Often times, the words "carpet" and "rug" are used interchangeably. From source to source, opinions vary as to the correct use of each term. We have our own system for differentiating between the two, but the question remains: is there any real consensus?
In Asian countries, the word carpet is most widely used for all sizes of floor covering. There is more differentiation in the West: carpet means wall-to-wall floor covering and rug refers to a smaller piece. Most people think of a rug as a smaller accessory rather than a large floor covering. As a general rule of thumb, anything less 40-feet wide can be referred to as a rug.
The word "rug," which is of Scandinavian origin, meant "coarse fabric" in the 1500s. Its meaning eventually evolved to "mat on the floor" in the early 1800s. Today, it is defined as a floor covering that is "smaller than a carpet."
"Carpet" originated from the Old French word, "carpite", which dates back to the 13th century. Similar to "rug," "carpet" meant "coarse cloth" before its etymology evolved to its modern-day meaning. Its meaning shifted to “floor covering” in the 15th century. While "rug" is defined as "smaller than a carpet," there is no set-in-stone rule for what dimensions define a carpet.
At first glance, the word "carpet" has a more dignified ring to it while rug has a tendency to sound dull or drab in comparison. That is, no doubt, one reason that luxury rug companies often refer to their products as carpets – ourselves included.
Covering the entire floor, this black-and-white carpet creates a bold wall-to-wall pattern.
Our roots are in Tibet, where there is a strong presence of Asian culture and tradition. Even today, flooring of most any size can be referred to as a carpet. In our studio, we use the words interchangeably.
The conclusion of this somewhat-murky explanation is that both "rug" and “carpet” can be used to refer to the same thing. A rug can be a carpet. A carpet can be a rug. Carpeting, in the wall-to-wall sense, cannot be a rug.
Is there a difference between the two words? Yes. Can they be used interchangeably? Kind of.