The word burgstall is of medieval origin and comes from Burg = "castle" and Stelle = "place" or "site" and originally just meant a castle, a castle hill or, later, a small castle. Today it refers to the purported site of a castle that has yet to be confirmed or to a place where a castle once stood, but whose walls have completely or largely been levelled.
Many castles that survive today only as burgställe were slighted in the Middle Ages or left to decay naturally after being attacked and destroyed. But many were also deliberately abandoned as a result, for example, of the roof tax in Austria. Local names often still refer to the fortifications that once stood on these sites and many of them still have visible piles of rubble or recognisable, albeit levelled, courtyards, because they usually occupy relatively inaccessible sites. However many were also used as a "quarry" for nearby buildings and have entirely disappeared. In some instances only the earthworks remain visible above the ground - features such as ditches and ramparts. The result is that burgställe are often only recognisable as uneven terrain and some are only visible in aerial photographs. Today most are protected as heritage monuments.
Usage of burgstall in comparison with a ruin or castle:
A large number of castles have not survived in their original form but have simply been incorporated into a later structure, such as an early modern fortress or later modern schloss, where they form elements such as individual wings (often parts of the inner bailey), buildings or part of the fortifications or are simply used for the foundations of newer buildings or creation of garden terraces.
There are numerous villages in Germany and Austria with the name Burgstall, presumably named after a castle site of this nature. Examples include: