‘Sofa’ or ‘Couch’?

The difference between "sofa" and "couch" is less firm than it used to be. Really, it mostly depends on where you live and when you were born. 

Mignon Fogarty,

picture of a sofa to illustrate couch, davenport, chesterfield, and settee

What you call a long, upholstered piece of living room furniture depends on where you live and when you were born.


For example, “couch” and “sofa” are currently the most popular names, but my parents called it a davenport because that name was once common in the upper Midwest, which is where my parents grew up. The name came from the A.H. Davenport Company, a manufacturer of this type of furniture in the mid-1800s and into the early 1900s, including pieces that furnished the White House. From a Google Ngram search in books, it looks as if “davenport” peaked in the United States in the mid-1940s after which its use dropped dramatically and then has been stable at a lower rate since around 1970.

trend of davenport use for couch over time

Usage of ‘Couch’ and ‘Sofa’

In 2009, I posted a nonscientific online poll asking what you call a long, upholstered piece of furniture, and nearly 4,500 people replied. "Couch" was the clear winner with 71% of the responses, “sofa” was next with 27% of the responses, and all the others had fractions of a percent:

  • Couch 71.1%
  • Sofa 26.6%
  • Chesterfield 0.8%
  • Settee 0.8%
  • Davenport 0.6%
  • Divan 0.3%

Some people told me that “lounge" (which I neglected to include in the poll) is a dominant term in Australia. 


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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