“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
You may have come across a few different terms used to describe that contraption you cook your food in or on: oven, stove, cooktop and range. If you found yourself puzzled, allow us to clarify the meanings once and for all.
Simply put, an oven is an enclosed space that heats or cooks food. Besides the typical modern oven that goes in your kitchen there are many kinds of ovens, from an earth oven that is simply a hole in the ground with a fire over it to a large industrial restaurant oven.
A stove is an enclosed space that heats up. That would make it an oven, wouldn’t it? Not necessarily. Every oven is a stove, but not every stove is an oven. Confused?
An oven by definition cooks or heats food, but a stove could have other functions, like a coal-burning stove you might find in a steam train.
A cooktop is a cooking surface and is probably the easiest to clarify. It’s not inside, it’s on top.
A range is an all-in-one cooking solution and is most probably what you have in your kitchen right now. It has both an oven component as well as a cooktop.
Does it matter what word you use?
As long as people understand what you mean you don’t have to sweat the nuances of meaning too much. A range is often just called an oven. If you call a cooktop a stove then you’re technically wrong, but people will probably understand what you mean if you say, “put this pan on the stove”.
If you are remodelling your kitchen though and giving specific instructions to your contractor then you may want to double check that you are both on the same page about what you actually mean. For instance if you said you wanted an Elba gas oven there’s a good chance you actually want both an oven and a cooktop. In other words, a range.
Now you know.