A patio can be a great addition to nearly any yard, but the term patio is used in such a wide variety of ways it can be tough to give an exact definition for the word. So what is a patio exactly? The word patio itself comes from Spanish, and a patio itself can take on many forms, especially depending on the culture and place on the globe. The Spanish word “patio” can roughly be translated as “courtyard”, “forecourt”, or even just “yard”. Patios actually became so important in Spain (where they originated) that they were very nearly considered more important than the house itself. The patios of Spanish cities such as Castile, Aragon, Leon, and Seville are world renowned for being some of the most beautiful residential structures not just in Europe but in the world. Obviously this is very different than the American perception of the term “patio.
In the United States, patios are usually seen as an addition added on to a yard (usually the back) to enhance the area for any number of reasons. These can range from a place to hold social events to an area to keep a grill or even just a place to relax on a beautiful summer night or to soak up the afternoon sun.  Given this idea of an American patio, and the literal translation from the original word, it should come as no surprise that patios are used across the world for many different purposes. In Iran the Persian word used for patio is “hayat khalvat”, which, in English, roughly translates to “a small and private yard”. The real nuance to the term in Iran though is that it is a place where women can gather without hijab, which is the traditional headwear worn by Muslim women. Australians and Indians using the word patio are typically using a general term to refer to any generic outdoor balcony or a verandah. As mentioned before, in America (contrasting with many of the other previously stated cultures), a patio is typically thought of as a very broad term for an outdoor space that is used for lounging, dining, and socializing. The English word “patio” is a very generic term, perhaps even more generic than the word used in Australia or India. As such, patios in the United States can look very different from one another. They can be roofless or have a roof, and can be either paved with tile, stone, brick, etc. or be completely unpaved depending on the situation.
Despite the great variation in what a patio can look like, most people are able to conjure a mental picture of what a patio does look like. The most prevalent “patio”, especially in suburban areas, is what many call a “deck”. This is an unroofed, wooden structure that can be used for any of the purposes stated earlier and that usually has furniture of some type used for relaxation and lounging throughout the year and essentially providing a gateway from the house to the yard. Then again, in other residential areas, a patio made of cement that directly connects to the house is perhaps even more prevalent than a deck. However, the basic functionality of the two different types of “patios” remains the same. Whether it is wooden or cement, raised or ground level, they both serve the same purpose as a place to relax or to gather outside to enjoy the weather without the feeling of really being “outdoors”. It should be clear that the word patio is fairly vague, and thus allows a lot of flexibility when it comes to building one.
Patios vary a great amount from example to example in their construction, their purpose, their looks, and in their functionality as well. Some more upscale patios may have fanciful amenities such as fountains, pools or hot tubs, fireplaces, or even an outdoor kitchen. Of course not all have that many luxuries, and in fact the large majority does not. Most are more basic, but still usually have types of outdoor furniture including chairs and umbrellas. A whole industry has been created that exists based solely on the success of patios, porches, and decks in America. Anyone who is investing in a patio does not simply want space taken away that could have been used as extra space in their home or yard; they want to use it for a specific purpose and thus specific products can be used to achieve that end.
Specifically, patio furniture companies have found the most success in selling seating, tables, temperature control, and cooking equipment. Most patio furniture (chairs and tables) is used just like the same item would be used inside the house, but typically made out of a different material to account for being outside. Instead of having a traditional wooden kitchen table to eat on, a table designed for use on a patio would usually be made out of plastic or metal. For those who truly prefer the look or feel of wooden furniture, there are still options. Teak is often used for outdoor furniture as its properties lend itself better to outdoor conditions, but whether teak or another wood is used, it will most likely need to be treated before use to be waterproofed. Wicker is another good choice for the exact same reason. Its interlocking design makes it much more waterproof than other materials or designs.
As far as temperature control goes, it is not uncommon for homeowners to have a patio heater. These can ran on propane, butane, natural gas, or sometimes even electricity and are used to prolong the time of year that a patio can be used. Also, temperature control can come in the form of something as simple as an umbrella that is able to provide some shade from the harsh sun.  Patios, although different throughout the world, serve the same basic purpose everywhere. They are a place to find some relaxation outside while still being very close to home. They can be as grand or as basic as the owner desires, but almost always have some type of furniture to ensure that the goal of being laid back gets achieved.