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A wooden dining table and chairs.
A table is an item of furniture comprising an open, flat surface supported by a base or legs. It may be used to hold articles such as food or papers at a convenient or comfortable height when sitting, and is therefore often used in conjunction with chairs. Unlike many earlier table designs, most modern tables do not have drawers, although they are not uncommon. A table specifically intended for writing and office work is a desk, which may incorporate one or more drawers in the base. Some tables have removable sections or leaves used to extend the surface, or utilize hinged extensions of the table top known as drop leaves. Tables can be made of wood, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass or basically any solid material.

Etymology

The term that is "table" is derived from a merger of French table and Old English tabele, ultimately from the Latin word tabula, "a board, plank, flat top piece". In Late Latin, tabula took over the meaning previously reserved to mensa (preserved in Spanish mesa "table"). In Old English, the word was bord, replaced by "table" for this meaning.

Shape, height, and function

200 px
Tables come in a wide variety of materials, shapes, and heights, that depends on their origin, style, and intended use. All tables are composed of a flat surface and a base with one or more supports, or legs. A table with a single, central foot is a pedestal table. Tables can be freestanding or designed for placement against a wall (a console table). Table tops can be in virtually any shape, although rectangular, square, round (e.g., the round table), and oval tops are the most frequent. Long tables often have extra legs for support. Others have higher surfaces for personal use while either standing or sitting on a tall stool.

Many tables have tops that can be adjusted to change their position or size, either with foldable extensions or sliding parts that can alter the shape of the top. Some tables are entirely foldable for easy transport, e.g., camping. Small tables in trains and aircraft may be fixed or foldable, although many are simply convenient shelves rather than tables.

Types of table



Tables of various shapes and sizes are designed for specific uses:


Historically, various types of tables have been popular for other uses:
  • Tripod tables were very popular during the 18th and 19th centuries as candlestands, tea tables, or small dining tables. Their typically round tops often had a tilting mechanism. The folding top enabled them to be stored out of the way (e.g., in room corners) when not in use. A further development in this direction was the "birdcage" table, the top of which could both revolve and tilt.
  • Pembroke tables were first introduced during the 18th century and were popular throughout the 19th century. Their main characteristic was a rectangular or oval top with folding or drop leaves on each side. Most examples have one or more drawers and four legs sometimes connected by stretchers. Their design meant they could easily be stored or moved about and conveniently opened for serving tea, dining, writing, or other occasional uses.
  • Sofa tables are similar to Pembroke tables and usually have longer and narrower tops. They were specifically designed for placement directly in front of sofas for serving tea, writing, dining, or other convenient uses.
  • Work tables were small tables designed to hold sewing materials and implements, providing a convenient work place for women who sewed. They appeared during the 18th century and were popular throughout the 19th century. Most examples have rectangular tops, sometimes with folding leaves, and usually one or more drawers fitted with partitions. Early examples typically have four legs, often standing on casters, while later examples sometimes have turned columns or other forms of support.
  • Drum tables are round tables introduced for writing, with drawers around the platform.
  • End tables are small tables typically placed beside couches or armchairs. Often lamps will be placed on an end table.
  • A Billiards table is bounded tables on which billiards-type games are played. All provide a flat surface, usually composed of slate and covered with cloth, elevated above the ground.
  • Table tennis tables are usually masonite or a similar timber, layered with a smooth low-friction coating. It is divided into two halves by a low net, which separates opposing players.
  • Poker tables are used to play poker.


History

Some very early tables were made and used by the Egyptians, and were little more than metal or stone platforms used to keep objects off the floor. They were not used for seating people. Food was usually put on large plates deposed on a pedestal for eating. The Egyptians made use of various small tables and elevated playing boards. The Chinese also created very early tables in order to pursue the arts of writing and painting.

The Greeks and Romans made more frequent use of tables, notably for eating, although Greek tables were pushed under a bed after use. The Greeks invented a piece of furniture very similar to the guéridon. Tables were made of marble or wood and metal (typically bronze or silver alloys). Later, the larger rectangular tables were made of separate platforms and pillar. The Romans also introduced a large, semicircular table to Italymarker, the mensa lunata.

Furniture during the Middle Ages is not as well-known as that of earlier or later periods, and most sources show the types used by the nobility. In the Eastern Roman Empire, tables were made of metal or wood, usually with four feet and frequently linked by x-shaped stretchers. Tables for eating were large and often round or semicircular. A combination of a small round table and a lectern seemed very popular as a writing table. In western Europe, the invasions and internecine wars caused most of the knowledge inherited from the classical era to be lost. As a result of the necessary movability, most tables were simple trestle tables, although small round tables made from joinery reappeared during the 15th century and onward. In the Gothic era, the chest became widespread and was often used as a table.

Refectory tables first appeared at least as early as the 16th century, as an advancement of the trestle table; these tables were typically quite long and capable of supporting a sizeable banquet in the great hall or other reception room of a castle.

See also



Footnotes

  1. Etymonline
  2. Heyward, p20


Further reading



External links




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