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A three-cushion couch in an office lobby 2009-05-16 Main office lobby at Hampton Forest Apartments.jpg
A three-cushion couch in an office lobby

A couch, also known as a sofa, settee, futon, or chesterfield (see Etymology below), is a piece of furniture for seating two or three people. It is commonly found in the form of a bench, with upholstered armrests, and often fitted with springs and tailored cushions. [1] [2] Although a couch is used primarily for seating, it may be used for sleeping. [3] In homes, couches are normally put in the family room, living room, den or lounge. They are sometimes also found in non-residential settings such as hotels, lobbies of commercial offices, waiting rooms, and bars. Couches can also vary in size, color, and design.



The term couch originally denoted an item of furniture for lying or sleeping on. [4] [5] Couch is predominantly used in North America, South Africa, and Ireland, whereas the terms sofa and settee (U and non-U) are most commonly used in the United Kingdom and India. [6] The word couch originated in Middle English from the Old French noun couche, which derived from the verb meaning "to lie down". [7] The word sofa comes from Persian and is derived from the Arabic word suffah ("ledge/bench"), cognates with the Aramaic word sippa ("mat"). [8] Joseph Pubillones in A Little Shimmer Goes a Long Way specifies that the main difference between the couch and the sofa is that "couches can be used for reclining or laying upon" so a couch would "best be used to describe an upholstered piece in a family room", while the term sofa "used predominantly in England and Ireland denotes a tone of formality, hence a sofa is more appropriate word for the upholstered piece in the living room". [9]

The word settee or setee comes from the Old English word setl, which was used to describe long benches with high backs and arms, but is now generally used to describe upholstered seating. [10]

Other terms which can be synonymous with the above definition are chesterfield (Canada), divan , davenport , lounge, and canapé . [2]


Loriot's sofa at the Deutsche Kinemathek museum, 2012 Loriots Sofa.JPG
Loriot's sofa at the Deutsche Kinemathek museum, 2012

The most common types of couches include the two-seater, sometimes referred to as a loveseat, and the sofa. The loveseat is designed for seating two people, while the sofa has more than two cushion seats. A sectional sofa, often just referred to as a "sectional", is formed from multiple sections (typically two, three, and four) and usually includes at least two pieces which join at an angle of 90 degrees or slightly greater. Sectional sofas are used to wrap around walls or other furniture.

Other variants include the divan, the fainting couch (backless or partial-backed) and the canapé (an ornamental three-seater). To conserve space, some sofas double as beds in the form of sofa beds, daybeds, or futons.

A Kubus sofa by Josef Hoffmann (1910) Kubus sofa.jpg
A Kubus sofa by Josef Hoffmann (1910)

A furniture set consisting of a sofa with two matching chairs [11] is known as a "chesterfield suite" [12] or "living-room suite". [13] In the UK, the word chesterfield was used to refer to any couch in the 1900s. A chesterfield now describes a deep buttoned sofa, usually made from leather, with arms and back of the same height. The first chesterfield, with its distinctive deep buttoned, quilted leather upholstery and lower seat base, was commissioned by Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773).

In Canadian English, chesterfield as equivalent to a couch or sofa [14] is widespread among older Canadians. According to a 1992 survey conducted in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario, the term is quickly vanishing. [15]


A couch consists of the frame, padding and covering. The frame is usually made of wood, but can also be made of steel, plastic or laminated boards. Sofa padding is made from foam, down, feathers, fabric or a combination thereof. Sofa coverings are usually made out of soft leather, corduroy or linen.

See also


  1. "Couch". (American Heritage Dictionary). Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  2. 1 2 "Couch". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  3. "Couch". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  4. Harrison, Molly (1971). People and furniture: a social background to the English home . Ernest Benn. p.  55. ISBN   978-0-8747-10373.
  5. Lennox, Doug (2007). "Home, Hearth, and Family". Now You Know Big Book of Answers. Dundurn. ISBN   978-1-55002-741-9 . Retrieved June 20, 2018 via Google Books.
  6. "couch noun" . Oxford Collocations Dictionary. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  7. AMHER, couch: Middle English from Old French culche, couche > couchier, coucher.
  8. AMHER, sofa: Turkish, from Arabic suffah, from Aramaic sippa, sippəta.
  9. Pubillones, Joseph (2016). "Sofa, Couch or Divan?". A Little Shimmer Goes a Long Way. p. 30. ISBN   978-1-9456-30330 . Retrieved June 20, 2018 via Google Books.
  10. "Definition of settee |". Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  11. "Three-piece-suite". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  12. "Chesterfield suite". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  13. "Living room suite". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  14. "Chesterfield". Canadaspacedictionary. Archived from the original on 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  15. Chambers, J. K. "The Canada-U.S. border as a vanishing isogloss: the evidence of chesterfield". Journal of English Linguistics; 23 (1995): 156–66, excerpt at

General references

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Furniture Movable objects intended to support various human activities

Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating, eating (tables), and sleeping. Furniture is also used to hold objects at a convenient height for work, or to store things. Furniture can be a product of design and is considered a form of decorative art. In addition to furniture's functional role, it can serve a symbolic or religious purpose. It can be made from many materials, including metal, plastic, and wood. Furniture can be made using a variety of woodworking joints which often reflect the local culture.

