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What is the difference between a housewife and a homemaker? When can we use housewife, and when can we use homemaker?

  • I am a housewife.
  • I am a homemaker.

Which of the above examples is correct for a married woman who is unemployed. She is filing out a registration form, applying for a ration card in India. Which of these options should she write under 'Occupation'?

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Kristina Lopez, p.s.w.g, TrevorD, MetaEd Jul 19 '13 at 3:00

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  • 2
    Tons of good discussions here google.com/search?q=housewife+vs+homemaker - a homemaker can be man or woman – mplungjan Jul 17 '13 at 7:39
  • This is OT. It asks "Which is correct?" and, in this instance, that is no more than a matter of opinion. – TrevorD Jul 17 '13 at 12:25
  • Depends on where you happen to be, who you are addressing and if it is a formal or informal context. In some contexts they are synonymous. – Kris Jul 18 '13 at 14:07
  • I think you need advice as to what terminology is normally used in India. This is a 'cultural' question, not specifically an English Language question. Am voting to leave closed. – TrevorD Jul 20 '13 at 15:23
  • Why do you think one and only one of those is “correct”? What about zero or two of them? And what does “correct” mean, anyway? – tchrist Jul 20 '13 at 16:07
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A dictionary will tell you that they mean broadly the same thing:

housewife noun (plural housewives)
1a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework:
the traditional division of labour between the husband as breadwinner and wife as housewife
I am not just a housewife, I am an accountant, nurse, negotiator, cook, driver

homemaker noun
chiefly North American
a person, especially a woman, who manages a home.

[ODO]

There might be a difference in emphasis. The word housewife focuses on the state of the woman [it must be a woman!] as a wife. There may be a slighty pejorative notion (cf fishwife). Homemaker is a more modern word — OED attests it from 1861 rather than the thirteenth century for housewife — and it focuses on creating a home rather than simply being in a house. And it's sex-agnostic.

However, which is used is entirely a matter of style and choice, perhaps with a regional bias.

  • And looking at the discussions on the web, it seems that being a housewife implicates much more than making the home comfortable for the spouse as is implicated in homemaker. – mplungjan Jul 17 '13 at 8:19
  • 1
    Slightly off topic I take it, but it does perhaps speak minor volumes that the word ‘hussy’ originated as simply a contracted, sloppy pronunciation of ‘housewife’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 17 '13 at 10:56
  • Dictionaries take years, if not decades, to catch up. – Kris Jul 18 '13 at 14:06
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Besides the apparent differences between the two (given by dictionaries), you may consider other (off the beaten track) differences also:
A homemaker enjoys doing his/her work; housewife hates it! (Not for all though.)
Also, a homemaker may not be a wife. Some people can even be home builders!

  • Well I haven't yet considered that :). And glad to see that my thoughts matched with the Indian norms. – Shaona Bose Jul 20 '13 at 16:17

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