The shortest definition might say 'furniture; piece of horizontal surface, standing on leg(s), used to hold objects'. Now designing and making tables became an art. It's not only useful thing anymore but also an element of decoration. Changes in social habits, industrial development brought many changes in the look of furniture and tables as well.
Early tables, made by Egyptians and Chinese, were platforms of stone used only to put something on them (not to sit around) or to practise writing or painting (in the second case). Greeks and Romans used their tables for eating so as monk's in Middle Ages. But in this period tables weren't popular. Mostly made of wood, designed only for aristocracy, kings, queens and of course for monk's. There were four-leged, big, heavy and rectangular oak tables in monasteries which served gatherings and eating.
This usage left during the centuries and tables become more popular. And in 17th century, as it was common to eat in the dining rooms, tables had to change their shapes. They started to be smaller and more comfortable, oval and round.
In the same time appeared three leged tables. Next age brought a totally new usage of tables ? they became a place of work for women who sewed. Nearer our times tables started to vary. Altough the purpose of eating left, tables are used in other practical and unpractical ways, for example to put map, computer or puzzles on it; as a piece of art and sometimes even as a place of sexual intercourse. All types of tables have their own unique names, shapes and functions like: low, designed for a living room, coffee tables; big drawing tables, for a technical drawings; chess tables, with a special boards to play, or small, standing against the wall console tables . As it was said at the beginning, the attitude towards making tables changed.
And it refers to all furniture. Now making furniture is not only an industry but it's equal to any other kind of art. Closer to this century also some materials used for modern furniture changed. We have leather, fabric, mesh, metal, microfibre, and wood.
Very popular is making furniture from glass, steal and metal. People are giving much more attentions to what it looks like than what it was made for. More important became a special design of the furniture.
In a result we have even seperate occupation as designer furniture , whose job is to make our tables more beautiful and original.