Sofa Vs Couch - What's The Difference?

The words 'Sofa' and 'Couch' are often used interchangeably, but you might be wondering if there are actually any differences between the two.

In this article, we're going to be examining the similarities and differences between sofa vs couch to settle the debate and end the confusion. Read on to find out how these two comfortable seating solutions compare.

Relaxing on the Couch

Sofa vs couch, aren't they the same thing?

Most people are comfortable using either word to describe the comfortable seating area you retreat to at the end of a long day.

But although many people will happily flip between using both words, you might be surprised to know that there is a difference between the two.

The fundamental difference between a sofa and a couch comes from their historical roots, so let's dive a little deeper into the words' Sofa' and 'Couch' and what they mean.

What is a Sofa?

The word 'sofa' has Persian roots and comes from the Arabic word 'suffah,' which means 'ledge, or 'bench.'

The term 'sofa' is slightly more formal than the word 'couch' and is widely used in The United Kingdom, Ireland, and India to describe an upholstered piece of living room furniture that seats two, three, or more people. A sofa usually has a long bench, two arms, and a back to lean against.

Blue Sofa

As you can see in this example, a sofa is an upholstered piece of living room furniture that seats two or more people. Although you can technically lie down on a sofa, sofas are usually used for sitting on.

What is a Couch?

The term 'couch' originally came from the Old French noun 'couche', which means "to lie down". Because of this, the term 'couch' was primarily used to describe a piece of furniture designed for reclining, lying, or sleeping on.

For example, the couch you recline in a psychiatrist's office will generally have a reclined back that you can lean against, and either just one arm or no arms at all, like a chaise lounge.

The confusion arises because the word couch is often used in Australia, North America, and South Africa to describe a sofa.

People will often use the word couch when describing comfortable, informal seating in a casual setting, somewhere you might watch movies and binge on popcorn and wine. The word 'couch' itself also sounds more informal, reminding us of the word 'slouch.' Somewhere you can truly relax. Because you can recline on a couch. Or even sleep if you want to!

The word sofa, on the other hand, might be used to refer to a more structured designer piece that you would sit on to spend time with friends and family, socialize, and relax.

Comfortable Chaise Lounge

This example shows what a couch would have been thought of in a historical sense. A comfortable piece of upholstered seating furniture that can be used to lay down or recline on.

Sofa vs Couch vs Settee?

You might have also heard this word being used to describe a sofa, but there are a couple of key differences here too.

The word 'settee' is derived from the Old English word 'setl' (like settle), which was used to describe a long bench with a high back and arms. In days gone by, this bench could have been made from wood or upholstered to make it more comfortable. These days this word is generally used in England to describe more formal upholstered seating.

A settee is essentially a more formal (and usually slightly smaller) type of sofa. It isn't usually designed for reclining on and is more intended for sitting on for short periods of time to provide seating for guests in your home and for social purposes.

Blue Settee

Who Says Sofa vs Couch?

Although the words sofa and couch are often both used to describe the same thing, the way these words are used varies depending on where in the world you live. If you live in North America, you are much more likely to hear the word couch being used, whereas in some other countries, like England, you would mostly hear the word 'sofa' being used.

Which Word Should You Use - Sofa or Couch?

If you want to get technical, there is a right answer here.

When you're describing the piece of furniture in your living room that you sit on to relax, chat, or watch TV, you should really be using the word sofa.

In fact, most experts will also agree that this is the correct term for this piece of furniture. You will also find that on most e-commerce websites selling furniture, the word sofa is used, rather than the word couch.

That being said, no one is going to judge you for using the term 'couch' in its place, which many people do.

The truth is, though, that these days, both of these terms are interchangeable and subjective depending on the environment they are being used in. So really, you can use either term to describe the same thing. (But officially, the correct term is Sofa).

Gray Sofa