Now used interchangeably, they came from different places but still meant the same thing. Rugs originate from Scandinavian ‘coarse coverlet’ or ‘shaggy tuft’ while carpets come from Old French and Old Italian ‘heavy decorated cloth’ or ‘thick woolen cloth’.
Carpets were known much earlier than rugs. Both first appeared in English with similar meanings as ‘coarse cloths’ and ‘coarse fabrics’. However, the first preceded the latter with more than three centuries.
It was a century and a half after their first coming to our awareness dated as far back as 13c. that carpets started to cover tables, beds, and even walls, but not before another half of a century were they eventually used as – what is now the norm – floor coverings.
The evolution of rugs was not as diverse and dynamic as the usage of carpets. Half a century after their first appearance in English in mids 15c., rugs were still used as ‘coverlets’ and rather as ‘wraps’ before only a couple of centuries later they were eventually used as presently as ‘mats for the floor’.