What is an arbor?

Indeed, what is an arbor? Cambridge dictionary defines it as ‘a sheltered place in a garden formed by trees and bushes that are grown to partly surround it’. Merriam-Webster on the other hand states that an arbor is ‘a shelter of vines or branches or of latticework covered with climbing shrubs or vines’. To me the main difference between the two definitions is that the latter use ‘climbing’ as an action word, whilst the former prefers ‘surround’.

GardenRoomStyle and the Arbor.
The author of GardenRoomStyle in an arbor covered in Ivy.

The term arbor originally comes from ancient French and from the Old English herbere, which refers to a place for the cultivation of herbs (vines?). From then onwards it seems to have been used rather inconsistently. In essence an arbor defines and encloses space and has an open-work roof capable of serving as support for plants. A true arbor also usually contains basic seating.

The author of GardenRoomStyle in an arbor covered in Bougainvillea
The author of GardenRoomStyle in an arbor covered in Bougainvillea.

The problem is where to draw the line between an arbor and for example, pergolas, trellises and galleries. It’s a fine line to cross over. In my view, I’m in these pics standing underneath the most basic kind of arbor, a simple arched structure covered in climbers. (Or am I wrong and it’s just a plain arch covered in climbers?) But arbors can also be of much more elaborate designs requiring an architect and a fat wallet. And perhaps it’s at this end of the design spectrum it can get difficult to tell if an arbor is really an arbor. As if it wasn’t already.