Questions We All Ask: Is There a Difference Between a Sofa and Couch?

Questions We All Ask: Is There a Difference Between a Sofa and Couch?

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Kelsey Mulvey
Jul 10, 2018
(Image credit: Liz Calka)

After a long, grueling day at work, there's nothing better than changing into your sweats, turning on the television, and relaxing on your couch. Or is it a sofa?

Chances are, you've been using sofa and couch interchangeably for years without thinking twice about whether or not they're the same.

So what gives? What's the difference between a sofa and couch? Is there a difference between a sofa and couch?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

Historically speaking, yes: A couch and sofa are very different. The former comes from the French verb "coucher," which means "to lie down." Sofa, on the other hand, stems from the Arabic word "suffah," which is essentially a wooden bench covered in blankets and cushions. Not the most comfortable choice for Netflix and chilling, if you ask us.

Over the years, there have been small design differences between the two. While Overstock calls a sofa an upholstered bench with cushions, two arms, and ample space for people to sit, a couch typically has no arms and is smaller than a sofa.

But today's designers are looking to take the nuance out of our seating and sell it like we say it: A sofa is a couch and vice versa.

"Today, the choice of 'sofa' versus 'couch is entirely subjective and a reflection of how you live with the piece," explains Nidhi Kapur, founder and CEO of Maiden Home. "'Couch' is the more casual term used for a comfort-driven piece, while 'sofa' is the more formal and might refer to a polished, design-driven piece."

Brad Sewell, founder of Campaign Living, agrees.

"I think it's less of a product difference and more of a word choice," he explains. "For example, some people say it's soda and other people say it's pop."

Whether you call it a sofa or couch, it's important to prioritize quality.

"The first question a consumer should ask is what's inside the piece," Sewell says. "Knowing the integrity of the material and structure will give you a sense of what you're getting."

As for the aesthetics, Kapur recommends buying a versatile style.

"The best investment pieces have the elegance of a sofa, but the comfort of a couch," she says. "Look for pieces with the design details you love, plus the proportions and comfort that suits your lifestyle."

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