Is an Open Porch Similar to a Portico? Everything You’ll Want to Know


We’ve all been in a conversation where someone points out a word we are using incorrectly. Sometimes it can simply be a little funny, but often we all walk away feeling a bit embarrassed and self-conscious. This isn’t our fault! There are a lot of words that get misused and thrown around without people knowing what they mean. This isn’t so bad in everyday life, but when you’re trying to plan and design an element in your home, having the correct terminology can save you and your contractor a lot of confusion. So to avoid feeling embarrassed, we’re going to be talking about the difference between a porch, a portico, and one more term that might come up when speaking about outdoor covered structures. 

What is a porch, and is it similar to a portico?

The two terms that get confused most often are porch and portico, and for a good reason! Because technically, these two words mean the same thing; however, portico is Italian for “small porch.” So if you’ve used these terms interchangeably, you’re not wrong, but let’s discuss the subtle difference between the two. 

What is a portico?

As we said above, the word portico means “small porch,” which is precisely what a portico is. It’s a covered area at the entrance of a home, and they always have columns, walls, or screens enclosing them. Often they are too small for a lot of furniture and might only feature a potted plant or a welcome sign. Anything bigger that could accommodate chairs or a swing would be considered a porch. These were very popular in Greece but were quickly brought over to most United States neighborhoods. This here is the perfect example of a portico, but you’ll often find them mislabeled on sites such as Houzz and Pinterest. 

What is a porch?

To put it simply, a porch is a covered structure attached to the front entrance of a home. Now wait, doesn’t that sound exactly like a portico? They are basically the same thing; however, a porch is larger and covers more than just the entrance. There’s typically room for furniture and a, you guessed it, porch swing. Porches are also ideal for holiday decorations or enjoying a rainy afternoon. Sometimes a porch will even wrap around the home and can be enclosed with curtains, walls, or screens. Here is a great example of a porch with some bold color choices and excellent rocking chairs. 

What is a Veranda? 

Veranda is a fancy word, and it’s simply the Portuguese word for porch. However, it’s only considered a veranda if it is a wrap-around porch. If it only covers one side of the home, it’s still a porch, but once it wraps around to another side of the house, it’s now a veranda. So, a veranda would be large on the scale of porch sizes. This image here would technically be a veranda. It could have multiple doors leading out to it, and it could also have more than one set of stairs out to the lawn. 

This topic is frustratingly confusing, and it might be easier to simply say small, medium, and large porch (or tall, grande, and venti if you speak Starbucks). But to try and put it simply, all of them are porches, but a portico is a small porch, and a veranda is a large porch covering more than one side of the home.

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