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A three-cushion couch in an office lobby

A couch (U.S. English, British English)[1], also known as a sofa, settee (British English), or chesterfield (Canadian English and British English) is a piece of furniture for seating three 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.[2][3] Although a couch is used primarily for seating, it may be used for sleeping.[4]

In homes, couches are normally found in the family room, living room, den, or the lounge. They are sometimes also found in non-residential settings such as hotels, lobbies of commercial offices, waiting rooms, and bars.

The term couch is predominantly used in North America, Ireland, South Africa and Australia whereas the terms sofa and settee (U and non-U) are generally used in the United Kingdom. The word couch originated in Middle English from the Old French noun couche, which derived from the verb meaning "to lie down".[5] It originally denoted an item of furniture for lying or sleeping on,[6] somewhat like a chaise longue, but now refers to sofas in general.[citation needed] The word sofa comes from Turkish and is derived from the Arabic word suffa ("wool"), originating in the Aramaic word sippa ("mat").[7] 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.

Other terms which can be synonymous with the above definition are chesterfield (Canada), divan, davenport, lounge, and canapé.[3]


Loriot's sofa

The most common types of couches are the two-seater, designed for seating two persons, and the sofa, which has 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.

A Kubus sofa

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term couch is rarely used, the terms sofa or settee being more common. A furniture set consisting of a sofa with two matching chairs.[8] is known as a "chesterfield suite"[9] or "living room suite."[10] 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.[11] 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).[11]

In Canadian English, chesterfield as equivalent to a couch or sofa[12] 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.[13]


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, down, feathers, fabric or a combination thereof. Sofa coverings are usually made out of soft leather, corduroy or linen fabric coverings. Some outdoor sofas are made from specialist reticulated foam. Due to its highly advanced open cellular structure, water freely passes through it making it highly resistant to soaking.[14] Many modern sofas are filled with fibre cushions or low density foam. This is largely due to a massive cost saving by the manufacturer in using a fibre material rather than a solid foam cushion.[15]

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 2nd edition, editors Judy Peasrall, Bill Trumble, Oxford University Press
  2. ^ "Couch". (American Heritage Dictionary). Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  3. ^ a b "Couch". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  4. ^ "Couch". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  5. ^ AMHER, couch: Middle English from Old French culche, couche > couchier, coucher
  6. ^ Lennox, Doug (2007-08-31). Now You Know Big Book of Answers. Dundurn. ISBN 9781459718272. 
  7. ^ AMHER, sofa: Turkish, from Arabic suffa, from Aramaic sippa, sippəta
  8. ^ "Three-piece-suite". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  9. ^ "Chesterfield suite". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  10. ^ "Living room suite". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  11. ^ a b "Chesterfield Sofa". The Traditional English Chesterfield Company. Archived from the original on 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  12. ^ "Chesterfield". Canadaspacedictionary. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ "Outdoor Reticulated Foam". GB Foam Direct. 2017-05-02. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  15. ^ "Sofa Cushions & Couch Cushions". GB Foam Direct. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 


  • John Gloag, A Short Dictionary of Furniture rev. ed. 1962. (London: Allen & Unwin)

Further reading[edit]

  • Campbell, Gordon (2006). "sofa". The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts. Volume 2. Oxford University Press. p. 369. ISBN 9780195189483.