For most people, there’s absolutely no difference between a sofa and a couch. In many cases, these words are used interchangeably to describe the same thing. But while no one will have any problem understanding what you mean whether you talk about a sofa or a couch, it’s worth noting that there are actually a few differences between the two.
What is a sofa?
The best place to start looking for differences between sofas and couches is by looking at the origin of the words themselves. The word ‘sofa’ originally comes from the Arabic word suffah. Suffah describes a sturdy bench, made of wood or stone, usually covered with cushions and fabrics. Later it morphed in ‘sofa’ used in the Turkish language to name a raised floor section with the same purpose. Modern sofas can be recognized by their structure – characterised by the presence of armrests, and their size – typically sofas tend to be smaller than couches.
What is a couch?
The word “couch”, on the other hand, came into the English language from French. It originates from the French verb “coucher” meaning “to lie down”, and it’s a clear suggestion of what the original purpose of a couch was. And in a way, this difference can be seen up until this very day – when we use the word “sofa” we usually mean a piece of comfortable furniture that you can not only sit down on, but also recline or even lie down. This is also the reason why this type of furniture is very popular among homeowners and in less formal settings.
What does it mean for you as a customer?
In short, it doesn’t change a lot for you. Originally, these two nouns used to describe two completely different things, but such differences faded over time. Even though you can spot the differences between various products while going through the items offered at the furniture stores, you’ll just as easily notice that in many cases the characteristics of the two are so mixed up that it’s impossible to classify a certain piece of furniture strictly as a sofa or as a couch. For example, originally, couches, unlike sofas, could double as a bed, since they gave you a chance to lie down comfortably, nowadays, however, you can find a comfortable modular sofa bed that offers the exact same thing.
Of course, there are people who insist on only using such words in accordance with their proper definition, but for the most part – it’s entirely up to you. Even most experts in the industry often don’t differentiate between the two – in many cases the choice between naming their product as a sofa or a couch is made solely based on the promotional value and the popularity each of the options holds among the customers. For example, the word “sofa” seems to be more commonly used in the United Kingdom, while couches can be more often found in North America.
In summary, currently, it’s difficult to know what type of product you’re getting judging solely by its name. You can use both names depending on your preference, and the same is done by designers, interior design experts, and furniture stores. That’s why you should always check the details of each offer to make sure the product you’re paying for is the one you’re hoping for – it’s especially important when shopping online. While the name can differ, the details always have to meet your requirements.