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Help with an alternative wording


In a passage in my current WIP I describe a multi-family housing complex as apartments. I've been told that this is anachronistic for my work which is a semi-midevil fantasy.

Do any of you more experienced authors have any advice?

I said the only other word I was certain of was tennaments and that I felt that was even more technical...

I suppose if I were a Britt I could call them flats!


Well, the concept is at least as old as the Roman Empire--so that much, at least, is far from anachronistic. The building was called an insula (plural insulae). I don't see much virtue in using the Latin word simply because the English one is more modern: all English words are more modern. Especially since insula's primary translation is "island," though it's easy enough to make the semantic connection with "a separate locale in which many people dwell together." I imagine it would cause far greater dissonance for your readers if you constantly had characters saying "Let's go back to my island".... :p

My Latin dictionary gives the same translation for "room" and "apartment"; not sure if that indicates Latin didn't see a need to distinguish between these... probably, they didn't. (Interestingly, one of the words meaning "chamber" or "bedchamber" is cubiculum--the Romans had cubicles centuries before we invented office space. Tell your friend that. :D )

"Tenement" dates back to the Feudal period, but meant something slightly different: it was broader, and referred to anything that was held rather than owned (the person holding the tenement was a tenant, and the relation in which he held it--the contract, basically--was tenure). A building in which several different people held (rented) separate dwellings was properly a "tenement house," the second word dropping off as these gradually became the only type of tenement remaining in existence.

You might ask the person who told you this if he also objects to "compartment," "easement," or any number of similar words--all of which are formed using the Latin suffix -ment, which transforms a verb into a noun with the meaning "the result or product of," tacked on to some root (usually though not always also from Latin): all "apartment" means is "something set apart"... it's only a matter of convention that this is used to refer to separate dwellings and nothing else.

Me, I'd just use "apartment"--and do, quite regularly. If that doesn't seem to work, refer to the individual dwellings as "rooms" or "suites," depending on whether it involves more than one, or "chamber(s)," for either case. And call the building something really irritating like "chamber-house" or "suite-building," until your critic shuts up and agrees that "apartment" isn't that bad after all.... ;)


Try the thesaurus they got good wordings in there. Abode, cave, flats, homestead, headquarters, living quarters, etc.
The only thing that sucks is finding the word that fits into your writing, I have a hard enough time trying not to use said, asked or replied in every of my dialogues so I try to mix it up.


My world has primarily multi-family housing units. When they talk about home, they refer to it as "lodgings in Irathet House," for example. (Also "rooms at..." or "quarters at...") Without saying "apartment," you can indicate the presence of several families in the description.