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I apologize if this is very elementary: I've never heard of closet referred to as 壁橱, only as 衣柜, but the direct translation doesn't seem apropriate. I've also heard 衣柜 used to reference cupboard as well. Is this for colloquial reasons?

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3 Answers 3

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壁橱 can refer to a small closet, a wardrobe embedded in a wall, a cupboard hanging on a wall, a chest placed against a wall or something else. As the characters go (壁=wall, 橱=case), it can be a container for anything not limited to clothes. Note, as an imported concept, 'walk-in closet' is not translated into 壁橱 but something along the line of 储衣间 (clothes storage room) or 更衣室 (dressing room).

衣柜 (衣=clothes, 柜=cabinet) means a wardrobe, either built-in in the wall or a standalone piece of furniture. A general-purpose cupboard should never be called 衣柜.

In Chinese, the distinction between built-in in the wall vs. standalone furniture is not made by first-class words or affixes. Both 壁橱 and 衣柜 can refer to either a closet or something else.

For the similarities/differences between 橱 and 柜, please refer to @Question Overflow's answer here.

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Excellent answer! –  Stumpy Joe Pete Apr 27 '13 at 0:42
    
I think chest should be 柜子 or 箱 instead of 橱. Agree with the rest though. +1 –  Question Overflow Apr 27 '13 at 6:40
    
@QuestionOverflow Good point. Your answer has very good explanation for 橱 and 柜, I'll refer to that and change the inline to 'case' which is more accurate than 'chest'. –  NS.X. Apr 27 '13 at 8:00
 壁 = wall
 橱 = cupboard/wardrobe

So, from there it's very clear. That a wall cupboard. In Mandarin, a word can remain very much of meaning. So, if only by a word, we can't know actually what they want to mean, after combine these words. We can actually know what it's mean. Actually if you uses these word to combine to other, it won't mean closet, but will mean other as what the sentences mean.

and 衣 = clothes 柜 = something like a place to store things. So, combine it can became CUPBOARD

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No. Here is a picture of a closet. It's a small room for storing clothes in. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Apr 26 '13 at 6:07

I believe a wardrobe is a kind of closet for storing clothes, and depending on your locale, people may also loosely call it a cupboard (sometimes also known as a cabinet). You may like to look up these terms on Wikipedia. What I want to focus here is more on 橱 and 柜. Since I can't find a precise definition for these two on the internet, I shall describe them based on my experience.

Similarities:

  • 橱 and 柜 are a kind of furniture, usually rectangular in shape used mainly for storage purpose.

Differences:

  • 橱 is usually full-height and placed against the wall, with doors that open outwards. Most of them are made of wood.
  • 柜 is usually half-height and can have drawers or a lid instead of doors. A good portion of them are for display purpose.

Examples:

  • 壁橱 (cupboard placed against the wall)
  • 衣橱 (wardrobe)
  • 冰橱 (refrigerator)
  • 电视柜 (TV cabinet)
  • 衣柜 (cabinet for storing clothes)
  • 陈列柜 (showcase)
  • 鞋柜 (shoe cabinet)

A similar kind of furniture with open compartments and no doors is known as 架 or a shelf.

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"Refrigerator" is "冰箱" in Chinese. "箱" means a box or a trunk. –  neuront Apr 27 '13 at 2:34
    
冰箱 is the generic word for a fridge. Sometimes it is also known as 冰橱 or 雪柜. –  Question Overflow Apr 27 '13 at 3:51
    
The question also asked about 衣柜 referring to a cupboard, which doesn't store clothes. Can you comment on this usage? –  Claw Apr 27 '13 at 3:55
    
@Claw, I wouldn't say it is totally wrong, just that 衣柜 is a subset of a cabinet which is sometimes also known as a cupboard. People with good vocabulary would normally call it a wardrobe since the purpose is well defined. –  Question Overflow Apr 27 '13 at 4:24
    
@QuestionOverflow FYI 雪柜 is originated in Cantonese and is rarely used in Northern China. baike.baidu.com/view/1798723.htm –  NS.X. Apr 27 '13 at 5:32

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