Sara is responsible for poking a BIG hole in our design egos. It was May 27th at approximately 3:39 pm and she asked us… get ready for it)… to define what a duvet was. Yep, a simple question that we all thought for sure we could answer with ease and elegance because of course we knew what a duvet was… right?? Well, not right because we couldn’t. For some Monday design laughs and ANSWERS, here is our duvet discussion:
Ok Mal, you’ve got it. Let’s chat. I think it’s important, for everyone’s education, to talk about the difference between a duvet and a comforter. Guys they ARE NOT the same thing. A comforter is a single, ready to rock you to sleep, pretty quilted, down-filled blanket and a duvet is a two parter . . . the cover and the quilted insert (not pretty enough to leave uncovered, and generally much harder to wash, hence the cover).
Now I’m not a language scholar (surprised??) but it actually makes sense to me that a duvet requires two parts. It’s like the French and Italian languages were like, “hey let’s take our two words for “TWO” (duo and deux) and make a fancy word for cloud-like bedding.” That statement is based on zero facts, but it doesn’t seem that crazy, right?? I think I’m on to something 🙂 So when you are referring to a duvet, you are talking about the two pieces that create it, not a singular thing you put on your bed.
Duvet = The Cover + The Insert. If you are missing either of those pieces it’s not a full duvet.*
*EDIT: Thank you everyone in the comments for sharing all your Duvet knowledge!! It turns out that the word “Duvet” actually means “down” (as in, down feathers), and the duvet is the INSERT only. The duvet cover is just the duvet cover. 🙂
Ok that’s it for today but we have to know, did you KNOW?? Or were you always confused about the difference between a duvet, a duvet cover, and a duvet insert? Speaking of duvets, if you want to know Emily’s current favorites check out this post.
Are there any other design terms that you are also confused about? Let’s talk about them together in the comments.
Love you, mean it.
Opening Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: The Portland Master Bedroom Reveal
As a European and non-English native speaker, the whole bedding vocabulary confuses me. I’m glad at least the duvet part now is clear! 🙂
I think it confuses all of us:) But happy to help with this one!
Years ago I visited Scotland and stayed in a B&B where all the beds had a duvet.
It was the warmest but lightest bed covering I had ever encountered. So I checked it out and found it had buttons so you could take the cover off and wash it. Before that I had never seen or heard of a duvet. A few years later they seemed to become more popular in the states. I think one of the reasons because they were not heavy like a quilt and you could wash the cover plus depending on the insert they could keep you very warm.
Exactly! And they are meant to be fluffier which I am always down for in my bedding. The fluffier the better.
I knew this! It doesn’t help me design my spaces though…. 🙂 And while I love the flexibility a duvet offers, they usually end up driving me nuts.
Ya I agree it’s a real love-hate relationship:)
A few years ago I just stopped with flat sheets altogether and have been using duvets instead and I’ll never go back. It makes it SO EASY to make our bed every morning.
Me too! But from past comments I can tell you it’s a VERY controversial topic haha
I’m pretty sure that your conclusion actually isn’t correct. The duvet is the insert itself, not the combination of insert + cover. I think that part of your confusion has to do with the fact that duvets have been more common in Europe, and comforters (puffier versions of duvets that aren’t intended to be enclosed in a cover) have been more common in the U.S., so the term comforter is associated with American English and duvet with British English.
I agree with your assessment. I have never really heard the term, “duvet insert”. It is just a duvet. The cover is called a “duvet cover” because it covers a duvet.
Yes, completely agree. Per wikipedia: from French duvet [dyvɛ], meaning ‘down’) is a type of bedding consisting of a soft flat bag filled with down, feathers, wool, silk or a synthetic alternative, and typically protected with a removable cover, analogous to a pillow and pillow case.
In British English a duvet is both the insert and the complete set with cover on. So a duvet is a duvet whether it has a cover on or not! Does that even make sense?! I’ve honestly never thought so much about what we call our bedding, but now I get that it’s massively confusing 😂
I think what Meghan, Jenna and Mary are all saying is more accurate and fits with my understanding of these terms and uses as well. I first experienced duvets in Europe and I have been using them pretty much ever since. Another good thing about the duvet cover is that you can adjust the type and weight of the duvet going inside to better adjust for different seasons. You can even put a blanket inside instead for a less fluffy/summer weight option.
I’m Irish and for us the duvet is the feather/polyester filled thingy, and the duvet cover is the set that you buy for the duvet and 2 x pillows. I’d probably even talk about them separately – what tog is your duvet or where’d you get your duvet cover from? But here’s another question…throw pillow or throw cushion?!
Add bedspreads and coverlets to the list of bedding terms that I feel like I use haphazardly without knowing if I’m using them right. I think a coverlet is a quilt/thinner blanket that can either be used to cover the whole bed or folded at the bottom? And I’ve heard a bedspread used to describe both a full blown comforter (I think that’s a regional/old-fashioned thing?) and also just to describe the folded blanket at the bottom of the bed? Just, like, what actually are they??? Is everyone else just using them willy-nilly and hoping they’re doing it right too?
