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Could a native English language speaker please explain what is the difference between the following words?

  • Residence

  • Dwelling

  • Abode

  • Habitation

According to dictionaries, they look similar.

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Residence: the house or apartment in which someone lives, eats, and sleeps on a permanent or long-term basis

Dwelling: any building where people live, eat, and sleep on a permanent or long-term basis

Abode: primarily literary, refers to the place where someone lives, eats, and sleeps; it does not have to be a building, but could be a cave, a yurt, a tepee, a lean-to, a raised jungle platform, whatever. Need not be long-term or semi-permanent: a hunting cabin, for example, occupied only several weeks a year could be called an abode.

Habitation: the non-literary cousin of abode; any place (not necessarily a building) where people live, eat, and sleep. Tends to be used in legal and academic contexts.

These distinctions are not absolute and rigid; there is some overlap, but I believe they are the most commonly observed distinctions.

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IMO, they differ only in formality or common usage. If I asked you where you lived or what sort of home you live in, I would not expect to hear any of these words.

I'd expect to see these words on applications, tax forms and in class-assigned or professional papers, or sometimes in fiction. They are all synonyms.

Residence can also mean dormitory.

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