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Primarily, in the Middle East (especially the Ottoman Empire), a divan was a long seat formed of a mattress laid against the side of the room, upon the floor or upon a raised structure or frame, with cushions to lean against.
Divans received this name because they were generally found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers of a bureau called divan or diwan (from Persian, meaning a government council or office, from the bundles of papers they processed, and next their council chambers). Divans are a common feature of the liwan, a long, vaulted, narrow room in Levantine homes. The sofa/couch sense was taken into English in 1702 (early 18th century).
The divan in this sense has been commonly known in Europe since about the middle of the 18th century. It was fashionable, roughly from 1820 to 1850, wherever the romantic movement in literature penetrated. All the boudoirs of that generation were garnished with divans. They spread to coffee-houses, which were sometimes known as divans or Turkish divans, and a cigar divan remains a familiar expression. This is preserved today in Romanian as divan, Bulgarian and Russian as диван (divan).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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