One word for cupboard used mainly in Hiberno and Scottish English is press. When I encountered it in one of my Irish courses as a translation of the Irish word prios it puzzled me somewhat as I’d never come across this word used to mean cupboard before. Today I spotted the term linen press in a book I’m reading and thought I’d find out more about this word.

According to the OED, a press is a large cupboard, usually with shelves, especially one that lives in a wall recess, and is used to store such things as linen, clothes, books, crockery and other kitchen item. It is sometimes referred to as a clothes-press or linen-press. It comes from the French word presse, which originally referred to a crowd or crush in battle, and by the 14th century also meant a clothes cupboard.

Do you call cupboards presses, or have you heard anybody doing so?

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Words and phrases.

7 Responses to Press

  1. Heike says:

    I did not realize this before, but now books I’ve read make sense! I wondered why people were putting things away in a press… This is not something one hears in Canada, at least not in the area I live in.

  2. José Figueroa says:

    When I first came to Edinburgh I came across the “Edinburgh press” in some of the older flats I visited. It is indeed a very shallow cupboard behind a door which looks just like the door to a room.

  3. Peter Beck says:

    In Australia it is about as common as the alternative of linen cupboard used for storage of sheets, towels, doonahs etc.

  4. Vijay John says:

    I have never heard “press” to mean cupboard, and I had to look up the word “doonah” 🙂

  5. michael farris says:

    I had a colleague from Dublin who used it for a Polish office cabinet (sort of like the linked picture but a lot bigger, about 8 feet tall)

  6. Christopher says:

    Being somewhat Danish, I understood the word “doonah” without having to look it up, but I’ve never heard an English speaker use it before. I love it.

  7. David Eger says:

    I first heard ‘press’ for cupboard in the West of Ireland. I mentioned it to my dad, who spent his teenage years in Bradford (having arrived from Berlin in 1939) and he remembers hearing it there. I read (or heard) somewhere that it originally referred specifically to a unit for storing linen, wherein the linen would be stacked and hence pressed flat. Nowadays in Ireland, however, it is used to refer to any kind of cupboard.

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