[ hohm-lis ]
See synonyms for: homelesshomelessness on Thesaurus.com

  1. without a home or without permanent housing: a homeless refugee.

noun(used with a plural verb)
  1. Usually the homeless .Sometimes Disparaging and Offensive. people who lack permanent housing or a fixed residence, collectively.

Origin of homeless

First recorded before 1000; home + -less

usage note For homeless

There are a number of words used to label people who don’t have permanent housing. While the term homeless was used without controversy for some time, advocates for this population, many style guides, and some people who identify as members of this group now prefer other terms including unhoused, houseless, and unsheltered. The alternative terms to homeless each have a specific nuance of meaning. Unsheltered, for example, includes people who sleep in cars and under overpasses, but not people in temporary housing like city shelters. Houseless and unhoused both mean that a person lacks permanent housing, but may still be a member of a community that they call home, in which case the designation homeless is imprecise. Further, someone’s homeless status is often temporary, as expressed in the phrases “people moving through houselessness,” “people experiencing homelessness,” and “unsheltered people.”
Nevertheless, the term homeless is easily understood and even preferred as a term of self-identification by many members of this community. The designation homeless is still widely used and only sometimes offensive or disparaging. However, one should be mindful of the negative connotation this word may have and the many unfortunate associations it has had with poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, or crime. The word should not be used as a euphemism for these other statuses and stigmatized conditions. Homeless should be used only in the strict denotative meaning, and alternative expressions that put the person first, like “an individual experiencing homelessness,” are often preferable.

Other words from homeless

  • home·less·ly, adverb
  • home·less·ness, noun

Words Nearby homeless

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use homeless in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for homeless


/ (ˈhəʊmlɪs) /

    • having nowhere to live

    • (as collective noun; preceded by the): the homeless

Derived forms of homeless

  • homelessness, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012