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 appropriate. I've also heard 衣柜 used to reference cupboard as well. Is this for colloquial reasons?
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.
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.
- 橱 and 柜 are a kind of furniture, usually rectangular in shape used mainly for storage purpose.
- 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.
- 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.
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