What is a home?

A simple google search will come up with various different definitions from various different dictionaries of what the term “home” means:

Oxford Dictionaries

  • “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”               


  • “one’s place of residence”
  • “a place of origin”


  • “the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.”
  • “an institution for the homeless, sick, etc.:”

Most dictionaries define it as a tangible thing, a location or a place, something that can be both seen and felt; the imagery that comes to my head is that of a house. That association or rather connection between the two is most likely what creates that physical image of a home, but before humans built their first house, does that mean we or our ancestors were all essentially homeless? “a place of origin”, “one’s place of residence” This type of contradiction is why some people end up gaining an identity crisis. To me, a home is a place of safety and security; where you can hang up all your insecurities and be comfortable. A place you can relax, where memories have been built, a place you feel you belong. To some, their place of origin and the place where they reside are completely different, and some don’t feel they belong or fit, in either. So then what then? Although, they have a house and what the dictionary deems a ‘home’, why then do they not feel at home? Are they then homeless too?

I recently watched an old TED talk video titled “What is home?” by Pico Iyer. In the talk, he tried to answer the question from the perspective of an individual who lives in the Age of Movement; meaning an age where ‘home’ isn’t something that hasn’t been assigned to us like our grandparents might have had. We can freely move through the world and choose which destination we’d like to settle in (if we’re able to obviously). He spoke of a time in his life where in his parents home in California, he looked out of his window and saw that his house was surrounded by massive flames. A couple hours later, everything he owned, all his worldly possessions had become nothing but ash. The next day at his friend’s house, he realised the only thing he possessed was a toothbrush he just bought. If asked where was his home, he wouldn’t be able to point to any physical construct, home would have to be what he carries inside him. I feel this story and the message he conveyed through it echoes a well-known quote from living legend Maya Angelou’s ‘Letter to My Daughter’ poem. She writes

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.”

Here Maya also emphasises the point that a ‘home’ isn’t defined by some kind of physical man-made construct, it’s more of a concept that we each carry within our individual beings; hence why everyone’s definition of home and what they call their home may be different. This can even be used in relation to the famous quote, one in which I’m sure we all know by Roman Author, Pliny the elder, where he simply says,

“Home is where the heart is”

…which I interpret as meaning, home is simply where you long to be, where you feel the deepest affection for, no matter where you are. So it’s more to do with you rather than any house or building.

There are a thousand more quotes that I could come up with from great figures throughout history, but that would defeat the point of this piece. No-one can tell you what home is because the definition and meaning is entirely up to you. It’s what you think it is, where you think it is and who you think it is with. Home is something we carry within ourselves and means something different to every single one of us.


What does home mean to you?