This article, featured today, is about the island of Faisans in the historic Spanish town of Hondarribia. Every six months the island changes ownership between France and Spain under the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659).

Apparently, this is the true meaning of the word 'condominium' :

Definition of condominium [plural condominiums also condominia] play \ˌkän-də-ˈmi-nē-ə\ 1 a : joint dominion; especially : joint sovereignty by two or more nations b : a government operating under joint rule

Merriam Webster

The AmE meaning of an apartment block of freehold dwellings dates back to the 1960s, according to OED:

  1. N. Amer. An apartment house in which the units are owned individually, not by a company or co-operative; an apartment in such a building. 1962 Economist 31 Mar. 1255/1 The legal concept of buying a single flat, instead of a share in the whole building, is just making its way in the housing field in the United States where it is known as a ‘condominium’. 1964 Financial Times 27 Nov. 3/6 The condominium—or the ‘condo’ as Chicagoans have come to know it—is essentially a development from the co-operative concept. 1964 Financial Times 27 Nov. 3/7 The principal advantage claimed for the condominium is that it permits the occupier a greater measure of independence than would be the case of the co-operative. 1970 Washington Post 30 Sept. B 11/1 (advt.) Ocean Club condominium residence for sale in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In the UK we call these 'flats' or 'blocks of flats'. Estate Agents call them 'apartments'. Whether leasehold or freehold, the building as a whole is managed by a separate company and this often causes legal disputes.

I have been unable to trace the AmE meaning any further back than the OED citation in 1962.

Is it any older than that ?


1 Answer 1


The following usages appear to be from the early ‘’50s

NIMLO Model Ordinance Service, Volume 1 Charles S. Rhyne - 1952 - ‎

(7) All other elements of the building rationally of common use or necessary to its existence, upkeep, and safety. (f) Condominium project: A plan by a developer to sell residential condominium units in a building whether through conversion to condominium status or construction of new buildings with condominium ownership. (g) Condominium unit: A three dimensional area identified as such in the declaration and on the condominium plat and shall include all improvements contained ...

  • 1
    There is the problem that the date on many such references is suspect. Without examining the title page it's hard to be sure that Google has dated the thing properly.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 28, 2018 at 22:39
  • @HotLicks - this is the Bibliographic information - Title NIMLO Model Ordinance Service, Volume 1 Volume 1 of NIMLO Model Ordinance Service: Rev. Continuously to Reflect Latest Court Decisions and Current Municipal Problems, Charles S. Rhyne Editor Charles S. Rhyne Contributor National Institute of Municipal Law Officers (U.S.) Publisher National Institute of Municipal Law Officers, 1952
    – user 66974
    Jan 28, 2018 at 22:43
  • 1
    The problem is that Google often picks up the starting date of a SERIES of publications, rather than the date of the specific publication. It's not at all unusual for the date to be off by 5-10 years.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 28, 2018 at 22:46

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