French insight here – It would have been a nice explanation but duvet doesn’t come from any version of Two in French. It just means Down feather, and apparently, like Down, comes from Scandinavian Dunn, not from Duo or something like that 🙂
We mainly call a Duvet « une couette » (cute, I know), and if we were to call it a Duvet, that would only be a synecdoche and not sound entirely correct.
So because it means down feather, I would also have thought that the duvet was the insert alone 🙂
From a U.K. point of view – the duvet is categorically just the ‘insert’ that you then put in a duvet cover. If you started talking about a ‘duvet insert’ I’m sure that a lot of people would assume that it was something you somehow fitted into the duvet as an added extra!
Yes! But a duvet with the cover on is still just called a duvet, right?!
Yes, but only for brevity. It would be mighty cumbersome to say, “Hand me that duvet and duvet cover, please.”
Yes, you use the term “duvet” whether or not it has a cover on it, exactly like when you want a pillow that happens to have a pillowcase on it, you don’t say “hand me that pillow and pillow case.” One doesn’t constantly parse the case from the pillow, or the cover from the duvet, even though the accessories can become separated from the object they are made to cover/accessorize. I am surprised that this was a surprise to people!
Interesting! I always thought that a down comforter and a down duvet were pretty much the same thing and that a duvet cover was used to enclose either one.
Thanks for explaining just how very wrong I was!
A down comforter might be intended to be used sans cover, as in the fabric is nice enough, but there’s no reason why you can’t stuff it into a duvet cover if you wish. Same with a polyfill comforter. That’s what I did for my son when I wanted to refresh his room. There was nothing wrong with the comforter but we went in the direction of a different color story so I just bought a duvet cover and popped it in.
As a British person who’s also lived in France, I have to disagree with the final conclusion. As others have already commented, it is incorrect.
The duvet is the down filled piece alone, which is then protected by a cover, a duvet cover (e.g. it covers the duvet). This is common knowledge in the UK where that is the most common type of bedding.
And, as Aurelie pointed out above, in France the duvet would be called a couette, protected by an housse de couette – same as in English, the term refers to the protective cover which contains the duvet itself. The fact the English word duvet shares its two first letters with the French word for two means nothing. : )
As an Italian person living in a French speaking country I agree with all you and Aurelie wrote. And I was quite surprised by the entire discussion, I thought it was obvious but maybe it is so just in Europe, where is more common 🙂
I have to add one thing: “duo” isn’t the Italian word for “two” (it’s “due”). “Duo” refers to a couple of artist working together. 😅
Last fun fact: it Italian we call il “piumone” and the word for “feather” is “piuma” 🙂
Generally with this type of post, you conduct some research and cite some sources.
Wait, by the description of a comforter it seems like it doesn’t have a removable cover that you wash? So you have to wash the entire thing if it gets dirty? Mind blown! I always just assumed that comforter was just the American word for a duvet! And yes I agree with others that just the insert is called a duvet for shopping purposes. There is a big difference if I say I’m going to buy a duvet or a duvet cover. But when you’re talking about the insert with the cover on it as one thing, you can also just say duvet, like “oh no, the duvet fell off the bed last night”.
(If you’d like some extra trivia, here in Australia a duvet is a ‘doona’ – one of those old brand names that stuck as the object name. )
Fellow Australian here: the idea of the comforter being the whole thing (no removable cover!) is crazy to me too! But I never say “duvet” tbh… I would say “doona” for the insert and “bedspread” for the duvet cover. Agh! Too many words!
I’ve been saying doona all my life and never knew it was a brand!!! We just have a bunch of random words for stuff 😂😂😂 this is amazing.
Hungarian here. We (besides other names) call it dunna – pronounced like doonnah. I know you are pretty much on the other side of the planet, but what are the chances???? 🙂
In Australia we call it a doona. When we say doona we are referring to the insert only. The cover is called a doona cover. If you want something that is like a quilt with no cover to remove we call that a coverlet or bedspread! Yes, you do need to wash the whole coverlet but I take mine to the dry cleaners and they do it in their big washing machine. It comes back clean and pressed.
You should tackle drapery vs curtains!
Duvet means down in French. A duvet is a quilt or “comforter-like” piece of bedding filled with down, traditionally. The cover of a duvet is a cover. “Duvet” references only the piece that’s inserted, or down part, not the cover. Not the pair. It has zero to do with having two parts.
My husband calls it out Robert Duvall and feigns ignorance about bedding terms.
Why do ordinarily intelligent husbands feign ignorance about bedding?? My husband calls our duvet (with duvet cover) a “sheet.” A SHEET. WE HAVE A TOP SHEET, AND THAT AIN’T IT!
Growing up with English from England in New Zealand meant I knew exactly what it means. Comforter is and American thing. We call your comforter a quilt. And in Australia they call a duvet a Doona because of some brand of duvet they had when it first came in. Each country to its own. Just like you call bathroom taps faucets and plumbing. We call it tapware.
