"place set aside for burial of the dead," late 14c., from Old French cimetiere "graveyard" (12c.), from Medieval Latin cemeterium, Late Latin coemeterium, from Greek koimeterion "sleeping place, dormitory," from koiman "to put to sleep," keimai "I lie down," from PIE root *kei-(1) "to lie," also forming words for "bed, couch."
Early Christian writers were the first to use it for "burial ground," though the Greek word also had been anciently used in reference to the sleep of death. In Middle English simeterie, cymytory, cimitere, etc.; forms with cem- are from late 15c. An Old English word for "cemetery" was licburg (see lich (n.)). In 19c. typically a large public burial ground not attached to a church.