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Table from the 17th century (Museum Wittstock)
Combination of table and benches, often found outdoors
Table saw
Bistro table as a high table made of metal

A table is a piece of furniture that consists of one or more panels that rest on a support, usually on four table legs. There are different types of tables depending on their purpose. You can eat or work at a table, it can serve as a storage surface or just for decorative purposes.

Table tops are sometimes adjustable to make work easier, e.g. B. desks or drawing tables , or to save space (folding tables). A horizontal board attached to the wall can also serve as a table. Console tables are set up for decoration purposes only.


The etymology of, Table 'is: Middle High German romantic , Old High German tic , Table', 'bowl' (800). The word can also be found in Old Saxon disk , Middle Low German Disch , Middle Dutch disc , desc , Dutch dis , Old English disc 'serving plate', 'Essteller', 'bowl', 'bowl' and English dish 'bowl', 'plate', 'dish' ',' Food '. It is borrowed from the Latin discus 'throwing disc', 'flat bowl', 'plate', Greek dískos ( δίσκος ) 'throwing disc', 'plate', 'plate', 'disc-like object'. It is an education with the sk suffix to the Greek dikēin (δικεΐν) 'to throw'.

The change in meaning from 'disc', 'platter', 'bowl' to 'table' is explained by the fact that in the Germanic times the table consisted of a small wooden plate on a frame, which also served as a dining bowl and at mealtimes in front of everyone individual was asked.

In earlier times in the Bergisches Land , thick oak table tops, in which hollows were also carved, were common. They served as soup plates for the soups and porridges that were prevalent there at the time.


In Roman antiquity , the mensa citrea was a very valuable table made from the wood of the sandarak tree .


Tables are mostly used to bring objects, devices and other operated elements to an elevated position for easier access.

A table can also serve as a tool, for example as a surveying instrument. Tables with adjustable legs or a height-adjustable top and binoculars mounted on the top were used for precise measurement and mapping of landscapes ( measuring table ). Another example is the workbench .

The piece of furniture most often associated with the table in Western culture is the chair , which is usually placed in front of the table to sit at the table. But there are also tables that are used while standing ( high tables at receptions, bistro tables ). Low tables are only used to put things down, such as coffee tables, side tables, smoking tables, flower tables, bedside tables in the living area. Smoking tables have a brass plate to protect the table top from fire.

In Asia , tables are also used, with one sitting on one side (even without a chair). The Kotatsu table in Japan is also used as a heat source.

In ancient times it was customary to lie down at tables. See also: Food culture in the Roman Empire

Larger tables at which you eat food are also called blackboards . So there was to the 19th century, the servants' table where the servants ate, while Mr. panel of the rule was reserved.


Schematic representation of a four-legged table
1: table top
2: table leg or stud

A table with four table legs connected by frames has the disadvantage of being able to wobble when the surface is uneven. On the other hand, a table with only three legs cannot wobble, because it is basically statically supported . There are also versions with two or one leg and differently designed tabletops. Less than three legs require a footplate. In the variation with only one table leg, this is called a stamp foot .

A table can be made of any solid material, but it is usually made of wood . Other commonly used materials are glass , metal , stone , various plastics and concrete .

Many tables have drawers or compartments in which items used on that table can be stored. One table shape in which this development goes very far is the secretary . However, this design is used less and less because many objects on work tables have become superfluous due to the use of computers. It is no coincidence that the user interfaces of various computers are called desktops .

Console table

Tables can also be provided with a pull-out, so the table surface can be enlarged. This technique is mostly used on dining tables so that additional people can sit down at the table. Common variants are the extension plates (head extension) and the head extension extension. The extension plates can be attached to the corresponding recesses on the head ends. The head extension is attached below the table top, is pulled out by means of a frame at the head end and fixed there at table top level. The pull-out pillow case is the most stable variant. The frame construction is pulled apart together with the table legs, the insert plates that are now visible are raised and form the table top enlargement.

Drawing and writing desks are often provided with a device that can be used to adjust the angle of inclination and / or the height of the worktop (usually also called table height).

Standards and norms for construction and safety

  • EN 527 office furniture - office desks
  • EN 581 outdoor furniture - seating and tables for camping, living and contracting
  • EN 1730 Furniture - Tables - Test method to determine the stability, strength and durability
  • EN 13150 Work tables for laboratories - dimensions, safety requirements and test methods
  • BS 4875 Furniture. Strength and stability of furniture. Methods for determination of stability of non-domestic storage furniture (British Standard)

Social relevance

The table is an object with a relatively fixed location. That means that you go to a table. The table is often divided into sub-locations, where each is given its specific place. This gives a table a direction. Symmetry and viewing direction play an important role here.

The place at which someone is at a table may allow conclusions to be drawn about their relationship to the other people present. Many tables have a head end that gives the "owner" a certain social elevation. But the middle of a long side can also be very important. For example, the presiding judge usually sits there at a hearing . Leonardo da Vinci's mural The Last Supper shows this phenomenon as early as the Italian Renaissance .

The regulars' table is of particular social relevance . Conceptually, it stands for a group of several people who meet regularly in a pub and for the table around which this group gathers.

Enjoy the meal

Dining table

A classic situation that pervades all cultures and ages is to meet for a meal. For example, family meals together play an important role in the structure of a family. Many business connections are established or maintained with so-called business meals. It is also popular to invite friends to eat or drink in order to cultivate friendships . The table is usually festively decorated; Tableware, cutlery and special table decorations form a representative framework, which should also document the importance of the invited guests.

