Each of these terms seem to be used to designate a room, in a private house or in the front of a public facility, where one can sit and relax and talk. But, are there any differences to them – or do they mean just about the same and, as such, can be used interchangeably?

Also, are any of these terms more typical of an English variety than of another?

Aside from that, what's the difference between a drawing room, a sitting room, a lounge (room), and a parlor, to designate a generally cozy room in a private house or a restaurant where guests can be entertained, or withdraw to after a meal to sit and relax and talk (and drink too!). Is one of these terms more typical of an English variety than of another?

Lastly, can "living room', "sitting room", "front room", "lounge (room)", and "parlor" be used interchangeably to designate a room in a home used by the members of a household for leisure activities or to entertain guests, etc., and are any of these terms more typical of an English variety than of another?

  • Also 'living room' and 'family room'!
    – Chloe
    Mar 3, 2014 at 0:55
  • It's also a matter of U and non-U English. Nov 13, 2017 at 4:07

9 Answers 9


First, according to different dictionnaries I checked in, sitting room, living room, and front room are all synonyms of lounge. However, it seems that lounge room is not recognize as a term to describe a room in a private house. It would be the expression you use in a restaurant or a public place.

Apart from that I think people would use the words differently according to the idea they want to convey about the room: for example, in my mind, a living room is more generally the place you spend most of time in (in which you take your meals, read your newspaper, or sit in your couch to watch TV). I think its quite subjective.

However, I would say that front room and parlor cannot be used indifferently. I think that a front room in a house would be the first room you find when you come in. It is "in front". A parlor sounds like a very small room in a house and I am not sure it's often use nowadays.

  • Just wondering, can't the term "lounge" sound equivocal to a certain extent if the context is not specified, as long as, aside from "living room", it can also designate a piece of furniture more or less similar to a couch.
    – Elian
    Mar 2, 2014 at 19:16
  • 1
    @NourishedGourmet I've heard and said: settee, divan, sofa and couch; and possibly chaise longue when it was part of a sofa, but never lounge.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2014 at 23:16
  • I think lounge could be "slang" for lounge chair or chaise lounge sofa. In speech, one could say: "I was sitting on the lounge having my cup of tea..."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2014 at 23:26
  • @Mari-LouA Checking on FOD, "lounge" denotes a communal room in a public place, used for waiting and relaxing. The sense to it to denote a living room in a home is apparently chiefly BE. thefreedictionary.com/lounge
    – Elian
    Mar 2, 2014 at 23:41
  • @NourishedGourmet I'd agree with that. I don't think you'll find any dictionaries which say lounge is another term for sofa. Couch is primarily AmEng. I checked FOD, I was wrong. It is in the dictionary, must be an abbreviated form. I wouldn't say it but...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2014 at 23:46

There needs to be a distinction here between British English and American English - and the impact of class. Lounge is not just for public places in Britain - it is an acceptable alternative to "living room", although there is a suggestion in literature that it did not originate as such until the mid-20th century. (see Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Litany" set in the mid 1960s where "The Lounge" is capitalised to suggest that it is a new, and unfamiliar, usage and possibly one adopted to suggest superiority).

"Lounge" and "Sitting Room" are pretty much interchangeable now, although the latter I think is decreasing in usage. "Parlour" is more or less obsolete; (With)Drawing room is unashamedly upper-class. "Front room" (as opposed to "back room(s)" such as the kitchen) designated location rather than purpose, although as in many terraced or semi-detached houses the room at the front of the house was the only one left downstairs not used for eating or cooking, it probably became synonymous with "parlour", or "sitting room" or "lounge". It was certainly in widespread use up until the mid-20th century amongst the middle class - my grandmother used it. With changing house layouts and designs, it is beginning to disappear as well.


As a surveyor, I have to produce AutoCAD floor plans for different types of property.
With this I generally use the following:

If the property is of average size and has a ‘dining room’, I would then refer to the other room as a ‘sitting room’. If this property is for instance a tall ceilinged, well presented Victorian property, I would then refer to it as a ‘drawing room’.

However, if the ‘sitting room’ and ‘dining room’ are together as one, then this would be referred to as the ‘living room’.

Lounge is generally only used in local authority houses and the like, and refers to a room that is used as the ‘living room’ but has no dining facilities.

Large properties that have a formal ‘drawing room’ and ‘dining room’ can also have an informal ‘sitting room’ and also a very informal ‘snug’, but wouldn't have a lounge.


As (I think) a fairly typical middle-class English person, I use "lounge" and "living room" interchangeably, but would rarely use the rest of the words you mention. Specifically, "sitting room" and "parlor" have an old-fashioned feel to them, while "drawing room" has distinctly upper class associations, and "front room" is more typically working class (and maybe also old-fashioned too).

  • Just curious, do you also use "lounge" (or lounger) to designate a "couch"? According to FOD, "lounger" can designate a couch, but also a reclining armchair. Are you familiar with either or both of these meanings?
    – Elian
    Mar 2, 2014 at 19:50
  • 1
    I'd use "lounger" to mean a reclining chair, but not for any other purpose.
    – Jules
    Mar 2, 2014 at 20:16
  • How about "lounge" for a couch?
    – Elian
    Mar 2, 2014 at 20:20
  • 1
    I wouldn't use it to mean that, and don't believe I've ever heard anyone using it with that meaning.
    – Jules
    Mar 2, 2014 at 20:21
  • Do "parlor", "sitting room", and "drawing room" sound to you more appropriate for a mansion, a chateau, or an upscale hotel, or do "parlor" and "sitting room" still have an old fashion feel to them -- even for such places?
    – Elian
    Mar 2, 2014 at 23:26

It’s interesting in that my mother, a fairly formal southern belle by background (here in the US), once our homes began having space for such, would typically refer to our room where we gathered, for tv and games, reading and whatever, as the family room (some in the US call it a great room.

