Dwelling Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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Have you ever heard of the word dwelling? Are you familiar with its definitions and the different forms it takes on? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the word dwelling and how to use it.

Some words in the English language can be somewhat confusing because of their many forms. Dwelling is one of those words. This word’s noun and verb form have the same spelling, which can sometimes throw people off. 

So, today’s word of the day is dwelling (ˈdwɛlɪŋ). We’re going to walk through the definition of dwelling, its etymology, and how it is used in conversation and writing. Let’s get started. 

What Is the Definition of the Word Dwelling?

There are a couple of definitions for the word dwelling, one for each of the word’s different forms. Here are each of the definitions you might find in an English dictionary. 


  • A place of residence; a place where someone resides


  • The act of living in, or taking residence in, a place

Essentially, the meaning of dwelling always has something to do with a house or place of living. It could be referring to a condominium, an apartment, or any place of residence where a person lives. It could be referring to the dwelling place itself or the act of living in it. 

The word dwelling is common but isn’t used very often in regular conversation. It is used much more commonly in a legal context. This word has more of an official connotation, so you are more likely to hear it in an official capacity rather than in a talk with your friends at the bar. 

Other Forms of the Word Dwelling

There are several different forms of the word dwelling. The word dwell is the infinitive form of the verb. Dwelt is the past participle. Dweller refers to a person who is dwelling. There are many forms of the word that all have the same root: dwell.

Common Collocations

A collocation is a common combination of specific words that occurs more often than by chance. The collocation comes to take on a definition of its own. Here are some common collocations that use the word dwelling. 

  • Dwelling place
  • Dwelling house
  • Dwelling units
  • Family dwellings
  • Dwelling features

Where Did the Word Dwelling Come From?

To help bring a little more clarity to the meaning of the word dwelling and how to use it, let’s look at the word’s history or its etymology. The study of a word can help us to understand it far better. 

The word dwelling has quite an interesting history, and it looks slightly different than you might expect. The word comes from the Germanic languages, finding its direct roots in Old English but also being strongly related to Middle Dutch and Old Norse words. 

The Old English dwellan is the direct ancestor of the word dwelling. It means “to lead astray, or to hinder, or to delay” This definition is quite different than the definition we have today. The Middle Dutch dwellen has a similar meaning that is quite unrelated to the current definition. It means “to stun or perplex.”

The Old Norse dvelja shares the definition with the Old English dwellan. In Middle English, the definition began to shift. Instead of “leading astray,” more emphasis began to focus on the “delay” aspect. So, the Middle English dwellan means “to remain in a place, to dawdle.” 

Over time, people just meant longer periods when they used the word dwelling. Instead of a brief stay in a place, the stay became a long stay, and eventually, it came to mean “to stay permanently in a place of residence.” 

Dwelling in Other Languages

American English isn’t the only language that has a word for dwelling. In Italian, they have the word abitazione or dimora. In German, they have the word wohnung. The word residencia is the Spanish word for dwelling. 

What Are Some Example Sentences for the Word Dwelling?

Now, it’s time to learn more about how to use the word dwelling. Here are examples of the word dwelling used in a sentence to show you how it is commonly used. 

We currently have two families staying in our single-family dwelling place. 

I’ve been dwelling in the US for 10 years now, so even though I’m not a citizen, I still consider it my domicile. 

As homeowners, we want to improve our dwelling as much as possible. 

While dwelling at the estate, I had all my needs met, and I hardly had to lift a finger. 

The construction company was doing a lot of digging to make basements for the new dwellings. 

The nugget ice maker is a nifty little addition to our dwelling.

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Dwelling?

Here are some synonyms for the word dwelling that you might find in a thesaurus. 

  • Habitat
  • Residence
  • Abode
  • Den
  • House
  • Habitation
  • Lodging
  • Residency

The Word Dwelling

Dwelling is an important word that is commonly used in the English language. And although it could be slightly confusing because the noun and verb form are the same spelling, it’s a relatively simple word with a straightforward definition. 

And now you have all the information you need about the word dwelling, including its definition, its etymology, and how to use it. So go and use it confidently in your writing and conversation. And if you need a refresher on the word, just come back to this article for all the information you need. 


Definition: Dwelling from 42 USC § 3602(b) | LII / Legal Information Institute

DWELLING | Cambridge English Dictionary

Dwelling synonyms | 596 Words and Phrases for Dwelling | Power Thesaurus