What Is the Difference Between a Sofa and a Couch?

Many stores and customers in North America use both terms interchangeably, couch and sofa, with “sofa” being just a more sophisticated and professional term. However, we are here to tell you that there actually is a difference between these objects. Sofas are meant for sitting and have more central armrests and backs. On the contrary, couches are often used for lying on and are far less formal. 

People who work and own a furniture store have probably heard customers calling the sofa a couch and the couch a sofa millions of times. One of the most frequently asked questions regarding this piece of furniture is, “what is the difference between a sofa and a couch?”. Our article is the right place to acquire the answer because today, we will cut through the industry jargon and settle the debate once and for all. 

Hang with us as we provide a better knowledge of the terms and their usage history. As soon as you understand the origin story of every word, it will be much easier for you to understand the distinction between a couch and a sofa. 

What Is the Difference Between a Sofa and a Couch

Couch vs. Sofa 

Let’s start by stating that although there are words that you thought meant one thing, they can also have different meanings. This can happen because some words are intertwined from other languages and used as terms to describe a piece of furniture. The same goes for these two words. First, the couch and sofa are quite similar, and we can’t blame anyone confused by the two. Although similar, the couch is a piece of furniture with a sitting capacity of two to three individuals. 

The term couch is most commonly used for describing a sofa in the United States, and both terms are used interchangeably for an upholstered piece of furniture designed for sitting. 

To dive a little into history, a couch and a sofa are actually two different things. The main distinction between these two had something to do with the arms in the good old days. As time went on, the divergence became much clearer. The two pieces of furniture are dissimilar regarding seating capacity, style, and construction. 


Derived from the French word “coucher”, the term couch in translation means to sleep or lie down. This moveable furniture is intended for lying down and usually comes without any supporting arms on the side. If you like to check the American Heritage Dictionary, you can see that the couch is described as an upholstered piece of furniture with a back that people can rest on. 

The idea behind the couch is to offer a collaborative platform where two individuals can relax and lie down. Being just a small version of a sofa, the couch, as we mentioned, has no arm support and packs some visible distinctions. While it can easily be confused as a sofa, the couch is less formal and can accommodate three people maximum. Another huge plus is that a couch can be a great sitting or sleeping spot for your house pet. 


What often brings people a sense of comfort is the term sofa. The sofa is considered a much more comfortable version of the couch that is designed with cushions, armrests, and a larger sitting capacity of usually more than three people. This upholstered piece of furniture has a back that can easily be turned into a bed

Historically speaking, the term sofa originated in the 17th century. It comes from the Arabic word “suffa”, a long sitting space made of bricks or rocks. 

In Britain, people use the word sofa to describe a large and comfortable furniture piece that is, in most cases, placed in the living room. Other synonyms can be used for sofas, such as divan, lounge, or canape. Settee and couch are also alternatives to the word sofa, but the sofa is the correct word while couch just being a new and fancy term. 

Read more: How to Decorate a Rectangle Living Room

Differences Between a Couch and a Sofa

Now that you have a better understanding of each term let’s address the elephant in the room and answer the main question – what is the difference between a sofa and a couch? 


People in America use the word couch when 99% of the time, they are pointing at a sofa. As we mentioned, both terms are often used interchangeably. The couch is a more bed-like piece, has no arms, and is designed for two to three individuals. On the other hand, the word sofa originated in the early 17th century and described a more sitting-like object made from stones or bricks. Think of the sofa as something more bench-like where you can relax without lifting your feet from the ground. 


To provide our readers with the most accurate information, we had to check the meaning of each word in the American Heritage Dictionary. According to the dictionary, the couch is an upholstered piece of furniture with a back on which people can recline or sit. The couch is designed to offer you a little rest time, and it is a less formal sofa with no arms. On the contrary, a sofa can be more comfortable for lying down, with more cushions and arm support. 

Also read: How to Clean a Velvet Couch


The sofa is a more sophisticated and upholstered object with a back and can easily be turned into a bed. The sofa is usually in the living room, while the couch is in the family room. No law prevents you from resting on the sofa and sleeping on the couch, but one is definitely smaller than the other, and the arm bars may be a problem if you are looking for comfort. The sofa holds the industry standard, and it is big and comfortable. Unlike the couch, the sofa has a larger capacity and is upholstered in fabric or leather. 


What is the difference between a sofa and a couch? We are certain that after reading our article, you can answer this question with confidence. Hopefully, we cleared some things for you, and you can better understand the two words. Although they are regularly used interchangeably, regardless of the country you are in, the two pieces of furniture have different terms of seating capacity, construction, and overall style.

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