Do you say couch, or sofa?
There’s no real difference, right? Pah-tay-toe, pah-tah-toe?
According to interior designers at Southern Living magazine there is a marked difference between the two terms.
Have a seat. Get comfortable. We’ll give you a quick explanation.
From a historical standpoint the word “couch” is believed to be derived from the French word “couche,” which describes “a piece of furniture with no arms that’s used for lying,” according to Southern Living. Conversely, Webster’s dictionary defines a “sofa” as “a long, upholstered seat usually with arms and a back, and often convertible into a bed.”
So it appears that in the days of old the difference between a couch and a sofa was determined by whether or not the piece of furniture was fashioned with arms. Which means, technically speaking, “sofa” is the correct term to use.
Some people see use of either word as a matter of being casual, or more formal. You might lounge on a couch, but you might offer a guest a seat on the sofa for coffee or tea. Could it be that a sofa is simply a more elevated view of a couch? In a general sense, though, whichever term you’re most accustomed to using is okay.
If you’re searching online for a couch and the results are missing the mark, consider searching “sofa” instead. These days furniture manufacturers use both terms hand-in-hand, so the description of the product may not necessarily coincide with the historical differentiation between having arms, and not. When you’re searching for a vintage piece, however, using “couch” may be especially helpful.
Professional interior designers and higher-end furniture stores may be more likely to use the two terms in accordance with their original definitions.
FYI: If you’re shopping on furniture store websites for a sectional or a loveseat, try searching the sofa category.