded as unsafe" is from 1830s. Coffin nail "cigarette" is slang from 1880; nail in (one's) coffin "thing that hastens or contributes to one's death" is by 1792.

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coffer (n.)

mid-13c., "box or chest used for keeping valuables," from Old French cofre "a chest" (12c., Modern French coffre), from Latin cophinus "basket" (see coffin). Hence coffers, in a figurative sense, "a treasury; the wealth and pecuniary resources of a person, institution, etc.," late 14c.

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pallbearer (n.)

also pall-bearer, "one who with others attends the coffin at a funeral," 1707, from pall (n.) in the sense of "cloth spread over a coffin" + agent noun of bear (v.). Originally one who holds the corners of the pall at a funeral.

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gravestone (n.)

"stone over a grave," late 14c.; earlier "stone coffin" (c. 1200), from grave (n.) + stone (n.). Similar formation in German Grabstein, Dutch grafsteen, Danish gravsten.

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sepulture (n.)

"burial, interment," early 14c., from Old French sepulture, sepouture "tomb, coffin" (12c.) and directly from Latin sepultura "burial, funeral obsequies," from sepult-, past-participle stem of sepelire "to bury" (see sepulchre). In Middle English it was confused with sepulchre. Related: Sepultural.

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hutch (n.)

c. 1200, "storage chest" (also applied to the biblical "ark of God"), from Old French huche "chest, trunk, coffer; coffin; kneading trough; shop displaying merchandise," from Medieval Latin hutica "chest," a word of uncertain origin. Sense of "cupboard for food or dishes" first recorded 1670s; that of "box-like pen for an animal" is from c. 1600.

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sarcophagus (n.)

c. 1600, "type of stone used by the ancients for making coffins," from Latin sarcophagus, from Greek sarkophagos (lithos) "limestone used for coffins;" the adjective means "flesh-eating," a reference to the supposed action of this type of limestone (quarried near Assos in Troas, hence the Latin lapis Assius) in quickly decomposing bodies.

It is a compound of sarx (genitive sarkos) "flesh" (see sarcasm) + phagein "to eat" (from PIE root *bhag- "to share out, apportion; to get a share"). Related: Sarcophagal.

The "stone" sense was the earliest in English; the meaning "stone coffin," often one with inscriptions or decorative carvings is by 1705. The Latin word, shortened in Vulgar Latin to *sarcus, is the source of French cercueil, German Sarg "coffin," Dutch zerk "tombstone."

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cist (n.)

1804, in British archaeology, "sepulchral chest or chamber;" 1847, in Greek history, "small receptacle for sacred utensils in a procession;" in the second sense from Latin cista "wickerwork basket, box," from Greek kistē "box, chest" (see chest); in the first sense from Welsh cist in cist faen "stone coffin," the first element of which is from the Latin word.

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tombstone (n.)

1560s, originally the flat stone atop a grave (or the lid of a stone coffin); from tomb + stone (n.). Meaning "gravestone, headstone" is attested from 1711. The city in Arizona, U.S., said to have been named by prospector Ed Schieffelin, who found silver there in 1877 after being told all he would find there was his tombstone.

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catafalque (n.)

"stage erected in a church to support a coffin during a funeral," 1640s, from French catafalque (17c.), or directly from Italian catafalco "scaffold," which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *catafalicum, from Greek kata "down" (see cata-), used in Medieval Latin with a sense of "beside, alongside" + fala "scaffolding, wooden siege tower," a word said to be of Etruscan origin. The Medieval Latin word also yielded Old French chaffaut, chafaud (Modern French échafaud) "scaffold."

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