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1670s, "vaulted recess," from French alcôve (17c.), from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-qobbah "the vaulted chamber," from Semitic base q-b-b "to be bent, crooked, vaulted."
recess opening off a room or other space enclosed by walls or hedges. In medieval architecture it was commonly used as a sleeping space off the main body of a drafty hall. The separation of the alcove from the main space was accomplished at first by means of curtains and later by timber partitions to form independent rooms and thus conserve heat. In later centuries bed alcoves and kitchen alcoves reappeared as means of saving space in small living quarters, particularly in apartments