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The Sofa Vs. Couch Question | What’s The Difference & Why?

The Sofa Vs. Couch Question

We know, they’re often used interchangeably but is the idea of a sofa really the same as that of a couch, or is there a difference?

And does it matter?

Let’s take a look at the roots of the words couch and sofa in interior design.

Is there a discernable difference between them?

Is it something you need to know prior to decorating your home?

What’s The Difference Between A Soft And A Couch?

Firstly, we should note that the word sofa and the word couch are readily interchangeable in most conversations. However, if we stick to standard interior design principles then there are supposed to be subtle differences between them.

Some people will insist that you should know the truth of these matters before you decorate your man cave or living rooms but we’re pretty much positive that it won’t matter much and even the most prim and proper interior designers are not to object to a casual term and replace it wit the correct term.

Couch Is A French Word?

In theory, however, they are slightly different beasts.

Couch comes from the French word “coucher” and that meant “to lie down”. Thus, while the original sofas tend to be not much more than a wooden bench, the creative direction of couches was to provide a long upholstered seat that was comfortable to lie on.

And that means, back in the early days of furniture, few people would think of a sofa and a couch as the same thing, when you said “couch” people would expect a furniture piece that was laid back with either no arms or just a single arm.

Some would say that therefore when we say “couch” we’re talking about the most casual of arrangements on which a dog might sleep or which you veg out in front of the TV on.

However, arms today are a common feature of a couch or sofa and even designers of great furniture won’t expect a couch to be “armless”.

Sofa, however, appears to be from an Arabic word, “suffah”, and it is commonly used to mean “an upholstered bench, with a pair of arms, and room for more than one person to sit down on” (of course, a single person’s seating space is a “chair”).

So, while some would argue that a sofa is something more formal than a couch, the reality is that in 202X, there’s no real difference. A sofa is the same furniture as a couch.

This term “sofa” can be applied to a wide range of pieces from a loveseat to a sectional sofa. No one worries about the correct terminology when choosing sofas – when you say “couch” or “sofa” everyone knows what item of furniture you mean, even if Merriam Webster wouldn’t approve.

Is There A Difference Between Hosting And Formal Occasions?

No, it’s the same piece of furniture even when you’re dealing with more formal occasions.

Most people will know if they’re sitting on a couch or a sofa as opposed to a bed. The actual use of this item of furniture is very standard across Western cultures (in many Eastern cultures, they don’t use sofas at all – preferring to sit on the floor on a cushion or to squat above the floor in a circle).

What’s The History Of Sofas?

We’ve been sitting on items like your household sofas for a very long time, indeed.

There are references to suffahs dating back at least 2,000 years before Christ and they hail from ancient Egypt.

However, we ought to note that they would have been exclusively for very rich people and, in fact, right up until the 19th century and the industrial revolution the average household would not have been able to afford a sofa or couch.

Nowadays, however, nearly every family will own at least one and often more than one sofa. Ours are among the most essential pieces in our home and they’re covered in cushions to ensure they’re always comfortable. Couches ought to be a place everyone wants to sit down for a while.

Final Notes

Does it matter if you refer to your furniture as a sofa or a couch? No, couches or sofas, it makes no difference at all.