Why are cars called limousine, saloon & sedan?


Posted by: Hassana Obi

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As cars came in replace of the horse-power carriages and covered chairs, lots of the terms coined for these were used for cars as well.


It is safe to say that everyone knows the shape of a sedan which is a three-box, four-door car designed with two seat rows to give room to, normally, 5 passengers. Sedan, or saloon, is also the body type that dominates the Nigerian roads; hence, recognizing one is not a tough task. However, have you ever wondered why it was called “sedan”? Here comes the answer. Keep reading to find out! And in addition to that, you will know the real origins of other popular body types as well, i.e Limousine.

Before going into details of specific body types, you should also know that all those words are to describe closed-bodied 4-wheel vehicles which are cars made with a fixed roof and actual doors.

With time, the definitions of these words have somehow changed their meanings as a sedan (American-English) and saloon (British-English) are used to refer to the conventional 3-box car while the Limousines are synonymous with luxury cars which have been designed to have a longer body than the original sedan/saloons.

But what are the real roots of those words? Now dive deeper to know more:

1. Limousine

People claim that it came from France where a city was named Limoges. People there had a cloak called Limousin whose hood ran over the wearer’s face.


The word limousine was from a type of French attire

This hood can be compared to the roof above the driver’s head that helps protect him from bad weather.

Automobile design improved the driver's cabin behind the wheel but in general, the design in the passengers’ compartments remained quite the same. Therefore, the name Limousine has not changed since then.

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2. Saloon

British people have different words to refer to similar things in American English. This time Saloon is not an exception. Still a 3-box closed-bodied car but it is Saloon, not a Sedan.


Saloon came to life thanks to its origin from a pub

Saloon had its root from the French word “salon” which is defined as a big room. When first accepted as a common-used word in English. It refers to the meeting of the artists or the intellects, resumably in a room.

The word saloon is a variant of the word Salon, coined in the 18th century and till the 19th century, it was used to describe a pub where cowboys come to gather. Aside from that, it also referred to a train’s compartment. Time passed and the automotive industry adopted the word as well, so saloon was used for a car body type since then.

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3. Sedan

While the two above originated from French, Sedan took a different route. It’s got Latin and Italian etymology or language roots. It was the word “sedan” that appeared in Italian in the 1600s as a synonym of the Latin word “sedes/sedere” that meant “sit”. In Italian, Sedan is defined as a covered chair used to cary the rich.


Sedan originated from the Latin word sedes/sedere

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Sedan first appeared in English in the 1930s, which helped replace the word “covered chair”, a traveling mechanism that was powered totally by human energy. That might be why people came up with a fuel-run sedan as the two share the same proportions (smaller with locomotion on the two ends and bigger in the middle where the passengers are seated.

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Hassana Obi

Hassana Obi

Car prices

Hassana Obi is an automobile writer and editor at Naijauto.com. She prides herself on hundreds of informative and entertaining articles on Nigerian traffic regulations, car prices and celebrity car collections. When Hassana is not writing, she is a teacher and philanthropist.

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