Learn English – How does American English distinguish between sharing a flat and a room


Today I learnt that in American English, roommate can mean two people who share the same apartment unit but have different bedrooms, as well as people who share the same bedroom.

How do people using American English distinguish between the two scenarios?

(In case people think I'm joking about unrelated people sharing bedrooms, unfortunately not. For example, the Australian classifieds website Gumtree has different categories for flatshare and roomshare. Most of the time, we don't live in caravans in industrial parks)

Best Answer

You're right. In American English, the term "roommate" only means that two unrelated people share the same address, the same residence, not the same room.

Here are some other related words that you would hear in America:

bunkmate: a person who shares the same sleeping quarters (oddly, people who share the same room still more often call each other roommate rather than bunkmate)(bunkmate tends to refer to either temporary sleeping quarters or the military)

housemate: a person who shares the same house (used for referring to living in houses, not apartments or flats)

cellmate: a person who shares the same prison cell

suitemate: a person with whom ones shares a suite, as in a college dorm; roommate; also, a person with whom ones shares an office suite

wallmate: a person who shares the same residence whose room is directly adjacent but not part of the same suite. (often used to describe dormitory living where two adjacent rooms don't share a single bathroom between)

flatmate: British. Americans don't tend to use this term since Americans don't tend to call apartments "flats." Americans don't commonly say "apartmentmate."