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Chaise longues versus loungers: understanding the terminology

Chaise longue. Photograph by Fashion for Home

Searching for great-quality furniture can be exciting - however, when different companies or designers use different terminology for the same or similar pieces, it can become confusing and time consuming. It can also be interesting to understand the origins of the different terms and names that are used.

The name 'chaise longue' literally means 'long chair' in French. France is widely accepted as the birthplace of the distinctive chaise longue, and historical references seem to back up the use of the chaise longue in French aristocratic and stately homes over a long period of time.

The term 'chaise lounge' is now often used, especially in the United States, and is thought to have started as a mispronunciation or spelling error in the English language.

This was probably as a result of the similarity between the French word 'longue' and the English word 'lounge', and the fact that reclining in a longer chair can be described as 'lounging'.

It is unclear when or where the first instance of 'chaise lounge' was used, but an edition of 'The Times' (16th January 1807) used the term in a furniture advertisement.

It is easy to see how this change came about, and 'chaise lounge' is now an accepted and recognised term, although some - particularly in the UK - would still regard it as a mispronunciation.

Just as confusingly, the plural form in English can take an 's' after both 'chaise' and 'longue/lounge' - echoing the French form, 'chaises longues' - or more usually just after the second word, as in 'chaise longues'.

Lounger' appears to be a similar word, derived from the use of the word lounge as a verb, to describe someone slouching or reclining, rather than as a name for a sitting room. It may also have been derived from its use as part of 'sun lounger' and 'chaise lounge', as both describe similar-shaped pieces of furniture.

It is easy to criticise changes in language as being misspelt, mispronounced or simply made up, but it is this process that has always contributed to the evolution of language - and just as Shakespeare did not speak or write in the same way as modern English speakers, the generations in the future will probably use a significantly different version of English to the one in use today.

For today's furniture shoppers, however, choosing a chaise longue or lounger that's comfortable and looks great is probably more important than what you choose to call it!

Photo credit: Fashion for Home

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