I was wondering if there is a pejorative or sarcastic adjective to attribute to a so small house in which you barely can swing a cat [the popular English expression].

In my language we call such apartments / houses / offices and totally places (as they mostly are like that today, :)] a matchbox-sized appartment or house, but I would appreciate it if you help me find the closest terms in English for describing these types of places.

Thank you.

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    Idioms like this tend to depend on the region or dialect. Where are you planning on using the word? – Barmar May 6 '19 at 15:36

"Matchbox sized" is used occasionally, and the meaning is clear. "Shoebox sized" is an alternative. You could also talk about "micro-apartment", or any of the ususal words meaning "small": tiny, little, pint-sized. Estate agents use words like "compact" or "bijou" which also mean "small".

Slightly more formally A "studio apartment" is a one-room apartment which combines living, sleeping and cooking spaces into a single room. Another term for the same thing is a "bed-sit", though this is slightly dated.

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    Note that technically "studio apartment" is about the layout rather than the size (but in practise most of them are small). – Martin Bonner supports Monica May 6 '19 at 10:08

For an apartment, the term broom closet is often used. The notion being that the living space is small enough to be only used as a storage closet. This is more sarcastic and not necessarily horribly pejorative. Using it in reference to an apartment's size is actually the example they use for "teensy" in this thesaurus entry.

For a house, hovel or shanty can be a derogatory term (normally associated with a small hut or cabin but more of a commentary on the quality of the property, rather than the size), but both are generally very insulting.

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I've heard small houses politely called "quaint" or "cozy". This is a tongue-in-cheek usage of these terms. A realtor might use "cozy" as a positive thing, but someone looking at the dwelling might be using the word sarcastically to mean, "too small."

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  • "Cozy" was the first one that came to mind for me too. I always picture someone walking into such an apartment for the first time and awkwardly saying "Well this is...cozy." – John Montgomery May 6 '19 at 22:30

I can also add such words as cabin, shack, hut, lodge. They are mostly suitable for houses, but I think some of them can be successfully used for flats too.

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    All of those are normally used to describe detached dwellings, so it would be confusing to use them for something like a flat/apartment. – Andrew May 6 '19 at 22:54

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