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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]


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English copbord, 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.
  2. (obsolete) Things displayed on a sideboard; dishware, particularly valuable plate.
    • 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, John Palsgrave, Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse compose par maistre Iohan Palsgraue Angloyse natyf de Londres, et gradue de Paris [The Clarification of the French Language Composed by Master John Paslgrave, English Native of London, and Graduated from Paris], [London?]: The imprinting [by Richard Pynson, c. 1524] fynysshed by Iohan Haukyns [], OCLC 606548205; republished as John Palsgrave; Giles Duwes, F[rançois] Génin, editor, L'éclaircissement de la langue française par Jean Palsgrave, suivi de la grammaire de Giles du Guez, publiés pour la première fois en France [The Clarification of the French Language by John Palsgrave, Followed by the Grammar of Giles Duwes, Published for the First Time in France], Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1852, OCLC 68807038, page 211:
      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 50520355, 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 156133086, 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 978-0-460-06992-2:
      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 978-0-7475-3274-3:
      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].
  • (furniture used to display tableware): see sideboard
  • (kitchen or dining-room closet): see pantry
  • (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]

Etymology 2[edit]

From cupboard ‎(noun).


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.]


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