English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Here's a picture of one:

enter image description here

Is there a simple but clear way of referring to it?

share|improve this question
This must be General Reference. Even those who do not speak English can use a translating dictionary to translate whatever word it is in their own language. – Andrew Leach Jun 13 '13 at 7:44
@Andrew Leach I don't even know how to refer to it in my own language. – janoChen Jun 13 '13 at 7:45
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'll post an answer (partly because of Mari-Lou A's prompt!) as there is an important point of English usage that is involved.

Certainly, only furniture experts could reasonably be expected to object if the bit of wood was referred to as a 'desk shelf'. Using desk as a 'noun-doing-an-adjective's-job' (I'm in between terminologies on these) is quite permissible and idiomatic - it can mean 'part of', 'belonging to' - even 'somehow related to' (a desk / desks) in this sense. We won't go deep into 'things related to desk-related things' like desk officer! However, a decent dictionary will list accepted compounds such as

desk clerk

desk dictionary

desk jockey

desk officer

desk phone

desk sergeant

desk work

But I'm fairly sure 'desk shelf' will not be listed. Again, 'white van man' may well have a separate entry, but not 'purple van man'.

So, using the term 'desk shelf' here is probably as simple, clear and sensible as it gets (unless you cleverly add a highlighted picture) - but it's not an agreed and well-defined term. Without the picture, we couldn't distinguish between a one-shelf and a two-shelf desk, an above-desktop and a below-desktop shelf...

And even where 'accepted' terms are recognised by relevant authorities (Sotheby's? Miller's?) there are often international, regional, and organisational disagreements.

share|improve this answer
+1 I earnestly recommend reversion to the Classical distinction between substantive nouns and adjective nouns, which endured until 18th-century rationalizers decreed that adjectives and nouns are Different Things. – StoneyB Jun 13 '13 at 11:17

Shelf is the word I always use. You don't necessarily have to put speakers on it, either. That's your choice.

EDIT: Sorry. Answer was a little too flippant. How would you differentiate a normal shelf from that of your desk? Could we say: The shelf above my desk? No... misleading.

In Italian it would be "piano" but again that's open to different interpretations. I'll leave my answer here to bump up your question, @janochen.

Found it! "Desk shelf" or computer desk hutch

share|improve this answer
You could use desk shelf, or the shelf on my desk. – Andrew Leach Jun 13 '13 at 7:46
Hutch (in this sense) refers to a multi-shelf top, I believe (though it might apply were the OP to include the open cabinet in the ring). The single-shelf arrangement is one I've not seen before. One often finds furniture terms that seem to be used by one particular carpenter / school, or manufacturer or antiques expert nowadays - they can be used with conflicting meanings (eg commode, girandole, buffet, court cupboard, credenza). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 13 '13 at 8:38
You should write this to the OP @EdwinAshworth, it's extremely useful and pertinent answer. Mine was based on impulse until I realized my error. – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 '13 at 8:44
Doesn't the OP getting notified automatically of all comments on their question & answers? – TrevorD Jun 13 '13 at 10:20

I am an interior designer and would refer to this as a gallery shelf. This would be in the context that we are referring to a piece of furniture. There is a plethora of vocabulary to describe furniture, particularly antiques, which if not being taken in context would not guarantee a good result on google (unless a retailer had optimised that term).

share|improve this answer
Perhaps, if you say so... however, among google images for gallery shelf, most pictures show single shelves attached to walls; I don't see any that are attached to a desk. – jwpat7 Jun 13 '13 at 16:32

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.