A hovel is a small shed or dwelling, often messy, cramped, and crudely built, such as a shelter in a refugee camp — or possibly your apartment if you have too much stuff and not enough time to clean.

The word hovel was used in the fifteenth century to describe a shed used for animals, and by the seventeenth century the word had taken on its current usage as a way to describe a crude human dwelling — though the connotation of a messiness associated with animals still remains. The word can be used literally to describe something that is a ramshackle shack, but you’ll also hear it used with wry humor to describe a person’s modest living quarters: “Well, I’m off to my hovel to get some sleep.”

Definitions of hovel

n small crude shelter used as a dwelling

hut, hutch, shack, shanty
igloo, iglu
an Eskimo hut; usually built of blocks (of sod or snow) in the shape of a dome
a reed hut in the marshlands of Iraq; rare since the marshes were drained
Type of:
a structure that provides privacy and protection from danger

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