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An old-fashioned cupboard at the Istana Satu, a royal palace in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia
A modern cupboard affixed on to the wall of a kitchen.

Alternative forms[edit]


Inherited from Middle English cuppeborde, cupbord. Equivalent to cup +‎ board. Phonetic variants show that the /p/ in the original forms had assimilated to the present-day /b/ by the 16th century; the etymological spelling has, however, dominated from the 18th century.



cupboard (plural cupboards)

  1. (obsolete) A board or table used to openly hold and display silver plate and other dishware; a sideboard; a buffet. [14th–18th c.]
    • 1530 July 18, Iohan Palſgrave, “The thirde boke”, in Leſclarciſſement de la langue francoyſe [] [1], London: Richard Pynſon, Iohan Haukyns, →OCLC, page 203; reprinted as Lesclarcissement de la langue françoyse, Genève: Slatkine Reprints, 1972:
      Cupboꝛde of plate or to ſette plate upon buffet z ma.
    • 1555, Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, “The fourth booke of the seconde Decade, of the supposed Continent”, in Richard Eden, transl., Decades of the New World, page 68:
      from the cobbarde byſyde owr dyninge table
    • 1591, Ludovico Ariosto, translated by Sir John Harington, Orlando Furioso, London: G. Miller, translation of original in Italian, published 1634, book XXV, stanza 49, page 201:
      Now when the maids and pages all were gone, / One onely lampe upon the cubbard burning []
  2. (obsolete) Things displayed on a sideboard; dishware, particularly valuable plate. [16th–19th c.]
    • a. 1529, John Skelton, Why Come Ye Nat to Courte?; published in John Skelton; Alexander Dyce, The Poetical Works of John Skelton: With Notes, and Some Account of the Author and His Writings, by the Rev. Alexander Dyce. In Two Volumes., volume II, London: Thomas Rodd, Great Newport Street, 1843, OCLC 733571702, page 54, lines 897–904:
      But howe comme to pas, / Your cupbord that was / Is tourned to glasse, / From syluere to brasse, / From golde to pewter, / Or els to a newter, / To copper, to tyn, / To lede, or alcumyn?
  3. A cabinet, closet, or other piece of furniture with shelves intended for storing cookware, dishware, or food; similar cabinets or closets used for storing other items.
    Put the cups back into the cupboard.
    • 1530 July 18, Iohan Palſgrave, Leſclarciſſement de la langue francoyſe [] [2], London: Richard Pynſon, Iohan Haukyns, →OCLC, page 211; reprinted as L'éclaircissement de la langue française par Jean Palsgrave [] , Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1852:
      Cupborde to putte meate in – dressover s, m.
    • 1814 May 1, “Minimus” [pseudonym], “Fine Arts”, in The Satirist, or Monthly Meteor, volume XIV, number 18 (New Series), London: Printed for Samuel Tipper by T. Gillet, →OCLC, page 417:
      Old Mother Hubbard / Went to the cupboard, / To give the poor dog a bone; / When she came there, / The cupboard was bare, / And so the poor dog had none.
    • 1874, J[ohn] T[homas] Micklethwaite, Modern Parish Churches: Their Plan, Design, and Furniture, London: Henry S. King & Co. 65 Cornhill and 12 Paternoster Row, →OCLC, page 161:
      A cupboard with shelves for music-books.
    • 1980, Lynne Reid Banks, “Thirty Scalps”, in The Indian in the Cupboard, London: J. M. Dent, →ISBN:
      As he had figured it out so far, the cupboard, or the key, or both together, brought plastic things to life, or if they were already alive, turned them into plastic. There were a lot of questions to be answered, though. Did it only work with plastic? Would, say, wooden or metal figures also come to life if shut up in the cupboard?
    • 1997, J[oanne] K[athleen] Rowling, “The Vanishing Glass”, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN:
      Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.
  4. (obsolete) Things stored in a cupboard; particularly food.
    • c. 1665, Roxburghe Ballads; published as J[oseph] W[oodfall] Ebsworth, editor, The Roxburghe Ballads: Illustrating the Last Years of the Stuarts, volume VI, Hertford: Printed for the Ballad Society by S. Austin and Sons, 1871–1899, OCLC 13767296, page 529, lines 26–30:
      Some men they [make] love for what they can get, / And 'tis certain there's many a Lubbard; / Will sigh and will pant, seeming ready to faint, / And all for the love of the cubbard, brave boys! / And all [for the love of the Cup-board].
  5. (Western Pennsylvania, UK) A closet for storing coats.
    • 2023, Susie Boyt, “Hot under the collar: the coat of your dreams”, in Financial Times, London: The Financial Times Ltd:
      I hung the coat in the cupboard and bided my time.



  • (storage built into a wall): see closet
  • (storage built onto a wall): see cabinet
  • (furniture used for general storage): press (Irish & Scots), wardrobe (British), closet (regional US)

Derived terms[edit]

  • cupboard (verb)


  • Chichewa: m'kabati
  • Farefare: kobɔɔtɩ
  • Gulf Arabic: كبت (kabat)
  • Luhya: likapati
  • Maori: kāpata
  • Swahili: kabati
  • Zulu: ekhabetheni



cupboard (third-person singular simple present cupboards, present participle cupboarding, simple past and past participle cupboarded)

  1. To collect, as into a cupboard; to hoard. [from 16th century.]

Further reading[edit]

  • Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "cupboard, n." and "cupboard, v." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1893.