Ottoman (furniture)

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An ottoman in a living room

An ottoman is a form of couch which usually has a head but no back, though sometimes it has neither. It may have square or semicircular ends, and as a rule it is what upholsterers call “stuffed over” — that is to say no wood is visible.[1]

In American English, an ottoman is a piece of furniture consisting of a padded, upholstered seat or bench, usually having neither a back nor arms, often used as a stool, footstool[2][3] or, in some cases, as a coffee table.[4] Ottomans are often sold as coordinating furniture with armchairs or gliders.[5] An ottoman can also be known as a footstool,[6] tuffet,[7] hassock,[8] pouf or pouffe.[9][10] Many ottomans are hollow and used for storage. Ottomans can be used in many rooms; they can be used in the bedroom, gaming room, family room and guest room.[11] Leather and bench ottomans are used as alternatives to sofas.[11]


The ottoman traces its roots from the Ottoman Empire, where it was the central piece of residential seating generally designed as a low wooden platform intended to be piled with cushions. The ottoman was first designed as sectional furniture that wrapped around three walls of a room, before evolving into smaller versions that fits into the corner of a room[12] or circular padded seats surrounding a column or pole in a public room.

The ottoman was eventually brought to Europe from the Ottoman Empire in the late 18th century, when it was coined after its country of origin. The earliest known instance of the use of the name is ottomane in French in 1729,[13] while the first known recorded use in English occurs in one of Thomas Jefferson's memorandum books from 1789: "P[ai]d. for an Ottomane of velours d'Utrecht."[14] Over time, European ottomans took on a circular or octagonal shape through the 19th century, with seating divided in the center by arms or by a central, padded column that might hold a plant or statue. As clubs became more popular, so did the ottoman, which began to have hinged seats underneath to hold storage.[12]


  1. ^ Wikisource:1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ottoman
  2. ^ "Ottoman". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved May 2012. 
  3. ^ "Ottoman". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved May 2012. 
  4. ^ "How to Use an Ottoman as a Coffee Table". Retrieved May 2016. 
  5. ^ "How to Match an Ottoman and Chair". Retrieved May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Footstool". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Tuffet". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Hassock". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Pouf (seat)". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Pouf". Retrieved May 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Ottomans For Decoration and Storage". Public Design Center. Retrieved May 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Ottoman". Britannica. Retrieved May 2012. 
  13. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ottoman". Encyclopædia Britannica 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 376. 
  14. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "ottoman", accessed 6 March 2013.

External links[edit]

  • Aronson, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Furniture. 
  • "Ottoman". EtymologyOnLine.