Are Rugs and Carpets the Same Thing?


We tend to use the words rug and carpet interchangeably. But did you know that technically, the two differ? A rug and a carpet both refer to a thick fabric typically woven with organic fibres. These fibres include jute, a vegetable fibre that becomes a course, tough thread, cotton, silk and wool. Synthetic materials can also be used to make carpets or rugs.

Both carpets and rugs are used to decorate homes, offices, hotels and many other places worldwide. Classic vintage rugs are a popular home accessory. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and price ranges. Now let’s see what really makes them two different things, shall we?

Origins of The Word Carpet

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that carpet was first used in the late 14th century. It was used to refer to a coarse piece of cloth. During those times, the word carpet also meant tablecloth and bedspread. By the 15th century, the term carpet meant ‘floor coverings’. Tables, beds and wall coverings were alternate meanings of carpets. Floor coverings are popularly used on floors in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The word carpet is usually traced back to the Old French word carpite, which means ‘a highly decorated cloth’. The word carpite comes from the Old Italian word carpita, which means ‘to pluck’ and also means ‘a thick cloth made of wool’. The term carpita was, in all likelihood, derived from the Old Latin word carpere meaning ‘to pluck’ or ‘to card’.

Origins of The Word Rug

In the mid-1400s, native English speakers used the word rug to mean a coarse fabric. The Old Norse word rogg was defined as a ‘shaggy tuft’, and the word rug originated from it. There was also a pre-German word, rawwa, from which the latter is derived. By the early 1800s, a floor mat meant the rug.

Carpet vs. Rug

A rug is a woven fabric that covers the floor. It is known to cover a specific area only, while a carpet often refers to wall-to-wall coverage. A carpet in its strictest definition is also fixed to the floor, while a rug is not. Intricate vintage rugs, which are so popular nowadays, are used to cover an area of the floor. Both the rugs and area carpets mean just that: they are used to cover specific areas. Officially, carpets and rugs differ in size. Rugs are smaller than carpets, only four by 6 feet maximum, while the term carpet is used for the fabric covering larger areas.

The origins of rugs and carpets vary, and rugs are typically made on rug looms. The method for weaving rugs depends on where the rug is from. Additionally, vintage rugs are called vintage simply because of how they look and not because they were woven in the past.

Uses of Rugs and Carpets

Used to cover pummelled or beaten earth floors in Central and Western Asia, carpets covered every room of the houses, tents, mosques and palaces. They were used for both practical and aesthetic purposes. Until the mid-1800s, these carpets exported from Asia to Europe were too valuable to cover floors permanently. They were often put on floors during church holidays or when an important guest was in the vicinity. In Italy, they were used as decor and were hung over the balconies. There were varied shapes of carpets, from round to square to cruciform-shaped and what-have-you.

There are many places to look online if you are searching for vintage rugs or carpets for your home. Just be patient, and you will find them to your liking.