The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored wood, originally the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban Mahogany. It was later used also for the wood of Swietenia macrophylla, which is closely related, and known as Honduras Mahogany. Today, all species of Swietenia are listed by CITES, and are therefore protected. Species of Swietenia cross readily when they grow in proximity, the hybrid between S. mahagoni and S. macrophylla is widely planted. Mahogany is also the national tree of Dominican Republic. It is also part of the national seal of Belize which was known as British Honduras before independence.
The name "mahogany" is also commonly used to refer to the African genus Khaya (closely related to Swietenia), hence the term African Mahogany.
"Mahoganies" may refer to the largest group of all the timbers yielded by the fifteen related generals Swietenia, Khaya and Entandrophragma. The timbers of Entandrophragma are sold under their individual names, sometimes with "mahogany" attached as a suffix, for example "sipo" may be referred to as "sipo mahogany".
In addition, the timber trade deals with various FTC defined "mahoganies", under a variety of different names, most notably "Philippine mahogany".
Much of the furniture made in the United States in the mid 1700s, when the wood first became available to American furniture makers, was made of mahogany. Mahogany is widely used for fine furniture; the rarity of Cuban mahogany restricts its use (likewise Honduran mahogany). Mahogany resists wood rot, which makes it suitable for boat construction. It is also often used for musical instruments, particularly the backs of guitars. Mahogany is used for drum making, because of its integrity and capability to produce a very dark, warm tone (as compared to other more common wood types like maple or birch). The famous Beatles sound of the 60s was made with Ludwig Drums in mahogany shells. Today, several drum manufacturers have rediscovered the features of mahogany shells, resulting in several high end series offering shells made in this wood.
A wide variety of electric guitars are also made from mahogany, like Gibson's Les Paul line and most of the PRS guitars among others. It is noted, again, for its dark properties, as well as its weight (Gibson Les Pauls may weigh as much as 12 pounds), the combination of which produces a warm, rounded tone with huge sustain, for which the guitar is famous.
Mahogany is also commonly used in acoustic guitars. The wood is most often used to make the back, sides, or neck of a guitar, but it is sometimes used to make the top (soundboard) as well. Guitars with mahogany soundboards tend to have a softer, darker tone than those made from spruce.
Mahogany is now being used for the bodies of high-end stereo phonographic record cartridges and for stereo headphones, where it is noted for “warm” or “musical” sound.