In American English, one's house refers to his or her physical dwelling, while one's home is so much more. A home is a building, a city, even a country where one feels he or she belongs most. It's a very powerful word describing a very powerful and innately human concept.

But it's also a concept that doesn't translate well. I've been working with Google Translate (ugh) and for most languages of interest I really can't find a word that represents the idea of home properly. Is it uncommon for this concept to have an associated term? Is this simply representative of a feeling firmly American in origin? Are there any good examples of this idea in other languages?

  • 7
    Not sure why specifically "American" -- British and other English varieties show the same distinction.
    – TKR
    Jul 5, 2017 at 15:41
  • 7
    English lacks a basic word to denote one's younger sibling, but I'm sure even English speakers feel an innate love, protective instinct, and mild annoyance when looking at one's brother who is five years younger, quite distinct from how one feels about another brother five years older. You can't assume people feel something differently just because they divide words' meanings at a different boundary.
    – jick
    Jul 5, 2017 at 18:35
  • You should give example sentences or explicitly list the senses. Both of these words are overloaded in English too. Jul 8, 2017 at 20:26
  • 3
    @TheEnvironmentalist The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, as famous and interesting as it is, has been mostly discredited, by years and years of repeated psycholinguistic research. The strong version only holds in science fiction (like in the movie Arrival). If the strong version held, translation and learning another language would be impossible.
    – Mitch
    Jul 21, 2017 at 23:05
  • 3
    @TheEnvironmentalist As to the weak version, sure that is trivial, having a vocabulary for sailing implements on a ship makes it easier to work there or that one tribe in Australia can tell direction better in an underground maze because their language has no words for left and right but does for north and south so they have constant practice keeping track of direction. Other than the trivial or the arcane, there really isn't that much effect of language on thought.
    – Mitch
    Jul 21, 2017 at 23:08

10 Answers 10


Many Romance languages have this distinction. In addition to French foyer noted by @Philippe, there are the Romance cognates Spanish hogar, Galician fogar, with the meaning of "home", from Vulgar Latin focarium, ultimately derived from the Latin focus "hearth". These are distinct from casa "house" (< L.)

Notably, Portuguese has lar for "home", derived from the Etruscan (via Latin) LAR.

  • 1
    I always thought lar sounded funny, but didn't look into it & never imagined it was Etruscan. Cool! Jul 14, 2017 at 18:11
  • 1
    I'm a native Brazilian Portuguese speaker and, while I feel it as literary, I'd never call it an eruditism (like, say, using the classical second-person plural). While I definitely vou pra casa after work, if I'm talking about my "home sweet home" it will be a lar doce lar, if I'm saying that "our mind is our home" it will be nossa mente é nosso lar, if I'm talking about children who make the streets into their home they'll be crianças que fazem da rua seu lar, etc. These sound much less pompous to me than what's usually considered "eruditism", like ígneo for "fiery" etc. Jul 17, 2017 at 13:44
  • 1
    (cont.) Lar ranks #1676 in the top 5000 most frequently spoken words from opensubtitles; much less common than casa (#96), of course, but still comfortably within the core 2k, which is far from an eruditism in my mind (it's above chuva "rain", besteira "nonsense" or moradia "habitation", for example). Jul 17, 2017 at 13:48
  • 1
    Even the exact sentence fazem da rua seu lar can be easily found in the wild (1, 2, 3…) Jul 25, 2017 at 12:21
  • 2
    At least in Brazil we use "lar" exclusively when denoting where we live. In other situations - as when a team is playing at his own stadium - we use "casa". So the word "lar" is not a 1..1 translation for "home". Jul 25, 2017 at 21:12

In French, the terms "foyer" and "chez soi" express the concept of home with a strong nuance of "one's family' for the first (foyer is originally the fireplace, and by extension the hearth), while the latter is "one's own place" and therefore the place where one feels they belong. In some contexts, the word demeure also shares some of the nuances of the English word home.

In Japanese, there are terms like uchi (内) or wagaya (我が家) that can partially cover the concept (the first is broader in that in can cover any in-group to which the speaker belongs, depending on the context, while the second is my/our home/household/family), but their use is more restricted. There is also the term "ibasho" (居場所) which refers to the place where one belongs.

I don't speak any other languages fluently enough to provide other examples, but I think you'll find that, as with most terms, and especially those describing abstract concepts, you won't find a one-to-one correspondence where other languages will have only one word corresponding exactly to home. Rather, as with my French and Japanese examples above, you'll find that although the concept (or, rather, set of concepts) is quite common, how it is expressed will vary (sometimes considerably) from one language to the next.


In Russian, both house and home are the same, дом [dom], but in Ukrainian (which is closely related to Russian) the same word, дім [dʲim] (gen. sg. дому ['dɔmu]) is usually used to mean home, while house is called by different other words, like хата ['xata], будинок [bu'dɪnɔk], кам’яниця ['kamjanɪtsʲa] (rare), etc. I wrote "usually", because дім [dʲim] is sometimes used to mean house, too.


In Russian there are adverbs дома and домой similar to English adverb "home" (as in go home, at home)

Я дома = I am at home (adverb)

Я в доме = I am in the house (noun)

Я иду домой = I am going home (adverb)

Я иду в дом = I am going into the house (noun)


In Hindi घर (ghar) can mean both "house" and "home". मकान (maka:n) only means "house" but is a pretty common word nevertheless.


In addition to (o)uchi, Japanese has furusato which is translated to hometown. With nuisance, however the area in which one grew up is more accurate than the mapped borders of the town.

Japanese words often carry emotional weight: (o)uchi has a feeling of belonging, wagaya has a feeling of family and any associated feelings thereof, and furusato has a heavy feeling of nostalgia.


In Czech and Slovak they are two different words (unlike Russian where дом can be both).


  • dům - house
  • domov - home
  • doma, domů - at home, (towards) home

originates in Proto-Slavic *dȏmъ - house, home


In Chinese:

家 means home, including but not limited to the physical dwelling, and family members. This word can means a lot and makes people feel warm emotionally. I think this is the word best matches home in English.

Besides, there are some related words:

  • 家庭 means family.
  • 家乡 means hometown.
  • 房子/房屋/住宅 means house.

In Swedish and the Scandinavian languages in general we have the exact same distinction as in English.

House -> Hus (same in Norwegian and Danish)
Home -> Hem (Hjem in Norwegian and Danish)

(If someone has the phonetics they may add them)

  • 1
    Hem is not the same in Norwegian and Danish; it’s hjem or heim in Norwegian (both in Bokmål, only heim in Nynorsk) and hjem in Danish. Jul 30, 2022 at 13:45

My mother tongue is Saurashtra, which developed from Gujarati but has had lots of Marathi and Dravidian influence. I did also notice that apart from Saurashtra and English, pretty much no other language has this distinction between a building where one can live, and the place where one does live.

House - Ghér घेर
Home - Ghomma घोंम

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.