A line from the sitcom Seinfeld:

ELAINE: Hey, what's going on?
JERRY: New couch, baby!
ELAINE: New couch? Why?
JERRY: I love this couch. You know what the best part about it is?
ELAINE: Nuh-uh.
JERRY: It doesn't fold out, so no one can sleep over.

Sleep over, what does that exactly mean?

  • 1
    I can't say I'm 100% certain, but my impression is to sleep over is a shortened form of to sleep overnight. Nov 30, 2014 at 13:36
  • What @FumbleFingers said. But with 100% certainty. It's a common phrasal verb, Cookie Monster, and I'm surprised the dictionary definition left you uncertain as to its meaning. At any rate, most Seinfeld-related questions welcomed! ;)
    – user6951
    Dec 2, 2014 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


A pair of definitions I find useful:

Verb. 1. to spend the night as a guest in someone's home

Noun. 1. the act of spending the night as a guest in another's house, especially the participants are children

As you can see, sleep over and/or sleepover have two related meanings, one as a verb and one as a noun.

To sleep over does not necessarily imply that children are involved, but it can imply a certain innocence. (It also sometimes does not.) Paired with the discussion of the couch, the phrase indicates that Jerry is not talking about anyone who would share his bed.

Rather, Jerry is talking about guests who are overstaying their welcome. Much of Seinfeld is about parodying awkward social situations. This is one such case.

Before getting the new couch, Jerry had a couch that could fold out into a bed. This meant that, in addition to his own bed, there was a second bed not normally in use. Guests could use it to spend the night, that is, to sleep over. Jerry simply does not want to have guests over all night, but also does not want to be seen as rude in denying them the option of using the bed. (Note that it would be extremely presumptuous to assume you are welcome to use someone's bed, even a guest bed, but then Seinfeld characters are often rude and presumptuous. It's still awkward to inform someone that they presume too much and are not, in fact, welcome to use the bed.)

The new couch does not fold out into a bed, so there is nowhere for a guest to sleep (sleeping on a couch tends to be uncomfortable). This gives Jerry the perfect excuse to stop people from sleeping over, without having to be seen as rude. This is a pretty typical Seinfeld joke, parodying rules of manners and politeness, particularly with characters who are not actually all that polite, but try to act it.

So the joke is that, rather than things like comfort or utility or even its decorative properties, the thing Jerry likes best about the couch is that he can avoid this awkward situation. In fact, the ability to fold out into a bed is usually seen as a feature, so the thing he likes most about the bed is its lack of a feature that others might pay extra for. As jokes go, its not exactly hilarious, but it is mildly humorous and is part of the way Seinfeld constantly reinforces its characters' personalities and exhibits their often-skewed priorities.

The option of sleeping in Jerry's bed isn't part of the joke. Unless the guest is a close childhood friend or relative, the very phrase sharing a bed often implies sex. Sharing a bed is very intimate, even when not sexually intimate. None of Jerry's unwanted guests would be that intimate with him (or at least, so he believes; I don't remember if it happened at any point, but it would be a very Seinfeld-like joke to have one of the unwanted guests suggest it, flustering Jerry and putting him in an even more awkward situation).


The definition of sleep over

to sleep at someone else’s house for one night (Cambrdige)

Few Examples

  1. Mother, can I go sleep over at my friend's place for tonight ?
  2. I have never slept over at any of my friend's place before. (I never stayed the whole night at my friends place before)
  • I don't understand where you get that second "humorous" sense from. Jerry presumably has his own bed, which he may or may not share with sexual partners. He's just saying no unwanted drunken (male?) friends can stop overnight because he doesn't have the kind of couch that can be opened out to provide a second bed for use by non-sexual-partners. Nov 30, 2014 at 13:41
  • @FumbleFingers - you are right when you say 'Jerry presumably has his own bed, which he may or may not share with sexual partners' But it is a presumption. So naturally it's not accurate. I haven't seen that Seinfield episode, have you ? But judging by the PO's doubt i think there could have been comic punch in that dialogue. You or someone who's seen that episode would be able to throw the light on our understaning.
    – Leo
    Nov 30, 2014 at 13:49
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    "So naturally it's not accurate," you mean that @FumbleFingers's guess that Jerry has a bed is not accurate? Because I can assure you that's not true; he does. I have seen the episode in question, but in any event it would be unusual to assume a grown man sleeps on his couch in his own house; that's not the default. Your definition is accurate, your explanation, particularly of the joke, is completely wrong.
    – KRyan
    Nov 30, 2014 at 14:00
  • 2
    If by "punch" you mean "punchline," as in a joke, then no, that is not what I mean. There is a joke there. You just haven't explained the joke correctly. "Sharing a bed" implies sex, and sex is not at all what Jerry is complaining about. And the new couch doesn't prevent sharing a bed in the first place, since Jerry still has his own bed. It's guests who wouldn't share his bed, but stay over on the old couch-bed, that he's complaining about.
    – KRyan
    Nov 30, 2014 at 14:50
  • 3
    The point is that you aren't supposed to guess, you are supposed to answer the question. If you don't know the answer, you shouldn't be answering it. I have seen the episode, I do know what's going on, and your guess is incorrect. An incorrect guess does not help anyone.
    – KRyan
    Nov 30, 2014 at 15:03

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