Furniture

The word “furniture” was borrowed from the French “fourniture” in the 1520s. English is quite unusual in that most other European languages borrowed their word for this from Latin mobile ‘movable’ (Spanish muebles, Swedish möbler, German Möbel, Dutch meubilair, Russian мебель ‘mebely’, even French itself: meubles).

However, we did have a homeborn English word for this which was in use from the 1400s-1700s (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). It is… household. Yes, as in… household. It used to have, amongst its meanings, exactly that of “furniture”, namely:

The contents or appurtenences of a house considered collectively; household goods or furniture.

OED

So why not bring it back? It couldn’t be used plurally… which “furniture” can’t be in English, either (“a piece of furniture”, but *”furnitures”). But we could decide to either use it collectively or plurally (“A household” or “a piece of household”).

We could just say “household goods”, or “households” — which being the shortform of this phrase.

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8 Responses to Furniture

  1. þ says:

    The only other word I’ve come across for this is “fittings”, as in “fittings and fixtures”.

    • bryanajparry says:

      Hi, yeah, that’s a good one, too. However, when used outside of the phrase “fixtures and fittings”, it might be taken as meaning, perhaps, things which are or have been fitted. But then again, “household(s)” could also be mis-taken as meaning something other than I intend for it to . Both are therefore pretty good, but neither are perfect (to my mind).

  2. Amidstmost says:

    Hullo there,

    From the: Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820
    http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=58909

    For most of the period, wainscot meant oak and the term was used to describe any piece of FURNITURE of solid wood construction, especially in rural England [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)]. Entries in probate inventories like a ‘standing bedsted corded with a wainscote head’ [Inventories (1594)], ‘waynscote presses in the shope xxxs’ [Inventories (1604)], ‘one wanscoted painted box’ valued at 1s [Inventories (1682)], and ‘2 wainscoat chaires & bench’ worth 2s [Inventories (1701)] are commonplace, though they become less common as the period progresses.

    Furniture/Household:

    trimmings?
    wainscot, Wainshot, Wainscoat, Waincoating?
    roomware?
    house-?
    home-?

    ‘roomware’ seems bestmost out the aforesaid list but yet still feels nearer to ‘fittings’ than ‘furniture’

    Anyway, there is downright no need for the words: ‘cutlery’ nor ‘utensils’

    Cutlery/Utensils:

    crockery/crock
    silverware
    eating set
    whiteware
    flatware
    hollow ware
    dishes
    boardware (tableware)

    • þ says:

      It would seem that “homeware” has the meaning of “furniture”, at least in some uses.

      • Amidstmost says:

        Yet another stand-in or hopeful full match for “furniture”

        Minds me there’s also “stemware” and “glassware” to harry the FLaG words: “cutlery” and “utensils”

  3. Amidstmost says:

    Lest we forget:

    kitchenware
    cookware

  4. Amidstmost says:

    upholster (v.)

    1853, back-formation from upholsterer “tradesman who finishes or repairs articles of furniture” (1610s), from upholdester (early 15c.), formed with a dim. (originally fem.) suffix, from obsolete M.E. noun upholder “dealer in small goods” (early 14c.), from upholden “to repair, uphold, keep from falling or sinking” (in this case, by stuffing); see uphold.

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