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Definition of Cohabitation

(noun) When two people live together and share an intimate relationship, typically in reference to unmarried couples.

Example of Cohabitation

Cohabitation Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: co·hab·i·ta·tion

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /koh-hab-uh-tAY-shuhn/
  • British English – /koh-hab-i-tAY-shuhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /koʊˌhæbəˈteɪʃən/
  • British English – /ˌkəʊhæbɪˈteɪʃən/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: cohabitations
  • Cohabitation refers to a couple living at the same physical location and not to a couple that spends the majority of their time at one residence while maintaining two separate residences.
  • In some locations, the length of cohabitation leads to a common-law marriage.
  • Cohabitation has become a precursor to marriage and an alternative to marriage in some societies.
  • Cohabitation is the only option for same-sex couples where same-sex marriage is illegal.
  • Type: common-law marriage
  • Variant spelling: co-habitation
  • Also called:
    • consensual union
    • de facto marriage
    • living together
  • Informally called:
    • living as married
    • living in sin
    • playing house
    • shacking up
  • A (noun) cohabitant or (noun) cohabiter (verb) cohabit with each other in a (adjective) cohabitational relationship.

Related Quotation

Additional Information

Related Terms


Strong, Bryan, Christine DeVault, and Theodore F. Cohen. 2011. The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. 11th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Works Consulted

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Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

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Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

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Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Cite the Definition of Cohabitation

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cohabitation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 18, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/cohabitation/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

cohabitation. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/cohabitation/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cohabitation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/cohabitation/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“cohabitation.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Jun. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/cohabitation/>.