A couch or sofa is a piece of furniture for seating two or more people in the form of a bench, with or without armrests, that is partially or entirely upholstered, and often fitted with springs and tailored cushions. Although a couch is used primarily for seating, it may be used for reclining and napping.
The term couch is used in North America and Australia, whilst the term sofa is generally used in the United Kingdom. The word originated in Middle English from the Old French noun couche, which derived from the verb meaning "to lie down". It originally denoted an item of furniture for lying or sleeping on, somewhat like a chaise longue, but now refers to sofas in general.
Other terms which can be synonymous with the above definition are settee, chesterfield, divan, davenport, lounge, and canapé. The word sofa is from Turkish derived from the Arabic word suffa for "wool", originating in the Aramaic word sippa for "mat". The word settee 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.
The most common types of couches are the loveseat, designed for seating two persons, and the sofa, with two or more 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 that join at an angle of 90 degrees or slightly greater, 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.
In the United Kingdom, the term "three-piece suite" is often used to describe a furniture set consisting of a sofa with two matching chairs. Other less specific terms for sets with at least one sofa include "chesterfield suite" and "living room suite." Also in the UK, the word chesterfield meant any couch in the 1900s, but now describes a deep buttoned sofa, usually made from leather, with arms and back of the same height. The first leather chesterfield sofa, 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 is widespread among older Canadians, but the term is quickly vanishing according to one survey done in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario in 1992. Northern California is the only place besides Canada where chesterfield is a synonym for couch or sofa.
A couch consists of the frame, the padding and the covering. The frame is usually made of wood but can also be made of steel, plastic or laminated boards. The wood used under the upholstery is made from kiln-dried maple wood that is free of knots, bark or defects. The show wood of the legs, arms and back can be maple, mahogany, walnut or fruitwoods. Sofa padding is made from foam or fabric. Sofa coverings are usually made out of soft leather, corduroy or linen fabric coverings.
- Bean bag
- Couch potato
- Couch surfing
- List of chairs
- Ottoman (furniture)
- Settle (furniture), wooden furniture with similar usage
- Window seat
- "Couch". Dictionary.com (American Heritage Dictionary). Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Couch". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- "Couch". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- AMHER, couch: Middle English from Old French culche, couche > couchier, coucher
- AMHER, sofa: Turkish, from Arabic suffa, from Aramaic sippa, sippəta
- "Chesterfield Sofas". LE-AL Furniture Ltd. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- "Interview with Immodesty Blaize". YouTube. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
- "Three-piece-suite". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- "Chesterfield suite". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- "Living room suite". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- "Chesterfield Sofa". The Traditional English Chesterfield Company. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
- "Chesterfield". Canadaspacedictionary. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- 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 chass.utoronto.ca
- Fadiman, Clifton. Any Number Can Play. 1957.
- John Gloag, A Short Dictionary of Furniture rev. ed. 1962. (London: Allen & Unwin)
- Campbell, Gordon (2006). "sofa". The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts. Volume 2. Oxford University Press. p. 369. ISBN 9780195189483.