Originally Persian, dēvān, now dīwān, in Arabic pronounced dīwān, diwān; in Turkish divān, whence in many European languages, Italian divano, Spanish divan, Portuguese divan, French divan. Originally, in early use, a brochure, or fascicle of written leaves or sheets, hence a collection of poems, also a muster-roll or register (of soldiers, persons, accounts, taxes, etc.); a military pay-book, an account-book; an office of accounts, a custom-house; a tribunal of revenue or of justice; a court; a council of state, senate; a council-chamber, a (cushioned) bench. The East Indian form and use of the word is given under dewan n. Another European form, older than divan, and apparently directly < Arabic, is Italian dovana, doana, now dogana, French douane (in 15th cent. douwaine), custom-house
- 1a : the privy council of the Empire Ottoman Empire
- b : council
- 2: a council chamber
- 3: a large couch usually without back or arms often designed for use as a bed
- 4: a collection of poems in Persian or Arabic usually by one author
Primarily, in the Middle East (especially the Ottoman Empire), a divan was a long seat formed of a mattress laid against the side of the room, upon the floor, or upon a raised structure or frame, with cushions to lean against.
Divans received this name because they were generally found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers of a bureau called divan or diwan (from Persian, meaning a government council or office, from the bundles of papers they processed, and next their council chambers). Divans are a common feature of the liwan, a long vaulted narrow room in Levantine homes. The sofa/couch sense was taken into English in 1702.
The divan in this sense has been commonly known in Europe since about the middle of the 18th century. It was fashionable, roughly from 1820 to 1850, wherever the romantic movement in literature penetrated. All the boudoirs of that generation were garnished with divans. They even spread to coffee-houses, which were sometimes known as divans or Turkish divans, and a cigar divan remains a familiar expression.