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English has several words for burial places, many of which have specific, distinct meanings:

  • grave
  • tomb
  • vault
  • crypt
  • mausoleum
  • sepulcher

As far as I know, Spanish has at least two words for "grave":

  • tumba
  • sepultura

What types of burial places can each word refer to? Are both generic enough to cover any burial of a body or ashes in a plot in the ground, an underground crypt, an above-ground structure, etc.? Or are they more specific?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Some of the words you mentioned have cognates in Spanish:

  • tumba: place where a cadaver is buried.
  • cripta: subterranean place used to bury the dead.
  • mausoleo: a magnificent and sumptuous sepulchre.
  • sepulcro: stone construction built off the ground as a resting place for one or more cadavers.

You already mentioned sepultura as a translation of grave: place where a cadaver is buried.

Vault could be translated as bóveda: a place where a cadaver is buried or a hole made on the ground to bury a cadaver.

There is also panteón which is a cognate of pantheon. However, from my understanding this word has a more general meaning in Mexico and perhaps in Central America. In Colombia it is understood as a funeral monument to bury several bodies.

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Thanks. Which of those terms would apply to a standard burial plot in the ground (no structure involved)? – jrdioko Dec 17 '11 at 6:53
Yes in at least the places I spent the most time in Mexico, panteón is the usual word for "cemetery". – hippietrail Dec 17 '11 at 7:59
@jrdioko, fosa. – Peter Taylor Dec 17 '11 at 8:40
Perhaps you could also add to the list the formal cenotafio (equivalent to cenotaph). – Gonzalo Medina Dec 17 '11 at 17:09
You could add "nicho" to the list, or is just used in Spain? – Laura Dec 18 '11 at 12:03

I would say that "tumba" is a bit more general, a "tumba" is a place where a cadaver lies (a tomb in english). "Sepultura" implies a bit more the idea than the cadaver was put there with any sort of ceremony, or at least someone explicitly put the body there. There is the verb "sepultar" that I would translate as the action of covering something with soil or another substance. I think the right translation of "sepultura" in english is "sepulcher".

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