What is a Lazy Susan?

Shannon Kietzman

A lazy Susan is an addition to a table that is designed to assist in moving food from one person to another while dining. This is accomplished through the use of a turntable, which usually moves the food in a circular pattern when pushed by those at the table. In this way, the food never has to be picked up and passed around the table. Instead, it remains in place as it is turned about.

Thomas Jefferson, who is thought to have invented the lazy Susan.
Thomas Jefferson, who is thought to have invented the lazy Susan.

This device may also be a part of a kitchen cabinet. In this sense, the lazy Susan is a type of shelving unit within the cabinet that is capable of rotating on its axis. One may spin the shelf in order to find certain goods, usually foods such as canned goods, that are in storage. From the outside, it appears to be two cabinets that are located at a right angle to one another. When one of these cabinets is pushed, however, both doors move and the turntable is revealed inside.

Some people think that Thomas Edison invented the lazy Susan.
Some people think that Thomas Edison invented the lazy Susan.

Whether the lazy Susan is found on a tabletop or within a cabinet, it can be made from a variety of materials. Most commonly, it is made from either plastic, wood, or glass. It is believed that Thomas Jefferson invented the lazy Susan in the 18th century, though they were referred to as dumbwaiters at that time. It is said that Jefferson invented it because his daughter complained she was always served last at the table and, as a result, never found herself full when leaving the table. Others believe that Thomas Edison was the inventor, as he is believed to have invented the turntable for his phonograph.

Regardless of who invented it, it wasn’t until 1917 that the term lazy Susan was coined by Vanity Fair in an advertisement for the invention. In Britain, however, the term dumbwaiter is still used instead. The reasoning behind the name female name remains a mystery. One theory is that it was named after either Jefferson’s or Edison’s daughter, both of whom were named Susan.

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Discussion Comments


I have a lazy susan in two of my kitchen cabinets. I love them! I can find everything I'm looking for, and I think they hold more than a regular cabinet.

With a lazy susan, I don't have to take everything out of my cabinets to find the one thing I'm looking for.


My aunt had a lazy susan on her table, and there's no telling how old it was. It was hand-made. I think my grandfather may have made it for her. She said it was helpful with three children at the table.

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