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Say I was raised in the Philadelphia area. By the traditional reasoning, my "hometown" would be the name of my Philly suburb. But what if that suburb doesn't feel like home anymore? I'm looking to see if the word "hometown" can encompass the feeling of stepping off the plane and feeling like you're home again. So can the term refer to a place where one didn't necessarily grow up, but that feels like home? What if the person in question doesn't even live in this place?

  • This is an interesting and nuanced question. 'Hometown', outside of figurative uses, is a more concrete term than 'home'. 'Home', on the other hand, has so often been used in figurative senses that it's use in constructions without an article or possessive is lexically associated with "feelings of belonging, comfort, etc.", or even as a primary definition, "refuge, a sanctuary; a place or region to which one naturally belongs or where one feels at ease". Thus 'hometown', borrowing from the 'home' component, is well-suited to such figurative use. – JEL Aug 13 '16 at 20:06
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Yes, hometown may refer to a place different from the one you grew up in:

hometown:

  • the town or city that a person is from, especially the one in which they were born and lived while they were young:

    • He was born in Miami, but he considers New York his hometown since he's lived there most of his life.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

hometown:

  • the town or city in which a person lives or was born, or from which a person comes.

(Dictionary.com)

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You cannot change your hometown. Your hometown is not just a location – it includes the time period in which you lived there. It includes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes; it includes the feeling of the place against your skin. It includes the changes that flowed through the place when you were there. It includes the people, the river, the buildings, the tree you climbed or the tundra you walked on, the scales of the fish you caught, the way a dog's hair felt against your cheek, the taste of the weeds you put in your mouth, the smell of your first grade teacher, the snot that dripped from your nose, the mystery you felt in everyhing. It includes the books you read, the conversations you heard, the way your foot slipped in the mud, the voice of the guy across the street as he yelled "If you do that again, I'll skin your alive". Trying to say someplace else is your hometown is denying part of your true self.

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