Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cupboards, Cabinets and Closets

I was talking to someone recently, and the word 'cupboard' was used.  This wasn't a big deal, as cupboard is one of those words that many people use.  But it was suggested to me that the distinction between cupboards and cabinets was a regional one...  with those of a British background being more likely to use 'cupboard', while the word 'cabinet' was the more common word in the U.S.

Hmmm...  That came as a surprise to me, so I decided to look it up - and of course share my findings!

My initial search for 'cupboard' revealed that there is a kitchen store in Fort Collins known as The Cupboard.  I found this amusing because ...  well, the person I was talking to will know why it was amusing, and I'll just leave the rest of you guessing!!!

Continuing my search, I found that a cupboard is a closet with doors on the front, and shelves inside.
But wait -- I found something else that said a cupboard is a piece of furniture and a cabinet is more like a closet.
So -- is a cupboard a closet, or is a cabinet a closet?

Oh dear... now I have to look up cupboards, cabinets AND closets!  Well at least they're near each other alphabetically, although it turns out that they're near each other in meaning, as well.  Digging a bit deeper, I found the following:

Cabinets are typically considered general-purpose storage, while cupboards are more for food and dishes.  

All right, that makes sense to me.  Except that now I see that:

A cupboard is the more general-purpose receptacle, whereas a cabinet is more specific (e.g. medicine cabinet)

So -- is a cabinet general purpose, or is a cupboard general purpose???

Well.  This is getting worse and worse.  I decided that perhaps I needed to attack this from a different angle, so I decided to explore this from the regional/US/British standpoint.  And I found an article online that discussed British and American English... and focused on the words 'cupboards' and 'closets'.  Just what I was looking for... surely there will be answers here.

Sadly, this wasn't very helpful, as the article mostly talked about closets - which in England were initially private rooms, and then morphed into small rooms...  and so you have water closets (ie bathrooms).. and besides, the British most commonly used wardrobes to hang their clothes, and so closets are rarely discussed.. and then of course you have broom cupboards and broom closets, which are the same thing.. which gets me absolutely nowhere.

So I checked out Wikipedia... and according to whoever wrote the page I was looking at (you do know that those are mostly ordinary people, right?  They're not experts or anything) said that originally cupboards were open shelved storage cabinets, but now the word refers to a closed piece of furniture.

Ok...  so a cupboard is a type of cabinet....  what does Wiki say a cabinet is?
According to Wiki, a cabinet is a body of high-ranking officials.
Actually, this makes more sense than anything else I've read today.  Let's call the governmental bodies Cabinets.  At a quick count, there are over 100 countries that have a Cabinet as part of their government.

All right.. We've got that settled... now, what about Closets?  Oops... Wiki says closets are cabinets or cupboards.
And I'm back where I started.

So, just for the record...  anytime I use the word Closet.. I mean the thing with a rod where I hang my clothes.

A Cabinet is a governmental body.

And of course the Cupboard is where I keep my tea!


  1. Much ado...and you ended up where you started! I guess I'll keep calling them as I see them.

  2. Cabinets, cupboards, and closets... oh my!

    Cabinets are where I keep my dishes. Cupboard are tiny cubicles that school school children store their items. (Actually, I think cupboards are just smaller cabinets.

    Closets are where the monsters hide.

  3. So how about linen closets? I have NEVER hear them referred to as linen cupboards.