Meanwhile the very formal room near the front door, and across the foyer from the formal dining room, and where those younger than 16 did not tread, she called the living room and sometimes the parlor. It was strictly for entertaining guests, no tv, stereo, or anything else. It was suitable only for conversation and liquid refreshment. Coasters were available, ashtrays were not as no smoking was permitted indoors.

  • I had a quite similar experience growing up in England. The very formal room near the door was called the Front Room and was generally just for entertaining guests but at Christmas time the Christmas tree went in there and from Christmas Day up to the end of the Christmas period it was used as the space where we all celebrated Christmas. I gained the idea that it was in the front by the door so that guests could be shown into the best room without seeing other rooms so it’s function and location are related.
    – Nemo
    Aug 26, 2021 at 7:12

It’s quite a straightforward hierarchy of poshness, with subtle differences in usage arising. From the most posh to the least:

Drawing room — A large room, in a large house, with a fireplace and crucially, no TV in it—because you have a whole other room for that.

Sitting room — More modest, probably has a TV, but still upper middle class due to its slightly antiquated air. Still has a fireplace, but not such a big one.

Living room — Very similar to the above, but slightly less posh. Maybe even no fireplace.

Lounge — You are in a council estate. Or a cocktail bar. Or a certain part of an old-fashioned pub.

Nobody in the UK has said parlour to refer to a room in their house since the Second World War.

  • Hello, RJFG. While your answer may be valid, it needs supporting evidence on ELU. Answers lacking such come across as (and may actually be) just personal opinion. Apr 26, 2018 at 19:55
  • Supporting evidence is my being more English than Marmite, a writer, oh, and a degree in English Lit. <flicks chin>
    – RJFG
    May 12, 2018 at 9:56
  • You should be able to correct the mistakes in your post then. Wrongly using it's is a schoolboy howler, for a start. It doesn't inspire confidence in the overall accuracy of your post. May 12, 2018 at 10:07

Parlour in British history denoted a formal room to parle or talk. It was linked to status, as you had to have more than two rooms to have a designated parlour room. Always at the front of the house, with the best furnishings, often little used. People would lay out their dead there prior to funeral. The term is still used as a place to formally greet people: beauty parlour, funeral parlour. Still used in homes built in the 1920s and 1930s, but with the mass building projects of 1960s, homes’ square footage became smaller, and modern builds have lost the space to house a parlour room. In larger modern builds (4 beds), the front parlour room seems to have become a study.


Lounge is old formal. Where you would have two rooms in a house to sit in (apart from the Drawing room for the ladies to withdraw to, while the gentlemen remained in the Dining Room, for cigars and brandy after the meal)

In around the 19th century (I think) the term Living Room was used more commonly.

Front room just means the living room is at the front of the house as opposed to the back room (back of the house) but that term became 'common' in the middle to late 20th century.

In most middle class houses, they had a parlour. Normally situated near the front door.

Lounge/Parlour/Drawing room are for guest greeting

Living room/Sitting room are more family rooms

Personally I have a 'grab a seat if the dogs don't get there first' room

  • I think that your answer is nice but it lack sources, or at least quoted definitions.
    – P. O.
    May 7, 2015 at 19:21
  • 1
    To me, 'Front Rooms' belong to 2-up-2-down terraced houses.wikiwand.com/en/Terraced_houses_in_the_United_Kingdom The 'back rooms' were originally kitchens, big enough for a table and for a tin bath to be put near the range where water was heated. When gas, electricity and indoor plumbing meant bathing and cooking didn't need shared space, smaller bathrooms and kitchens were built on the back of the house, fand old kitchens became livingrooms.'Front Rooms' became a status symbol, kept for best. In my family FRs duplicated the furniture of LRs, but were cold, fancy and rarely used.
    – Spagirl
    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:55

I know the answer!

  • Front room, parlour, and formal living room are interchangeable. no tv.
  • back room, living room, or family room are interchangeable. And have the tv.
  • lounges are not in private homes. They are lounging areas in public houses like a bar or restaurant. They can be formal or informal and have a tv or not.
  • a sitting room is either an ante room off your bedroom or a waiting area in a public place. Typical small n informal but they can be fancy. For example the sitting room off your bedroom is private and youd only have close friends there so its informal. And you can even be in your pajamas there. But it could be lavishly decorated.
  • a drawing room is what the living room used to be called before tv. If you have a drawing room today it would be a family room with no tv which doesn't really exist anymore.
  • a study is a small room with a desk some books n computer. But no bills. That would be an office. A library is a large room with a lot of books n not necessarily a desk.
  • a den is an informal small sitting room with no tv and a fireplace.
  • Welcome to ELU, answers are expected to have some editing done on them (I.e not a wal of text), references, sources and links when available. Have a look on answers such as this english.stackexchange.com/a/209274/42481 to inspire you.
    – P. O.
    Jul 29, 2016 at 13:22

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