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The Antique Dictionary

A definitive resource on terms related to European antiques including core terms as well as history and context


While most folks know what an armoire is, they may not realize where the word comes from. It shares a common root with armor, armory, armada, and armaments – all related to weapons.  This is because the word actually traces back to a Latin word, armarium, meaning “a closet, chest, or place for implements, tools, and arms.”

So, from this whole linguistic journey there are two things we should note about armoires.  First and foremost, their initial purpose was not to store clothes.  That would have been the purpose of a wardrobe, a mashup of “warder” meaning “to guard” and “robes,” which retains the same meaning today – robes or clothes.

The other thing to know is that armoires were intended as presentation pieces that would have occupied a central, prominent, and visible place in the home.  They were not hidden but rather on display.  This is why so many of the finest examples are highly carved and detailed.

Their purpose has changed from storing arms, to clothes, to televisions. . . but they speak to how beautiful storage is always needed.


Note: Be careful not to confuse an armoire with a deux corps.  Armoires have full length doors while a buffet deux corps has separate top and bottom sections and, therefore, divided (top and bottom) doors.

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