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Home/Mor Furniture Blog/Buying Guides/Sofa vs Couch: What is the Difference?

After a long, hard day at work, we’re all happy to get home, change into our causal clothes, and hang out on the couch. Or is it a sofa? This debate between sofa vs. couch may be on a par with the one over whether to call a fizzy beverage soda or pop.

Whether someone says sofa or couch, we know they are referring to a place to sit and get comfortable. We tend to use the terms interchangeably. So, is there really that much of a difference between the two?

On the surface, they may seem the same, regardless of what you call them, but in actuality, they are not. Even though designers use “sofa” most of the time, there are a few subtle differences. When you know these differences, it may not change what you call them, but it will be a great addition to your arsenal of fun facts.

Let’s take a closer look at the subtle differences between couches and sofas.

Couches Are for Napping

The word “couch” has a more casual sense about it than the word "sofa," probably because of the origin of the term. It comes from the word “coucher,” French for the term “to lie down.” The popularity of couches rose in the Victorian era, maybe because fainting couches became all the rage. They were typically used by women and found in a special room called a fainting room. Women would retire to these rooms to lie down when they felt faint or unwell.

These couches usually had a tapered back, no armrests, or maybe just one, more like what we consider a chaise today. They were generally more casual in form and function than a sofa. Our modern big, fluffy couches are rarely without arms and are more likely to be something you curl up on, take a nap on, and let the dog sit on.

It is also more likely to be smaller than a sofa, comfortably seating 2-3 people. Despite its name, the Fountain Gray Power Reclining Sofa with plush pillows is perfect for a casual family room or den. You can just imagine napping in its depths with your dog curled up at your side.

These features make couches, at least in theory, more informal and casual pieces. And while these two pieces serve the same function, people tend to use the word couch when they are talking about a casual, un-stuffy room.

What’s in a Name, Anyway?

The word sofa always seems more formal and slightly exotic. Perhaps that’s because it comes from the Arabic word “suffah,” a wooden bench covered in blankets or cushions. Not conducive to napping or curling up at all. However, most design professionals say they rarely hear people use the word “couch.” The standard industry term seems to be “sofa.”

Sofas are usually bigger, comfortable seating for four people or more. This makes them perfect for entertaining. The Boba Power Reclining Leather 6-Piece Sectional in Brown, for example, provides plenty of seating for movie nights and get-togethers. And unlike its Arabic namesake, it looks like a perfect place for curling up to read or for stretching out and napping.

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