I'm looking for a word that can describe a long-term inhabitant (inhabitant is the best I've come up with so far) of a hospital.

Specifically, a soldier living (retained? - again, word might fit here too) in a War Hospital not long after the First World War, however the answer doesn't have to take into account the time period, as I feel there is a word at the back of my mind I simply cannot find right now which means "inhabitant of hospital."

I'd like to be able to use it to complete this sentence:

The gravel pathway was bordered by short, waist-height shrubberies behind which were the colourful flowerbeds intended to pacify the hospital's ________.

  • Is the word similar (by sound perhaps) to attendants? Just thought of this, but it also isn't the correct word.
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 18:17
  • 3
    "long-term care residents" would fit.
    – Graffito
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 18:45

7 Answers 7



any of a group occupying a single place of residence; especially : a person confined (as in a prison or hospital) (Merriam Webster)

In a hospital setting, the word currently has a strong connotation of referring to patients with mental disorders. It might sound strange if most of the people in the hospital are being held there for other reasons.

Vocabulary.com also has a short explanation of the meaning and connotations of the word, where it says "You can talk about a hospital inmate or the inmates at a local boarding school, but it's most common to use inmate and prisoner interchangeably."

  • 8
    While I'll admit this is technically correct, I don't think the fact that it made me laugh is necessarily a good thing. :) Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 18:37
  • 1
    Hah hah! Yes, thank you! @CandiedOrange perhaps not necessarily a good thing, but in the passage I'm writing it does convey the feeling I want to put across.
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 18:39
  • 9
    Check or no check, in the US, at least, inmate is just about never used in a hospital context, even a psychological hospital. Patient is the correct term, and if it's a long term care hospital, perhaps resident. Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 20:52
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    While this might work specifically for the OP's case, it is an extremely nonstandard choice. @theonlygusti You would only use this is you are intentionally trying to portray the situation as extremely negative, where the person is held against their will and generally treated very badly. It might also be used to more convey the speaker's or the patient's opinion of the situation, and in a more metaphorical sense than everyday speech.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 5:43
  • 2
    Inmate in a hospital, to me, pretty much implies someone held against their will for psychiatric treatment (or prison inmates with serious medical conditions). "Patients" fits best in the blank given, though you could say something like "unhappy patients" or "discontent patients" or "disgruntled patients" to communicate the patients' unhappiness. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 16:55


  • A patient who is admitted to a hospital or clinic for treatment that requires at least one overnight stay.


  • 6
    I realise now that my question does not express everything I want to convey with my word choice, and although sumelic's answer better fits my needs, this answer is the best answer to my original question, so I will upvote.
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 19:27
  • Hmm, "inpatient" exists to distinguish from "outpatient". Put it this way: it's rather like saying "overnight patient". I wouldn't use it to refer to residents. (Note that indeed residents in a mental hospital, and residents in a long-term care facility, are not referred to as "inpatients".)
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 16:33

I'm not sure "inmate" - the accepted answer - is the typical English term. At least not for Britsh English. A more typical term, particularly for First World War would be "resident patient".

There is even a Sherlock Holmes story titled The Adventure of the Resident Patient.

  • 2
    Your answer is also pretty much correct for American English. The only difference in everyday American usage would be that you would typically omit the "patient" part. A permanent inhabitant of a medical facility is simply a "resident." (This primarily comes from nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but when a hospital is acting in the same capacity that a nursing home would, this fits.)
    – jpmc26
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 5:38
  • 7
    "Resident" usually means a junior doctor. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 11:24
  • @SteveBennett Also, yes. The short form in either case is only used when the context makes the longer form unnecessary, so it's not actually a vocabulary conflict. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 23:50

'Patient(s)' would probably be the best word - see dictionary.

  • Perhaps, but in my mind I had a word that also reflected the fact that these men could be seen perhaps as prisoners, kept there against their will.
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 18:25
  • 1
    @theonlygusti. (1) the answer is "patient". (2) you say "I had a word that also reflected the fact that these men could be seen perhaps as prisoners, kept there against their will" So, that is a different separate question.
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 16:28

Common use in our area differentiates between (and provides differently constructed and staffed facilities for) an acute-care patient and a long-term care patient. But the single word really is 'patient' in either case.

I suppose you could also use 'resident' for a patient at a long-term care facility.

  • Welcome to ELU! Answers here are expected to include citations (see the other answers for examples); more in the help. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:45
  • 2
    I've definitely heard resident used in this way, in the sense of "a person who resides in a place." It does have the issue of being a bit ambiguous with "a physician who joins the medical staff of a hospital as a salaried employee for a specified period to gain advanced training usually in a particular field". Both from dictionary.com. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:46

The correct term for this is inpatient. Someone with an acute condition undergoing long-term treatment is not considered an inmate as mentioned above, that's certainly a term that would never be used in a medical environment.

inpatient - noun - a patient who lives in hospital while under treatment.

'Patient' is also an acceptable term, because a person seeing out the end of their days in Palliative care (for instance) would still be referred to as a 'Patient' in a casual conversation (even though they effectively live in the hospital), or an 'inpatient' on the documentation.

Source: Nearly a decade working in ICU/CCU

  • 3
    I'll drop a comment in here to follow up on this also - at least in Australia, even a convicted felon undergoing treatment under armed supervision is still referred to a patient, even if they have been an inmate in prison before being transferred for treatment. Same goes for court-mandated mental health confinement... The person is still an Inpatient even if the court has sentenced them to confinement in a mental health facility. For the purpose of your prose, you might want to say "Even as an inpatient, he felt more like an inmate", if that's the idea you want to convey. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 2:46
  • This answer appeared eight hours after its counterpart. Please don't give duplicate answers: upvote and comment (if you have enough rep to comment).
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 13:09
  • I mainly expanded on this, as the highest voted (*at the time) and 'correct' answer is completely incorrect. Apologies. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 0:56



One who is interned or confined, especially in wartime.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

The Commission requested that, given the information received describing the inhuman and degrading sanitary conditions in the hospital, which put the health of the hospital internees in grave risk [...]



A person held in confinement.

Random House


Detainee is a term used by certain governments and their armed forces to refer to individuals held in custody, such as those it does not classify and treat as either prisoners of war or suspects in criminal cases. It is used to refer to "any person captured or otherwise detained by an armed force."


  • 5
    This is unlikely to be used in the context of a normal hospital. Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 20:53

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