I am curious to know why a numerical chart can be called a table. What is the relation to the table at which people eat?

2 Answers 2


That kind of table comes from the Latin tabula meaning "a board or plank" which was used for writing down columns of numbers. It was also where one ate one's dinner (OE called it bord and appropriated the Latin table for that purpose, although the Romans used the term mensa for the food table). Handy, eh? You can read about it on Etymonline. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=table&searchmode=none

  • And bord is from Dutch. How the languages became confused to form English! Feb 2, 2011 at 9:37
  • 1
    Are you sure "bord" is from Dutch? I think it is part of the common inheritance of Dutch and English.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 2, 2011 at 12:04
  • @Paul Lammertsma: I believe @Colin Fine's comment is addressed to you.
    – Robusto
    Feb 2, 2011 at 12:55
  • @Paul - I don't think it's that simple... you also have it in Swedish , Norwegian and Danish (e.g. Smörgåsbord, koldtbord)
    – UpTheCreek
    Feb 2, 2011 at 13:16

As reported from the NOAD, the origin of the word table is from Old English tabule (flat slab, inscribed tablet), which derives from the Latin tabula (plank, tablet, list); it has been reinforced in Middle English from the Old French table.

Table has then two different meanings that has been taken from the Latin word.

  • It's also behind "tablet", originally in the biblical sense (the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed).
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 2, 2011 at 12:06

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