I have come across various words meaning "living/residing".

What are the differences between them and their usage? I've listed what I think are the differences. Are they correct?

  • 住む: Live in some place more or less permanently
  • 棲む: Same as above, but for animals
  • 泊まる: To live/stay at some place temporarily
  • 暮らす: ?
  • Do you just want to know the difference between these options or do you actually hope to find out how to say "residing" in Japanese. Because if you do, at least I would need an example sentence in English using the word "residing".
    – Earthliŋ
    Jun 10, 2014 at 14:30
  • For what it's worth, two common 熟語 that correspond are [在住]{ざい・じゅう} (to 住む) and [滞在]{たい・ざい} (to 泊まる).
    – istrasci
    Jun 10, 2014 at 15:09

3 Answers 3


住む is to live somewhere in the sense of residency. It's where your house is, where you're staying. It's the same kanji as in 住所{じゅうしょ}, or address. Basically the place where you live.

You're right about 棲む. It refers to where an animal lives, like where a bird would make its nest. Googling it I find a lot of literary uses, especially with relation to demons, like "悪魔の棲む家."

泊まる refers to where one stays away from home, like at a hotel on vacation.

暮らす refers to your daily life. Your everyday, your daily situation. It has more of a sense of what you're doing and your condition in that situation rather than the plain idea of place of residency that you would find in 住む. It refers to your existence within society. You find the kanji in compounds like ひとり[暮]{ぐ}らし, which is living alone. Note that with 住む you use the particle 「に」, as in 田舎に住んでいます, but with 暮らす, you use the location of action marker 「で」, as in 田舎で暮らしています.


ssb's answer seems perfect, so let me give some examples so you can see the differences between 住む and 暮らす better.

Live in Tokyo:

  • 東京に住む OK
  • 東京で暮らす OK

Live a happy life:

  • 幸せに住む WEIRD
  • 幸せに暮らす OK

Spend his life as a fisherman:

  • 漁師として住む WEIRD
  • 漁師として暮らす OK

Survive using only ¥1000 a day:

  • 1日1000円で住む WEIRD
  • 1日1000円で暮らす OK

You can also think "住む" is a subset of "暮らす". In Japanese, there is a word 「衣食住【いしょくじゅう】」. This means "clothing, food and housing", which are the three basic elements of 「暮らし」.


The other answers provide good information. Here is some additional information for help in understanding the differences between the words.

  • すむ
    This is ultimately the same word as 清む・澄む "to be clear", 済む "to be finished", 住む・棲む "to reside in a place". The underlying idea isn't too far from English "to settle". When water settles, any cloudiness settles down to the bottom, leaving the liquid clear. When a matter such as a business affair settles, it is concluded. When a person (or, by extension, an animal) settles, they reside in a place for an extended period.

  • とまる
    This is ultimately the same word as 止まる・停まる "to stop", 泊まる "to spend the night", 留まる "to be fixed, to remain, to leave an impression". The underlying idea is basically "to stop". When something ceases moving, it just stops. When a person stops for a day or a few while traveling, they spend the night. When an image stops in one's mind, it lasts or remains.
    Here, the key difference with すむ is that とまる implies a shorter time period.

  • くらす
    This is the transitive counterpart to くれる, with both verbs ultimately cognate with 暗い "dark", from the underlying idea of making something dark (くらす) or something becoming dark (くれる). This darkness often idiomatically refers to the passing of a day: 日が暮れる "the sun sets". From this perspective, くらす could be glossed as "to spend one's days", and hence the underlying sense of living a life > lifestyle, as opposed to residing.

In speech, which すむ, which とまる, or which くらす is intended is something you have to find out from the context. In writing, you can discern some of this detail from the spelling (kanji).

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