The history of the table

November 06, 2013

     The word table is derived from a few different sources over the years.  From what I can gather, the Latin tabula “a board, plank, table,”  and the Umbrian (living in eastern Italy around the time of the Romans, thought thought to be the oldest in Italy) tafle “on the board,” were the first influences. 

      Later on we have the late Old English tabele deriving from the West Germanic tabal.  Eventually in the late 12th century we have the Old French table “board, slab, flat top piece.”  I am not surpised that is how we get the modern spelling of table since English is a Germanic language with French “flavours,” and French is a romance language deriving from Latin.

      Tables were used by the Egyptians and the Chinese, but mostly for placing things on top or for writing and art.  Food was put on pedestals or stools.  Some of the history of the table is lost, though we have an idea that the  concept of the table as we think of it today --- sitting around a table, eating, working, --- came about during the times of the ancient Greeks.  To give more credit to the Greeks, they invented portable folding table since after they were done, their tables were pushed under a bed.  

      The Romans had a semicircular table that they used, the mensa lunata "moon table," speaking to the design since it looked like the crescent moon. This is when we start to see large, ornate designs, with the top being held up by multiple pillars or legs.  Wood, marble, metal (mostly bronze) were all used in construction.  As time went on, smaller trestle tables spoke to the need for portability in an age of invasion and wars in Western Europe during the Middle Ages.

      Of course, a blog about tables would not be complete without a mention of King Arthur and his famous Round Table! 

      During the Gothic ages, a chest became popular to use a table.  Once we start moving into the 17th century, we begin to see the large, banquet type tables used in castles and great halls. 

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