March 9, 2013
What is the origin of the term living room?
Room set up for ordinary social use, 1825 (as opposed to bedroom,
dining room, etc.); from living + room
In the late nineteenth century, decorative literature suggested a
living room to be a reflection of the personality of the designer,
rather than the Victorian conventions of the day where there was a
formal room designated for receiving guests. The rise of the living room
meant the end of such a room that had been common in the Victorian
The term living room was known since the mid 19th century. This word
was mainly coined to give a word to a space where the general social
activities are performed. As there was a name for each room dedicated
for specific activities like the bedroom, the dining room, the kitchen,
et cetera, a name was supposed to be given to such a space which was a
common place for all the members of the house where general living
activities were performed. Thus, such a space was termed as the living
However, this term was not extensively used until the early 20th
century. The use of the term by the common people started after the end
of the World War I in 1918 prior to which it was called The Death
Room. It was interesting for me to know the reason for which this front
room of the house was given such a name and how things stacked up later
so that this space was called the The Living Room.
It so happened that after the end of the World War, influenza was widely
spread across the globe and millions of people lost their lives. There
were deaths all around and the bodies were kept in the front room of the
house for mourning before taking it for funeral. Thus, this room was
then started to be called as the Death Room.
With the improving conditions and decrease in the number of deaths, the
Ladies Home Journal suggested that this room was no more a death room.
As it was used for various activities of the house and was more a lively
place than a mourning room, it should be called the Living Room. Thus,
the use of the term spread in common people.
Before the late nineteenth century, this space of a house was called a
parlor. The term parlor was derived from a French verb Parle® which
means to speak. The term was given to the space because it was mainly
a place for sitting and talking to various people. They may be the
members of the family or guests. The function of this space was to carry
out various formal or informal social functions of the house. With the
advent of the term living room, the use of the term parlor subsided.
11751225; Middle English parlur < Anglo-French; Old French parleor,
equivalent to parl ( er ) to speak (see parle) + -eor -or
There are some other terms associated with the naming of a similar space
but have minute differences on the basis of the functions being
performed in this space.
The term Drawing Room, can be synonymously used for parlor. This is
also a space which is used for entertaining visitors. This name is
derived from the sixteenth century terms withdrawing room or
withdrawing chamber . A withdrawing room was a room to which the owner
of the house, his wife, or a distinguished guest who was occupying one
of the main apartments in the house could withdraw for more privacy.
In larger homes in the United States and Canada, the living room may be
reserved for more formal and quiet entertaining, while a separate
roomsuch as a den, family room, or recreation room is used for
leisure and informal entertainment. A great room combines the
functions of one or more of these rooms.
A family room is an informal, all-purpose room in a house similar to a
living room. The family room is designed to be a place where family and
guests gather for group recreation like talking, reading, watching TV,
and other family activities.
A recreation room (also known as a rec room, rumpus room, or ruckus
room) is a room used for a variety of purposes, such as parties, games
and other everyday or casual use. The term is common in the United
States and Canada, but is less common in the United Kingdom where the
preferred term is games room. Often children and teenagers entertain
their friends in the rec room, which is often located in the basement,
away from the main living areas of the house. Usually it is a larger
space than a living room to have the ability to serve multiple purposes
and entertain moderately large groups.
The term Sitting Room is often used in place of a living room,
although sitting room is also a space that can be seen in other public
buildings such as hotels and public libraries for waiting or ideally
sitting. The term living room is dedicatedly associated with residences.