Meaning of bed-related terms


I am not an English speaker, but I want to buy everything that has to be on a bed and I want to use Amazon.

Bedspreads, blankets, bed-throws, duvet covers, fitted sheets, flat sheets, quilts - those are hard to understand especially when in pictures they all look like a piece of cloth...

What do I need?

  1. The bottom layer has to be simply a rectangular piece of clothing which has dimensions similar to the ones of bed in question. So a flat sheet?
  2. Pillows and pillow cases. This one is pretty clear.
  3. Thing which keeps people warm. That sure looks like a duvet. Maybe quilt is also used for that purpose, difference being that it's not filled with goose feathers?
  4. Clothing which is "wrapped" around the item #3. Probably a duvet cover... What about a quiltset? I'm not sure whether it usually means pillow cases + item #3 or pillow cases + item #1.
  5. Clothing which lays on top of everything mainly for aesthetics (during the day for example). Bed-throw?


Posted 2013-03-24T20:52:34.003

Reputation: 199

It depend on what kind of bed you have. In my case, box springs sit on a bedframe, the mattress sets on top of the box springs, and the fitted sheet goes over the top of the mattress. The flat sheet goes on top of the fitted sheet, the blanket(s) on top of the flat sheet, and a bedspread on top of that. The bedspread generally covers the bed during the day and probably is not used when sleeping. But a Japanese futon or a duvet (don't know but maybe its like a featherbed?) etc. will have different linen. – None – 2013-03-25T05:13:45.580

1Why is this closed? I know exactly what he's asking. The fact that the terminology changes from region to region (and sometimes, from person to person) doesn't mean that this is an unanswerable question; it just means that a complete answer will be pretty long. – Martha – 2013-03-26T20:31:10.297



Generally, working from the bottom layer up:

Ruffle Sheet: Sits between the base and mattress components of an ensemble bed for decorative/ornamental purposes. (Optional.)

Electric blanket: sits on top of the mattress and is connected to an electrical cable which allows the bed to be pre-warmed. In the US, Electric Blankets are known as Electric Mattress Pads. (Non-optional in cold areas, especially if there are no other forms of heating available - eg hot-water bottles.)

Mattress protector: Flat (ie, non-fitted) but usually padded sheet with elastic added to corner edges. Goes over mattress to protect it and elastic slips under corners of mattress to keep it in place. (Optional.)

Bottom sheet: Can be a flat sheet, but is usually a 'fitted sheet'. Fitted sheets are elasticated in the corners to make it easier to a) make the bed and b) keep the sheet positioned correctly overnight.

Top sheet: Flat sheet. (Generally, bodies sleep between bottom and top sheets.)

Electric Overblanket: Largely a US phenomenon, these are similar to Electric Blankets/Mattress Pads except they are placed above the top sheet. In the US, they are called simply 'electric blankets'. This can cause some confusion.

[Blankets | Duvet/Doona/Comforter/Continental Quilt ]
Blankets: Generally thick (often wooly) rectangles that you add more of depending on how cold it is.

Duvets: (doonas in Australian) are bags with an insulating material (usually down/feathers, but also cotton and synthetics) inside. Usually (in contrast to blankets) only one duvet is worn on a bed. A duvet is usually wrapped in a duvet-cover which serves a similar purpose as pillow-cases do for pillows. In the US, the term is comforter, and confusion can arise as 'duvet' is sometimes used to refer to the cover/case specifically, unlike in Europe where it is the bag itself, or the bag+case.

Quilt: Top covering that serves a dual purpose as decoration and an extra blanket (depending on material, thickness etc). Not as commonly used with duvets as with blankets.

Quiltset isn't a single word (except perhaps in a marketing context), but quilt-set usually refers to a quilt / duvet cover that matches with pillowcases and possibly a ruffle sheet to create a coordinated look for the bedroom. The contents of the set (ie, whether you get two or four pillowcases, or whether a ruffle sheet is included) are dependent on the vendor (and price).

As snailplane has commented, for a number of reasons - different regions, different types of beds (eg, mattress protectors make no sense on a waterbed), marketing, etc - there is no hard and fast rule for all these names. However if you take this list while google-shopping, you should know what you want to order when you hit Amazon's checkout.


Posted 2013-03-24T20:52:34.003

Reputation: 6 050

Yes, blankets go over things. As far as I'm concerned, over the mattress! Under the sheet and under the person. I've never experienced a heated blanket on top of me... (Brit in NZ). Here the shops sell a 'sheet set' which is a flat (or sometimes fitted) undersheet, another flat oversheet, and a pillow case. OR a 'Duvet set' which is a duvet cover and a pillow case, sometimes also with a flat or fitted undersheet. There will be one or two pillow cases included depending on bed size. – toandfro – 2014-03-31T03:26:55.310

What you're calling an electric blanket isn't one. An electric blanket is still a blanket, i.e. it goes above the flat sheet (and the user of the bed). What you seem to be describing is an electric mattress pad. – Martha – 2013-03-26T20:32:57.227

@Martha: I think somehow, those things are nearly always called electric blankets anyway, despite the technical incorrectness. I remember being confused by this as a child. – Cerberus – 2013-03-26T20:56:41.987

It seems to be a difference between the US and UK, at least in Wikipedia. All I can say is in the US I have only heard of an electric blanket over the flat sheet.

– None – 2013-03-26T22:20:37.767

Edited to include Electric (Over)blankets. (Doesn't the US know that heat rises?) – mcalex – 2013-03-27T10:03:59.703

@mcalex: we're perfectly aware that heat rises; that's why there are heated mattress pads. We're also aware that the term "blanket" refers to a covering that goes over the occupant of a bed. :) – Martha – 2013-03-28T22:45:24.913

touché. So the US names them correctly, ROTW uses them correctly? :-) – mcalex – 2013-03-29T01:46:41.823