A Home is more than Just a House
Edgar A. Guest says this in his poem, “It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.” The term “home” has always been defined and understood differently by people. Throughout the years, it has been the central theme of different art forms. Many would say that the word “home” is actually subjective- it is not confined to a single place or structure, but rather, home is defined as a psychological habitat. There are many instances where people have expressed that home is not the mere presence of a physical structure where a person lays one’s head; it is a multi-dimensional concept that varies from person to person and may have attachments to various places, people, and even things. Though the terms “home” and “house” are used interchangeably, many definitions point out that they have some similarities and differences, and these shall be explored.
It is quite hard to make a single universal definition for the word “home”. Looking at the historical background of the word, home is derived from the Old English word “h?m.” This word means an estate or a village where many “souls” gathered. Though it says that there is a physical structure or place involved, the brunt of the meaning lies in it saying that is an assembly of people (Marine). In Proto-Germanic studies, the word “khaim” pointed more to a residence rather than just a mere shelter (Khodorkovsky). The beginnings of the word “house” has a more extensive history compared to “home.” Most language historians say that the oldest recorded term related to house is “hus” and it seems to have a link with the verb “hide.” The other words that refer to house in other languages, such as “maison” in French, “casa” in Italian, and “dom” in Russian also referred to hiding or covering something or somebody. It entails having to fit or put something or somebody together (Liberman). Looking at these definitions, you can say that the words share some similarities in the ways that they are defined: home as a place where souls come together, and house as a place where somebody or something is put or fit together. According to the Learner’s Dictionary of Merriam-Webster, however, the term “house” refers to the concrete building in which a family or a person lives. “Home” can then refer to a building or any other place where an individual lives and belongs to him or her (Mairs).
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As for an emotional or psychological meaning to the terms, “home” has a lot more depth to it compared to “house.” The latter represents more of the physical structure of where a person lives- a concrete representation. A home, however, is defined by contents, memories, and people. The idea continues to evolve as memories change, and the people that may come and go. In psychology, the home is also seen as an extension of one’s psyche, after the body itself (Després 100). In order for a home to function at its best capacity, it has to serve as a sanctuary and a space to be shared and to be (Cotter and Wilson). Homes can be considered as more than just financial assets as they hold deeper emotional meanings (Ablow). A home is a place where an individual can secure and strengthen relationships between those that a person cares for. It is a sanctuary where a person can get away from outside pressures and a place for independence and privacy (Després 98). Looking at it closely, you can see that the historical meaning of “house” overlaps with this interpretation of home: a place where one hides from the rest of the world.
The Latin root word for the word “home” is the same as the word that is used for a human being, people, and person (Marine). A popular saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” This connotes a certain attachment to people, memories, or things. A custom that dates back up to a thousand years back is the adornment of photos on a house’s walls. Pictures are hung to show visitors who their loved ones are. One thing to note, though, in many occasions, people do not see their place where they live as a home, especially when they do not have any particular emotional aspect attached to it. To some, they may not even have a true place to call as their home- this may be due to various factors such as how busy they are, their goals, etc. In light of this, even when people live in the same place for a long time, it may not exactly be home for them. A house can be called a home if the people who dwell in it form their own special environment that is different from others(Singh). It is part of human nature to want to have a place where one belongs. Many people try to distinguish themselves from others through their homes, too (Beck).
It is also possible for a home to lose its meaning when something tragic happens. A good example is the passing of a loved one. Not only is the absence of that loved one felt, but the sense of “home” loses its meaning (Klinkenborg). There are reports that people do not feel the same warmth in a house when their loved have passed, and this causes them to view the house as a mere structure that was once a home. Another situation is when a house is foreclosed. A person who has built and spent his entire life in that house, with memories and relationships centered there, will definitely feel a great loss and grief.
Putting a definite meaning to the word “home” may be a complex thing to do- there are a lot of aspects to be taken into consideration. A house may or may not be considered a home as it delves deeper in meaning than just a mere physical structure or a place of shelter. The true meaning of home is unique to every individual, and its interpretation is complex. It is subject to a person’s beliefs, experiences, and aspirations. Some may say that home is where their loved ones are, while others may say that a physical structure is needed. A house may not always be home, but one thing is for certain: a home is considered as one’s personal sanctuary where one can be surrounded by loved ones.
Ablow, Keith. “The Emotional Meaning of Home.” PsychCentral, Psych Central, 8 Oct 2019, https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-emotional-meaning-of-home/. Accessed 10 Apr 2020.
Beck, Julie. “The Psychology of Home: Why Where You Live Means So Much.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic, 30 December 2011, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/12/the-psychology-of-home-why-where-you-live-means-so-much/249800/. Accessed 9 Apr 2020.
Cotter, Shane, and Kathryn Wilson. “MKG Interior Design.” hipages, https://hipages.com.au/connect/mkginteriors. Accessed 9 Apr 2020.
Després, Carole. “THE MEANING OF HOME: LITERATURE REVIEW AND DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH AND THEORETICAL DEVELOPMENT.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, vol. 8, no. 2, 1991, pp. 96–115. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43029026. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
Guest, Edgar. “Home.” Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44313/home-56d2235c059bf. Accessed 8 Apr 2020.
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Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “The Definition of Home: Be it ever so humble, it’s more than just a place. It’s also an idea- one where the heart is.” Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, May 2012, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-definition-of-home-60692392/. Accessed 8 Apr 2020.
Liberman, Anatoly. “Our habitat: house.” OUPblog, Oxford University Press, 21 Jan 2015, https://blog.oup.com/2015/01/house-word-origin-etymology/. Accessed 9 Apr 2020.
Mairs, Jane. “Ask the Editor: What’s the difference between a house and a home?” Learner’s Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1 Oct. 2013, http://www.learnersdictionary.com/qa/what-s-the-difference-between-a-house-and-a-home. Accessed 9 Apr 2020.
Marine, David. “The Origin and True Meaning of Home.” Blue Matter, Coldwell Banker Blue Matter, 18 Apr. 2013, https://blog.coldwellbanker.com/the-origin-and-true-meaning-of-home/. Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.
Singh, Anil. Comment on “Ask the Editor: What’s the difference between a house and a home?” Learner’s Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1 Oct. 2013, http://www.learnersdictionary.com/qa/what-s-the-difference-between-a-house-and-a-home.
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