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

Example: Two single people meet at a university and live together to save on expenses and have a sexual relationship.

Audio Pronunciation: (co·hab·i·ta·tion)

Download Audio Pronunciation: cohabitation.mp3

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 but 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 form: co-habitation
  • Also called:
    • consensual union
    • de facto marriage
  • Informally called:
    • living as married
    • living in sin
    • playing house
    • shacking up
  • Cohabitation used in a sentence: Kelley and Joey practice cohabitation because they live together but are not married.
  • A (noun) cohabitant or (noun) cohabiter (verb) cohabit with each other in a (adjective) cohabitational relationship.

Related Quotation:

  • “Families of orientation, procreation, and cohabitation provide us with some of the most important roles we will assume in life. The nuclear family roles (such as parent, child, husband, wife, and sibling) combine with extended family roles (such as grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, and in-law) to form the kinship system” (Strong, Devault, and Cohen 2011:19).

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

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. Essentials of Sociology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. Sociology: The Core. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kendall, Diane. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (


How to Cite the Definition of Cohabitation

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cohabitation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 16, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

cohabitation. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cohabitation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 16, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“cohabitation.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 16 Jun. 2019. <>.