Why is a French window a French door?

Andygc

Senior Member
British English
I am yet again being irritated by estate agents who call French windows French doors. Does anybody have any understanding of why this has crept into BE?

I understand that the term French door is used in AE, but we don't train our estate agents in the USA.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It began creeping quite some time ago - or possibly not.

    1805 Times 29 July 1/3 (advt.) The principal story has a handsome entrance lobby..communicating by *French doors, and also by a window with the conservatory.
    1926
    Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 18 July 11/5 (advt.) Thrown wide between two small rooms, French doors allow you the often convenient space of a large room.
    2006
    Lancs. Life Feb. 19/1 In the dining room..sorbet pink walls and pink curtains framing the French doors that lead to the garden.

    The 1805 example may be an advertisement by a non-BE writer, the 1926 example is not from the UK.
    So the first authentic BE example is 2006!
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Here is a citing from what appears to be an Oxford magazine, The Antiquary, from the early 20th century:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ecsCAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA52&dq=%22french+doors%22&hl=en&ei=rmZcTIS4DoaEtgPDtMnlAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=%22french%20doors%22&f=false

    M. Viollet le Due, the great authority on French doors and their accompaniments, gives an account in his book of the manner of their fashioning from the twelfth century onwards.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Are you referring to what the French call a "window-door"? :)
    bien sûr, but more typically for an older English house:
     

    Attachments

    • French-window.jpg
      French-window.jpg
      24.1 KB · Views: 436

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    1926 Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 18 July 11/5 (advt.) Thrown wide between two small rooms, French doors allow you the often convenient space of a large room.
    But between two rooms they cannot be French windows (BE) or (presumably) French doors (AE) since the very essence of a French window is that it takes you out to the garden.
     

    tannen2004

    Senior Member
    English/USA
    But between two rooms they cannot be French windows (BE) or (presumably) French doors (AE) since the very essence of a French window is that it takes you out to the garden.

    Actually, in the US we still call them French doors when they're between rooms. I, for example, have French doors that separate my living room from my dining room.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    OED says a French door is the same as a French window.
    A French window is:
    French window n. a pair of tall casement windows closing against each other with no frame between them, allowing access to the outside or to another room.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    OED says a French door is the same as a French window.
    A French window is:
    French window n. a pair of tall casement windows closing against each other with no frame between them, allowing access to the outside or to another room.
    Interesting, the COED definition matches my understanding of the meaning, which I learnt at my father's knee (an architect):

    French window
    noun each of a pair of glazed doors in an outside wall, opening on to a garden or balcony.

    (my emphasis)
     
    Top