“Stove” vs. “Oven” vs. “Range”: Are They Synonyms?

For many people, the heart of the home is the kitchen. And for house hunters who love to cook, the center of their new potential kitchen is the stove. However, whether they’re planning on baking or sautéing, is it the oven or range that they are inspecting? Or is it the stove?

Let’s take a look at oven, stove, and range to see if they are indeed synonyms that can be interchanged or completely different pieces of equipment that chefs cook with.

What is a stove?

A stove is a noun that refers to “a portable or fixed apparatus that furnishes heat for warmth or cooking.” Stoves commonly use coal, oil, gas, wood, or electricity as a source of power. Stoves are also defined as “a heated chamber or box for some special purpose, as a drying room or a kiln for firing pottery.” For example: She has a scar on her arm from burning herself as a child on the stove while her mother was boiling water. When used as a verb, as in stoved or stoving, the term means “to treat with or subject to heat, as in a stove.”

There are different types of stoves for different intended purposes. For example, a wood-burning stove is mainly for heating a room, however it is possible to cook some things on it (think s’mores or hot dogs).

Speaking of hot dogs, do you know where the awkward name for this grilled favorite comes from?

Stove’s first recorded use was in 1425–75, and it originally meant “heated room” and “bath room” in English.

What is an oven?

An oven is a noun that’s defined as “a chamber or compartment, as in a stove, for baking, roasting, heating, drying, etc.” For example: Grandma had only just put the cookies in the oven to bake, but her entire house already smelled marvelous. 

In everyday use, oven refers to a specific kitchen appliance for baking or is often used as a hyperbole to describe a hot room: “It’s an oven in here!” she exclaimed after getting into the steamy car and closing the door.

The word oven comes from the Old English ofen, closely related to the German Ofen.

What is a range?

A range has a variety (or range!) of meanings as a noun, adjective, and verb that can be found here. However, when it comes to a kitchen appliance, a range is a noun that’s defined as “a large portable or stationary cooking stove having burners built into the top surface and containing one or more ovens.” So this is a heated chamber, typically found in a kitchen, where someone bakes or roasts, and that often has burners on top for other forms of cooking. For example: During their kitchen renovation, the couple opted to buy a stainless steel range complete with a convection oven and five burners. 

Range was first recorded in English around 1350–1400. It comes from Old French renc, meaning “line.”

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How to use ovenstove, and range 

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is! Within the appliance industry, these three nouns can’t always be interchanged. A range is a stove that has burners and is paired with an oven; an oven can bake or roast things; and a stove is a heating device (think cooktop or stovetop) that you can cook on.

Although the appliance industry has specific guidelines, in more casual usage, people might use these terms interchangeably. In everyday and regional use, some people call a rangestove, while others may call a range an oven, and vice versa. Those people who call the entire appliance a stove might be confused by others who refer to just the cooktop or stovetop as the stove. In the UK, Ireland, and in other varieties of English, the stovetop (what Americans may call the stove) is called a hob. A hob originally referred to the open cooking chamber that we may associate with old fairy tales. If you can picture a giant cauldron bubbling on an open flame in a hearth, that’s a hob.

Even when accounting for all these variations, sometimes the words cannot be interchanged. For example: As the temperatures dropped and the snow started falling, he added more wood to the stove. (This stove is a heating element for a room.) However, in everyday use, stove and oven could be swapped here: The little girl had a hard time waiting as the cookies baked in the oven (or stove). 

We've got plenty more debates cooking, like should we call it "grilling," "smoking," and "barbecuing"?

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