The biggest question I’ve always had is why have a duvet in the first place? What s the benefit over a comforter? Seems to me like a no-brainer: Have one single bed cover or another that you then have to take the time to cover? Confused. But I like this post!
That’s an easy one (finally). A duvet is used without a top sheet, so the cover is removed and washed weekly with the bottom sheet and pillowcases–much easier than washing and drying a comforter with its fill.
For restless sleepers not having a tucked-in top sheet means the bed does not get ripped apart every night. It’s also much quicker to make in the morning–just fluff and drop. In the mid-west, without a/c, I use just the cover once it gets hot.
Been sleeping under one since the early 1970s. I had a high-school friend whose parents had emigrated from Norway, and she had one. I thought it was the most brilliant idea I had ever seen, and I laboriously saved my babysitting money for months, and her cousins sent me one.
The point of a duvet vs. a comforter is you remove the cover and wash just the cover not the duvet (comforter). I read on a duvet washing instructions recently that you only needed to take the duvet in every 3-5 years & have it washed professionally.
To an English person, this conversation is completely insane. EVERYONE knows this from a young age, it’s the only bedding we use. It isn’t warm enough for anything else. Next we need a post on how to put a duvet cover on, I think us Brits could show you a trick or two!
Can anyone tell me the name of the “duvet” that is only the width of the bed, doesn’t hang over, usually folded at the end of the bed, I believe for extra warmth on cold nights? It’s usually a silk or satiny material, fairly thick. I see it all the time in British tv and movies and love the look but have not been able to find them.
I grew up in a “comforter” household in the 90s. To me, a comforter is thicker than a quilt, covers the whole bed unlike a coverlet, and is tough to wash at home due to its size. (And to my 90s memory, it’s made of some kind of cheaper, polyester-type synthetic fabric.) I tend to reserve bedspread for that thinner covering you find in chain hotels. The one your mom always tells you is never washed and so you have to throw it on the ground immediately when you enter the room. (Interestingly, even the chain hotels seem to be moving toward white duvets these days!) We visited Scandinavia in 2000, where we were first introduced to the concept of a duvet and we’ve never looked back! I agree with the European commenters’ usage; we tend to refer to duvet as what you call the duvet insert in this post and then call the whole shebang when it’s covered the “duvet” too, as in: “The duvet is slipping off the bed.” Although I do say, “I’m washing the duvet cover” when I strip the bed, more for my husband’s sake than anything. Ah, semantics! I think this stuff is so… Read more »
A duvet is an insert and used in a duvet cover). A comforter looks like a duvet but used without a cover. Often, Europeans sleep with duvet (in duvet cover) directly on top of them. And Americans often sleep with a flat sheets on top of them (and on it, a comforter).
EHD? Hello? A retraction, perhaps?
I’ve used duvets and their covers off and on for years. I mostly make my own covers from two flat sheets and add buttons for closers. I often use two different sheets so I can have two different looks with one cover just by flipping it over. I can also by pillow cases to match those sheets.
I actually knew the difference between the two. Personally, I prefer a light weight comforter or a quilt (similar to a comforter but even lighter weight) any day over a duvet. A comforter can simply be thrown into the washer without the bulky work of taking off and putting on a cover. Also, since the whole thing can be washed I am sure that there are no allergens or smells lingering like in the unwashable duvet insert.
If I need more warmth in the winter I pair my comforter it with a light blanket underneath.
Unfortunately, most stores do not carry as much variety of comforters as duvet covers.
Ahhh I love this post so much. I’ve need brought up in the U.K. but my mum is American and I’m a designer for that famous Swedish retailer so feel like I have the whole wealth of bed accoutrements knowledge. Duvets are a Scandinavian thing and were brought to the U.K. in the 70s by Terrance Conran and at that time his very modern home ware store habitat. Up until that point and what my British grandmother would have dressed the bed with would be a flat sheet and thick woolen blankets. The duvet is the white filled inner, synthetic or natural (so many choices) and the duvet cover is the cover for it often sold with pillow cases. In the U.K. comforters are rarely seen, the most similar you will find is a quilted bedspread used as a secondary blanket in the winter. People generally don’t use extra sheeting in the U.K. just a “fitted sheet” that has elastic so conforms to the mattress and maybe a flat sheet in the summer instead of a duvet as we generally don’t have AC. Duvets are sold in “togs” with 4 being the lightest weight and 12-15 Extra thick and warm.… Read more »
You don’t have to be a language scholar to learn the etymology of a word. This info is always included in the dictionary entry.
Yes, I knew this but didn’t want to be the bossy know-it-all to point it out to everyone (although it kinda bugged). You are certainly not the only design blog that has used these words wrong!
Find some fun duvet covers here! https://ciminohome.co/collections/duvet-covers
I literally tried to explain this to my boyfriend the other night because the only thing on his bed is a duvet and he thinks that’s acceptable. LOL. Sending this to him now…
Next up, how to pronounce “chaise.”