Headstone vs. Tombstone vs. Gravestone

Having a checklist for what to do when someone dies is important to stay organized. There can be a plethora of challenges that appear and it’s easy to miss a variety of things, so having a plan is always particularly important. With that in mind, you also want to choose the right headstone, gravestone or tombstone. While these might seem like they have the same meaning, that’s not the case. Each item is different, and you must learn what they are all about before picking one option.


The word gravestone has its origins in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was actually used a lot during those times. You would have a large stone slab on top of the grave. During those times, you would have the gravestone engraved with various words, date of death, the name of the deceased or any other inscriptions.

However, the difference is that it was a large stone slab sitting horizontally on the grave plot. It didn’t resemble the vertical grave markers we have today. With that in mind, some people are still ok with using a gravestone. That’s why you can see some, but they aren’t used in common burial places since they need a specific standard. And yes, having large stone slabs like that isn’t allowed everywhere, which is something to remember.

Why did people use gravestones in ancient times and up to medieval times? Cemeteries did not exist until recent times. So, it was hard for anyone to know exactly where someone was buried. Using a gravestone was actually common, especially since you would have inscriptions. Nowadays, you still have gravestones, but they are much more different. They are grave markers and stick to modern times and guidelines. This is why a gravestone is such an interesting item: it adds to the style and experience while bringing in something new.


Tombstone came from Greek and was imported to the English language around 1560. However, tombstone comes from tymbos which means burial mound. Tymbos eventually evolved into tomb, and stia meant pebble; now it’s stone. During that era, most coffins were stone. So basically, tombstone described the lid of a stone coffin, which was unique and interesting.

A tombstone these days is a large block made from stone but other similar materials too. Here you usually have the name and birth/death dates of a person that passed away. Some tombstones also have a message to or from the person who passed away. Unlike horizontal gravestones, these are vertical, and that’s exactly the type of thing that makes them different.

Another important aspect to consider is that a tombstone is smaller than a gravestone. These are more ornate when compared to a gravestone. Sure, some people still use a gravestone, but others just use a tombstone because it looks better, is smaller, and has a much better appeal. It’s still a matter of preference, but in the end, you are still bound to find it exciting and fun. That’s why you must at least see which delivers the desired result. A tombstone’s quality might also differ, depending on the material and how the carving was made.


The term headstone has been used starting in the 1400s. At first, it was used for cornerstones, ceremonial stones found at the corner of a building combining 2 exterior walls. The stone itself has the start and end dates of the construction. Mostly, a headstone is mostly focused on the construction world, but over the years, it transitioned to have other meanings too.

It’s very important to note that a headstone can have a lot of information, ranging from birth and death dates to other relevant information regarding the person at hand. It’s going to vary from person to person, and that’s exactly what you need to think about when you want to choose one. The meanings and various things vary immensely, and it’s the type of thing that will make a difference when you choose one.

When should you use each term?

As you can see, the tombstone, gravestone and headstone have a similar meaning. But they all have their various times when you can use them properly. Initially, headstone was a synonym for cornerstones, but nowadays, it’s used to show an upright stone that can be found at the head of the burial plot. It has etched, engraved or embossed info on the stone material, even images and quotes.

The tombstone is a stone lid, or an upright stone found at the head of the grave. It had when the deceased was born and when they died; they also have an epitaph related to the deceased too. Gravestones were large stones you would use to cover a burial plot. The stone was engraved with birth and death dates, names and an epitaph. You could also have various decorations on it.


There’s no denying that a headstone, gravestone or tombstone can add a distinctive vibe, and that’s why you want to find the ideal one. There are many options to remember, each with its fair share of unique ideas and features. That’s why you want to figure out what headstone is ideal and use it properly. You will be amazed by the uniqueness of the style and quality brought by the entire process. That’s why you assess each of these and see what suits the person’s style that passed away and choose that option!

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