What does the idiom "have no fixed abode" mean?

Are you using the idiom have no fixed abode but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the have no fixed abode idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "have no fixed abode"


The phrase 'have no fixed abode' refers to a person who has no permanent residence or home. This person is a wanderer who does not have a permanent place to stay, and is constantly moving from one place to another. In certain contexts, this phrase can also refer to people who are homeless and have no residence whatsoever.


The phrase 'have no fixed abode', originates from a French phrase, “N’avoir pas de place assignée.” It literally translates to 'having no assigned place', and references a person who has no permanent place to stay. The phrase itself first appeared in the English language in the late 16th century, as a legal term. It was used to describe people who did not have a settled residence. By the turn of the 18th century, the phrase was being used in a more general sense to describe someone who was constantly wandering from place to place.


The phrase 'have no fixed abode' is generally used in two contexts. In the first, it is used to describe someone who is constantly moving and has no permanent place to stay. This person is frequently referred to as a wanderer or a vagabond. Oftentimes, these people are assumed to be homeless and live off of the charity of others. In the second context, the phrase is used to refer to an individual who is homeless and has no residence whatsoever. This individual is said to 'have no fixed abode' as they rarely stay in one place for any significant amount of time.

Example Sentences

  • The tramp has no fixed abode, and is constantly moving from town to town in search of a place to stay.
  • The homeless man was arrested for vagrancy as he had no fixed abode.
  • The family of wanderers had no fixed abode, instead travelling from place to place.

The meanings of the words in the "have no fixed abode" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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