The Many Names of Rocking Chairs: A Cultural Journey

Rocking chairs have become a quintessential symbol of relaxation and leisure. With their soothing rocking motion and comfortable design, they evoke feelings of tranquility, nostalgia, and calm. But where did these iconic chairs come from, and how did they get their name? This comprehensive guide will delve into the fascinating history and terminology behind one of the world’s most beloved seating options.

A Brief History of Rocking Chairs

While rocking chairs are a staple of traditional Americana, their origins can be traced back centuries and across continents. The earliest known rocking chairs emerged in ancient Egypt, where ornately decorated rockers were used by royalty and the wealthy. These luxury pieces, crafted from exotic imported woods and inlaid with precious metals, signified the elevated status of their owners.

Later, rocking chairs spread to ancient Greece and Rome. Again becoming associated with the ruling classes, elaborate stone rocking chairs adorned the gardens and patios of philosophers and politicians.

Why are they called Rocking Chairs

By the Middle Ages, rocking chairs had spread to Western Europe. England and France, in particular, developed unique regional rocking chair styles crafted by local woodworkers and artisans. Wealthy nobles would commission rocking chairs made from fine imported hardwoods and upholstered in lush fabrics, making them luxury furnishings that granted their owners comfort and status.

  • 1700s – Rocking chairs arrive in America via European settlers and become famous for front porch sitting
  • 1800s – New manufacturing techniques allow rockers to be mass-produced from woods like oak and walnut
  • Late 1800s – Rocking chairs become ubiquitous as parlor and bedroom seating
  • 1900s – Iconic companies like Shaker Manufacturing modernize rocker styles and materials
  • Today – Rocking chairs remain popular worldwide as nostalgic and soothing seating
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How “Rocking Chair” Got Its Name

So when did these chairs start being called “rocking chairs”?

The term likely originated in 17th-century England, inspired by the signature rocking motion of the chairs. The word “rocking” described the back-and-forth movement, while “chair” indicated it was a seating piece of furniture.

By the early 1700s, the full term “rocking chair” had entered the vocabulary of English furniture makers and woodworkers. The name stuck across regions and cultures as rocking chairs spread to North America and beyond. The intuitive moniker encapsulated the kinetic essence of the chairs.

Interestingly, rocking chairs are referenced by a colorful variety of names around the world:

  • Reichsstuhl (German)
  • Mesedi se sandleke (Afrikaans)
  • Tugurium (Latin)
  • Křeslo na houpání (Czech)

But whether you call them “rocking chairs,” “balancer chairs,” or “gliders,” there’s no mistaking their timeless allure. The gentle to-and-fro remains a universal comfort.

What Is Another Name for a Rocking Chair

Types of Rocking Chairs

Today, rocking chairs come in dazzling styles to suit any space or aesthetic. Here are some of the most popular modern varieties.

Classic Wooden Rockers

The traditional wooden rocking chair remains an icon of Americana. Often made from oak, walnut, cherry, or pine, these chairs have sculpted wooden rockers below the legs, enabling the signature rocking motion. Amish communities, in particular, have long crafted exemplary wooden rockers. Classic features include contoured seats, curved backs, and decorative spindles. These timeless rockers bring nostalgic charm to covered porches and cozy parlors.

Modern Gliders

Gliders offer a contemporary twist on traditional rockers. Instead of separate rockers, they have a wooden or metal base that enables smooth gliding mobility. Their sleeker profiles blend seamlessly into modern living rooms and nurseries. Upholstered cushions and clean lines create an updated look, but the soothing motion remains the same!

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Spring Rockers

As the name implies, spring rockers substitute traditional rockers with coiled springs to empower motion. This allows for a gentler, more consistent rocking movement. These chairs are designed with relaxation in mind and often include plush upholstery and ergonomic shapes. The springs provide a lighter feel, perfect for small spaces.

Rocking Bench

Rocking Sofas and Loveseats

Why reserve rocking to solitary chairs? Rocking sofas and loveseats allow you to enjoy the soothing motion alongside loved ones. More substantial than standalone rockers, these multifunctional pieces work equally well in living spaces or covered outdoor areas. The rocking mechanism provides ergonomic comfort while stimulating social connection.

Rocking Recliners

Rocking recliners combine rocking mobility with adjustable reclining positions to create the ultimate lounge experience. Kick back, extend the footrest, and let the gentle rocking lull you into blissful relaxation. Many rocking recliners also incorporate convenient features like USB ports, storage compartments, and built-in cupholders!

Rocking Chair Materials and Style

Rocking chairs are defined by their functional mechanisms and aesthetic details. Their materials and stylistic flourishes range from sleekly modern to vintage.


Wood – Classic rockers showcase stained, painted, or natural wood grains

Wicker – Light and breathable wicker lends a breezy vibe

Metal – Sleek aluminum and steel rockers have a minimalist appeal

Upholstery – Plush cushions and fabrics create an indulgent feel


Rustic – Distressed woods and visible joinery have an earthy feel

Shabby Chic – Soft pastels and chippy paint create a cottage vibe

Scandinavian – Light wood tones and streamlined shapes exude airy simplicity

Mid-Century Modern – Clean lines and fluid shapes echo ‘50s and ‘60s style

Eclectic – A cheeky mix of colors, patterns, and materials for bohemian cool

Whether you’re seeking weathered barnwood charm or urban sophistication, there’s a rocker to match your taste and home aesthetic.

Famous Rocking Bench

The Soothing Power of Rocking

Beyond their storied history and diverse styles, rocking chairs retain enduring popularity for one main reason — their capacity to soothe and relax. The gentle rocking stimulation seems to have an innate calming effect on humans.

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Studies have demonstrated that the rhythmic motion releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones. It also engages the vestibular system, which controls balance and spatial orientation. The result is both a physical and mental sense of ease and well-being.

That meditative simplicity feels more vital than ever in our increasingly hurried and stressed world. No wonder rocking chairs remain sought-after across generations!

Finding the Perfect Rocker

If you’re ready to welcome a rocking chair into your space, keep these tips in mind while browsing options:

  • Purpose – Will this rocker be used for relaxation, baby nursing, or as a decorative accent piece? Match the chair’s size and features to its intended function.
  • Space – Measure your room to ensure the rocker dimensions allow enough clearance to enjoy the rocking movement.
  • Comfort: Try different chair heights, seat shapes, back supports, and cushioning to find your perfect fit.
  • Aesthetics – Choose materials, colors, and styling aligned with your overall decor taste.
  • Budget – Rocking chairs range from affordable mass-market options to high-end artisanal models priced in the thousands. Set realistic expectations.
  • Quality – Examine joinery, weight tolerance, and durability. A well-constructed rocker should last for generations.

Finding the ideal rocking chair for you will pay off in years of soothing comfort! Then all that’s left is sitting back, kicking your feet, and letting the relaxing rocking rhythm wash your cares away.