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The large upholstered furniture in your living room, on which several people can sit at the same time and which is probably modeled on the television: is it a couch or a sofa? That might sound like one of those regional language questions (like “Soda” vs. “Pop” vs. “Cola”), but in this case a couch and a sofa are actually two different pieces of furniture. Here’s what you need to know about what makes the two types of seating different.
The difference between a couch and a sofa
Although we can now use the terms interchangeably, sofas and couches were not originally the same type of furniture. Here is Meghan Overdeep from Southern Living with a short history lesson:
Historically, the couch and sofa are two different things. The term “couch” is believed to come from the French word “couch”, which is used to describe “a piece of furniture with no arms to lie on”. Merriam-Webster, on the other hand, defines a “sofa” as “a long, upholstered seat, usually with armrests and a backrest that can often be converted into a bed”.
In the old days, the difference between a couch and a sofa seems to have something to do with the arms – or the lack of them. Which means, technically speaking, “sofa” is the correct term.
But today, most people outside of the furniture and design professions make no distinction between the two items.
What you should consider when buying furniture
Although traveling to a furniture store or department store is no longer the only way to purchase couches and couches, some people prefer to try one before buying – even if they made their first purchase online. And it may seem like the options are endless when it comes to couches / couches, but once you have a particular size, style, or price range in mind, you may find that your choices are more limited than you are thought.
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So if you’re looking for a couch that suits your needs and you’re falling short, try the term “sofa” instead. At this point, even furniture makers are using the words interchangeably, so the product description may not match the distinction between historical weapons and no weapons (although this can be especially handy when buying vintage furniture).
But if you’re lucky enough to work with a professional interior designer or shop at an upscale furniture store, there’s a better chance they’ll use the word according to its original meaning.
Another tip: If you want to buy a loveseat (a small sofa for two people) or a seating group, can be listed under the category “sofa” on furniture websites.