Definition of coffin in US English:



  • 1A long, narrow box, typically of wood, in which a corpse is buried or cremated.

    ‘they lowered her coffin into the ground’
    • ‘All 34 bodies were placed in coffins and loaded onto military trucks for burial 100 meters from the airport runway.’
    • ‘Today, people tend to be buried in newly-made coffins.’
    • ‘In the distance, a funeral party lowered a coffin into the ground.’
    • ‘You may still find dead people being buried without coffins, simply because relatives cannot afford to buy one.’
    • ‘The dead person is buried in a coffin about two feet below ground level.’
    • ‘A procession of tiny white coffins bearing the bodies of three young brothers who died when a fire engulfed their home brought tears to those present.’
    • ‘The big steel gates opened again and a three wheeled motorcycle drove in pulling a low trailer upon which were perched two plain wood coffins.’
    • ‘Rescuers used ropes to pull out the bodies, which were later washed, wrapped in plastic sheets and buried in wooden coffins.’
    • ‘The body is buried without a coffin in a grave deep enough to conceal odor and prevent abuse by animals.’
    • ‘The minister, many scandals later - including one about over-priced coffins for dead soldiers - is still there.’
    • ‘Around him, wailing women collapsed over the coffins of the dead.’
    • ‘Dead persons are buried in coffins on the grounds of a church or are cremated and have their ashes buried in the graveyard.’
    • ‘The boy was buried in the same coffin as his mother.’
    • ‘The exposed dark wood of the coffins had degraded but they were basically undamaged.’
    • ‘Sofia took the bodies of her daughters, placed them in a coffin and buried them outside of town.’
    • ‘Heavy slabs had been laid atop the ground over their coffins to discourage body snatchers.’
    • ‘It was as if the body in the wooden coffin that was being lowered into the ground was not Scott's but someone else.’
    • ‘Some of the dead were buried in log coffins set in pits in the ground, others were placed on the ground surface and covered in logs or wooden frames.’
    • ‘More traditional-minded people in China sometimes like to rest their dead in coffins, but the bodies are subsequently cremated without the coffins.’
    • ‘The first of the funerals is expected to take place today and the city's main cathedral will be given over to the coffins of the dead over the weekend.’
    box, sarcophagus
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1informal An old and unsafe aircraft or vessel.
      • ‘Protestors call the country's airplanes flying coffins.’
      • ‘The increased use of aeroplanes in warfare led to such terms as Beauey, biscuit bomber, and flying coffin.’
      • ‘This has been custom for as long as anyone who has ever lived upon this coffin of a ship can remember.’


[with object]
  • Put (a dead body) in a coffin.

    ‘the young man was coffined decently’
    • ‘While the embalmed heart was returned to the chest of the deceased, the other organs were separately packaged, coffined, and stored.’


Middle English (in the general sense ‘box, casket’): from Old French cofin ‘little basket or case’, from Latin cophinus (see coffer).