gravestone vs headstone


Senior Member

I am trying to figure out a difference between a headstone and a gravestone. Here is what I currently have:

headstone = a horizontal grave element containing typically full name, date of birth, date of death, eventually an epitaph

gravestone = either same as headstone or alternatively it can be also vertically positioned, probably if there is no headstone

Please assist in forming the right opinion about the difference.

context: effort to understand naming of elements of a grave in a cemetery

Thank you.
  • I think that headstone and gravestone are pretty much synonymous in the US these days.

    Both words are used for stones that stand upright and are positioned at the head of the grave (I'm paraphrasing Andygc). Usually the longer axis is vertical (that is, they are taller than they are wide), but that's not always the case, especially for stones dating to the early 20th century and later.

    I always use headstone when I am distinguishing it from footstone. Footstones are smaller stones. When they're used (they're uncommon, I think, in the US), they are laid approximately above the foot of the grave. I also use headstone or just stone when I've used gravestone a lot in preceding sentences and don't want to repeat myself too much.
    I think many people would refer to grave markers as headstones and gravestones as well as they are more or less headstones that are flat on the ground.
    I'm sure that's true. I doubt that Americans distinguish between gravestone, headstone, and grave marker in ordinary speech.