Headstone, Gravestone & Tombstone Differences

Everything in this world comes to an end, even life itself. When one passes on, people can decide to bury or cremate their deceased loved one. When one is buried, there is a likelihood that a tombstone, headstone, or gravestone may be used.

You may have heard the term headstones in Ireland and maybe wonder what they mean. They not only mark one’s departure but also show where they are buried. Tombstones, headstones, and gravestones are common terms when referring to monuments at a person’s grave. However, all these terms have differences. Let’s expound on these definitions.

What is a tombstone?

A tombstone was a huge stone that is placed where someone is buried back in the day. Typically, the stone would contain the person’s name, date of birth, date of death, and a message from the bereaved family.

It served as a reminder or mark of where the deceased is buried so that it became easy to commemorate them even later in life. It was relevant when coffins were made of stone, hence the term ‘tombstone.’

What is a headstone?

Initially used in the 1400s, it similarly works like the cornerstone. This is a ceremonial stone that is placed at the edge of a building to conjoin two walls. In most cases, it contains details that begin with the start of a building, the end of the construction, the architect, and the building owner.

Additionally, it may also contain other details about the building and symbolically shows that all the stones and materials used are right. However, as time advanced, the term headstone was now used as a grave marker to show where someone is buried. It portrays memorial quotes, a picture of the deceased, dates of birth, and death. Headstones commemorate where someone is buried.

What is a gravestone?

Gravestones refer to large slabs of stone that cover a grave. Depending on the bereaved interests and the deceased preferences, the gravestone may also contain gravestone symbols, name of the deceased, date of birth and death, as well as an epitaph.


The meaning of a word can change as time advances. While all these terms mean almost the same thing, each of them has an identifying factor. Headstones in Ireland are a common term and refer to the upright stone at the grave's head. They are a memorial structure and commemorate the deceased’s life.

Graveyards in Ireland To Visit