Chesterfield may refer to:


A cushion is a soft bag of some ornamental material, usually stuffed with wool, hair, feathers, polyester staple fiber, non-woven material, or even paper torn into fragments. It may be used for sitting or kneeling upon, or to soften the hardness or angularity of a chair or couch. Decorative cushions often have a patterned cover material, and are used as decoration for furniture.

Chair Piece of furniture for sitting on

One of the basic pieces of furniture, a chair is a type of seat. Its primary features are two pieces of a durable material, attached as back and seat to one another at a 90° or slightly greater angle, with usually the four corners of the horizontal seat attached in turn to four legs—or other parts of the seat's underside attached to three legs or to a shaft about which a four-arm turnstile on rollers can turn—strong enough to support the weight of a person who sits on the seat and leans against the vertical back. The legs are typically high enough for the seated person's thighs and knees to form a 90° or lesser angle. Used in a number of rooms in homes, in schools and offices, and in various other workplaces, chairs may be made of wood, metal, or synthetic materials, and either the seat alone or the entire chair may be padded or upholstered in various colors and fabrics.

The original Knole Settee is a couch chair that was made in the 17th century, probably around 1640. It is housed at Knole in Kent, a house owned by the Sackville-West family since 1605 but now in the care of the National Trust.

Upholstery Covering of furniture with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather

Upholstery is the work of providing furniture, especially seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers. The word also refers to the materials used to upholster something.


A slipcover is a fitted protective cover that may be slipped off and on a piece of upholstered furniture. Slipcovers are usually made of cloth. Slipcovers slip on and off, they come fresh, and may be removed for seasonal change, cleaning, moving, or storage.

Ottoman (furniture) Type of furniture

An ottoman is a piece of furniture. Generally ottomans have neither backs nor arms. They may be an upholstered low couch or a smaller cushioned seat used as a table, stool or footstool, the seat may have hinges and form a lid whereby the inside hollow used for storage of linen, magazines or other items. The smaller version is usually placed near to an armchair or sofa as part of living room decor or may be used as a fireside seat.

Chaise longue upholstered chair

A chaise longue is an upholstered sofa in the shape of a chair that is long enough to support the legs.

Davenport (sofa)

Davenport was the name of a series of sofas made by the Massachusetts furniture manufacturer A. H. Davenport and Company, now defunct. Due to the popularity of the furniture at the time, the name davenport became a genericized trademark in parts of the United States.

Upholstery coil springs are an important part of most modern upholstery. The consumer usually never sees the construction features of an upholstered piece. The overall quality of the materials and construction dictate the comfort level of an upholstered piece and its ability to satisfy the consumer over the long term. A basic upholstered piece may be composed of a frame, springs, foam, cushioning, padding, and textiles.

Yellow Oval Room Room in the White House in Washington, D.C., United States

The Yellow Oval Room is an oval room located on the south side of the second floor in the White House, the official residence of the President of the United States. First used as a drawing room in the John Adams administration, it has been used as a library, office, and family parlor. Today the Yellow Oval Room is used for small receptions and for greeting heads of state immediately before a State Dinner.

Recliner Type of chair

A recliner is an armchair or sofa that reclines when the occupant lowers the chair's back and raises its front. It has a backrest that can be tilted back, and often a footrest that may be extended by means of a lever on the side of the chair, or may extend automatically when the back is reclined.

Divan (furniture)

A divan is a piece of couch-like sitting furniture or, in some countries, a box-spring based bed.

Canapé (furniture)

A canapé is a piece of furniture similar to a couch. The word is typically meant to describe an elegant couch made out of elaborately carved wood with wooden legs, an upholstered back, armrests, and single long seat that typically seats three, that emerged from France in the 18th century.

Italian Rococo interior design refers to interior decoration in Italy during the Rococo period, which went from the early 18th century to around the 1760s.

Poltrona Frau

Poltrona Frau is a furniture-maker founded in 1912 by Sardinian-born Renzo Frau in Turin, Italy, headquartered since the early 1960s in Tolentino, Italy and specializing in leather seating for interior and automotive applications. The company name combines "Poltrona", the Italian word for armchair, and "Frau," the last name of its founder.

A indiscret ) is a type of sofa, originally characterized by a triangular seat at each end, so that people could sit at either end of the sofa and be close to the person(s) sitting in the middle. The ends were sometimes detachable, and could be removed and used on their own as Burjair chairs. The name Confidante was coined by cabinetmaker George Hepplewhite, who described it in his Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide as being "of French origin, and is in pretty general request for large and spacious suits of apartments. An elegant drawing-room, with modern furniture, is scarce complete without a Confidante, […]".