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A gilded Baroque table, with a stone top (most probably marble), from the Cinquantenaire Museum (Bruxelles, Belgium)
Rococo writing table; 1759; lacquered oak, gilt-bronze mounts and lined with modern leather; height: 80.6 cm, width: 175.9 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

A table is an item of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, used as a surface for working at, eating from or on which to place things.[1][2] Some common types of table are the dining room table, which is used for seated persons to eat meals; the coffee table, which is a low table used in living rooms to display items or serve refreshments; and the bedside table, which is used to place an alarm clock and a lamp. There are also a range of specialized types of tables, such as drafting tables, used for doing architectural drawings, and sewing tables.

Common design elements include:

  • top surfaces of various shapes, including rectangular, square, rounded, semi-circular or oval
  • legs arranged in two or more similar pairs. It usually has four legs. However, some tables have three legs, use a single heavy pedestal, or are attached to a wall.
  • several geometries of folding table that can be collapsed into a smaller volume (e.g., a TV tray, which is a portable, folding table on a stand)
  • heights ranging up and down from the most common 18–30 inches (46–76 cm) range, often reflecting the height of chairs or bar stools used as seating for people making use of a table, as for eating or performing various manipulations of objects resting on a table
  • a huge range of sizes, from small bedside tables to large dining room tables and huge conference room tables
  • presence or absence of drawers, shelves or other areas for storing items
  • expansion of the table surface by insertion of leaves or locking hinged drop leaf sections into a horizontal position (this is particularly common for dining tables)

Etymology

The word table is derived from Old English tabele, derived from the Latin word tabula ("a board, plank, flat top piece"), which replaced OE bord [3]; its current spelling reflects the influence of the French table.

History

Roman dining table: mensa lunata
Large 17th-century English folding tables

Some very early tables were made and used by the Ancient Egyptians[4] around 2500 BC, using wood and alabaster.[5] They were often little more than stone platforms used to keep objects off the floor, though a few examples of wooden tables have been found in tombs. Food and drinks were 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, as did people in Mesopotamia, where various metals were used.[4]

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), sometimes with richly ornate legs. Later, the larger rectangular tables were made of separate platforms and pillars. The Romans also introduced a large, semicircular table to Italy, 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.[6] 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 reappeare

A table is an item of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, used as a surface for working at, eating from or on which to place things.[1][2] Some common types of table are the dining room table, which is used for seated persons to eat meals; the coffee table, which is a low table used in living rooms to display items or serve refreshments; and the bedside table, which is used to place an alarm clock and a lamp. There are also a range of specialized types of tables, such as drafting tables, used for doing architectural drawings, and sewing tables.

Common design elements include:

  • top surfaces of various shapes, including rectangular, square, rounded, semi-circular or oval
  • legs arranged in two or more similar pairs. It usually has four legs. However, some tables have three legs, use a single heavy pedestal, or are attached to a wall.
  • several geometries of folding table that can be collapsed into a smaller volume (e.g., a TV tray, which is a portable, folding table on a stand)
  • heights ranging up and down from the most common 18–30 inches (46–76 cm) range, often reflecting the height of chairs or bar stools used as seating for people making use of a table, as for eating or performing various manipulations of objects resting on a table
  • a huge range of sizes, from small bedside tables to large dining room tables and huge conference room tables
  • presence or absence of drawers, shelves or other areas for storing items
  • expansion of the table surface by insertion of leaves or locking hinged drop leaf sections into a horizontal position (this is particularly common for dining tables)