In many cultures, a separate table of the appropriate size is dedicated to serving and eating meals. In Central Europe this is usually 72 to 80 centimeters high. A person sitting next to him on a matching chair is able to comfortably rest his arms on the table top. To determine the length of the dining table, a distance of 60 to 70 cm per person is normally taken into account. A rectangular dining table is usually 80 to 120 cm wide.

In the traditional Middle and Far Eastern home decor, where you typically sit on the floor instead of chairs, for example in Japan , the tables are correspondingly low.

Dining tables are intended to bring the family together and serve as a popular meeting place.

Wood, plastic, natural stone, marble, ceramic, glass or their combinations are mostly used as materials for the production of a dining table.

See also: table manners , table setting , tablecloth , setting


There is also a lot of work being done on tables. In this way, many friendly relationships are established at work tables. For example at school or university you get to know the people who are sitting at the table very quickly. In offices, this social function of the table is reinforced by setting up a table and thus defining it as stationary. This is how you define a subspace in the room in which several people work and deal with the people whose rooms are adjacent to your own.


Many negotiations are conducted around tables. Depending on the motivation and the goal of the negotiation, different tables are used and thus different locations are created.

The so-called round table is often used to emphasize the equality of the negotiating partners .

Many tables have an owner and a visitor side. The relationship between the two sides is decisive for the negotiation. For example, if the owner wants to sell something, the visitor's page will usually be conveniently equipped. If the visitor comes as a supplicant, he will usually have to adjust to less comfort. So it was often customary in offices to stand while the officer was sitting.


Many games take place at tables. For some games, special tables have been designed ( billiards , roulette ) or a table is necessary to play them ( finger hooking ). There are also special tables for other games, although they are not absolutely necessary for the game (e.g. chess tables with a game board and storage space for figures).


In many languages ​​there is the phrase "putting your feet under a table". This sentence also implies a relationship of ownership and dependency. Someone "donates" a table and a meal and creates a place of security for which a certain consideration is expected. This can be, for example, respect (the head of the family), following (a prince) or material nature (restaurant).

As in many other languages, many idioms have developed around the table:

  • "At table!": The meal is ready, invitation to meet and sit down;
  • "Setting the table": putting cutlery and crockery on the table according to social norms;
  • “Drinking under the table”: By consuming alcohol together, getting someone to drink more than he / she can handle.
  • “Put your feet under the table”: dwell, eat and live with someone;
  • "Under the table": secret sale;
  • "Pull someone over the table": cheat someone (cf. also finger hooking );
  • "Clean the table": clarify something, create the conditions for a new beginning of communication; (The phrase probably arose from the misinterpretation of “Tabula rasa”.);
  • “Be off the table / come / have to”: a problem has been eliminated, a topic is no longer relevant or it will or must be dealt with;
  • "Hit the table": assert oneself energetically;
  • "At the green table": impractical;
  • “Sitting at the round table”: A meeting in which agreements are (should) be made symbolically on an equal footing; see. for this round table

See also


  • Thomas Schürmann: Table and greeting customs in the civilization process. Waxmann, Münster 1994. ISBN 3-89325-233-9
  • Andreas Morel, Marianne Flüeler-Grauwiler: The laid table: on the history of table culture. Chronos, Zurich 2001. ISBN 3-0340-0506-7
  • Gitta Böth, Manfred Hartmann, Herbert Bald: Furniture: a typology for museums and collections. German Kunstverlag, Munich / Berlin 2005. ISBN 3-422-06512-1
  • John Morley: Furniture of Europe: from ancient times to modern times. (original Furniture , translated from the English by Dagmar Lutz). Battenberg, Munich 2001. ISBN 3-89441-483-9
  • Sigrid Hinz (Ed .: Alfred Nutzmann): Interior and furniture: from antiquity to the present. 3rd ed., Henschelverl. Art and Society, Berlin 1989. ISBN 3-362-00287-0
  • Heinrich Kreisel, Georg Himmelträger : The art of German furniture: Furniture and paneling of the German-speaking area from the beginnings to Art Nouveau. 3 volumes. Beck, Munich 1968–1973.
  • Hermann Schmitz: The furniture factory: the furniture forms from antiquity to the middle of the nineteenth century. Wasmuth, Berlin 1926.

Web links

Commons : table  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: table  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden | Table | Spelling, meaning, definition, synonyms, origin. Retrieved December 27, 2017 .
  2. Wolfgang Pfeifer : Etymological Dictionary of German. 5th edition, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv), Munich 2000, p. 1434.
  3. ”800 years of Immekeppel. A home book. " Ed. Working group Heimatbuch Immekeppel, 1966, page 37.
  4. Johann Ulrich Steinhofer: Honor of the Duchy of Wirtenberg In its Serene Regents, or New Wirtenberg Chronicle: Which describes the high origin, the happy growth, and the blessed regiment of the ducal house Wirtenberg ... ... 3 . Author, 1752 ( [accessed December 27, 2017]).
  5. ^ Tyll (Till) Eulenspiegel. A funny story for the people . Enders, 1865 ( [accessed December 27, 2017]).
  6. The vertical positioning of a body on a surface at four points is statically overdetermined, one of the four bearing points is too many. The four-legged table, whose legs can practically only be approximately the same length and / or which is on an uneven surface, only stands on three of its legs. When the load shifts on the tabletop, it tilts until it comes to stand on the diagonally opposite leg (the previous third leg is now hanging in the air).
  7. Information about the dining table. Retrieved May 10, 2019 .
  8. Information about the dining table. Retrieved May 10, 2019 .