It’s All Greek (or Latin, or Celtic) to Me: The Origin of Furniture Vocabulary

M09.78a

A George II Mahogany Longcase Clock
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We use basic furniture vocabulary every day without thinking twice: chair, table, mirror… the list goes on.  But when you pause for a minute and think about the origins of these words, you have to go back several thousand years.  Today we will look at just a few of them.

A George III Mahogany Chippendale Period Specimen Side Chair Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

A George III Mahogany Chippendale Period Specimen Side Chair
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Chair

The word chair dates back to the Ancient Greek word kathédra, which breaks down to katá, meaning ‘down,’ and hédra, meaning ‘seat.’  The similar Latin word cathedra  meant ‘seat.’  The Middle English term chaire (or chaiere, chaere, chayre, chayere) came from the Old French chaiere (or chaere).

A Pair of George III Satinwood Demilune Side Tables Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

A Pair of George III Satinwood Demilune Side Tables
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Table

The word table derives from the Latin word tabula meaning ‘tablet, board, plank, or chart.’  The Old English term tabele (or tabul, tablu, tabule, tabula) meant ‘board.’

A William and Mary Marquetry Mirror Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

A William and Mary Marquetry Mirror
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Mirror

The term mirror comes from the Latin mīror meaning ‘wonder at’ and ‘mīrus’ meaning ‘wonderful.’  The Old French word mireor led to the Middle English word mirour before our modern spelling came into use.

A George II Mahogany Longcase Clock Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

A George II Mahogany Longcase Clock
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Clock

The word clock may date back to Celtic origin from the Proto-Celtic term klokkos meaning ‘bell.’  The Middle English term clok (or clokke) relates to the Middle Dutch word klocke.

We have only scratched the surface with the origin of furniture vocabulary.  Expect more to come in the future!

One thought on “It’s All Greek (or Latin, or Celtic) to Me: The Origin of Furniture Vocabulary

  1. Pingback: It’s All Greek (or Latin, or Celtic) to Me: The Origin of Furniture Vocabulary Part II | The Source

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