I'm looking for a one word synonym to "make habitable". It would describe the transformation of a location where people can't live, such as the bottom of the ocean, or Antartica.

Most official synonyms I could find were more suited to simple adjustments to an already liveable space, such as furnish / fix up.

I'd like to hear your insights on what could be an unofficial synonym.

Edit: One I could think of regarding planets could be "terraform", but I'd like it to have more uses than just planets, and not necessarily be related to Earth

  • Some environments are uninhabitable, like the seabed, or space. The practice of taking a cocoon of protection to a place (pressurised submersible or spaceship) does not make the uninhabitable suddenly 'habitable'. Which is why, I believe, we don't have a word for it.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 30, 2019 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


I suggest the word colonize for which Lexico has

(British colonise)

1.2 Appropriate (a place or domain) for one's own use.
a small town in a part of the Hudson Valley fast being colonized by weekenders

1.3 Ecology (of a plant or animal) establish itself in (an area)
mussels can colonize even the most inhospitable rock surfaces

So you could say

We are colonising the sea bed and will soon have weekend apartments available.

The colonisation of Antarctica will bring a host of problems with it.

The act of transforming the environment is implicit in the idea of colonisation.

  • I suppose it works, but my intention was that it would signal that the original location was completely uninhabitable. You'd die instantly if you're in a location that you would have to 'make habitable'. The same does not apply to a location that you have yet to 'colonize'. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:24
  • But where is the idea that Antarctica or the sea floor are anything but uninhabitable? The dictionary implies that in 1.3. The original "make habitable" idea does not convey instant death, only that the location is not very suitable. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:25
  • I have to disagree. The 'ecology' can still establish itself in an area without changing anything to the biome/landscape. In your use case it just implies that it did because it would otherwise be impossible. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:31
  • Well you asked for a suggestion and I was quite pleased to come up with this. When you colonise the sea bed, or Antarctica, or Mars then you do have to make it habitable. We know your examples were uninhabitable in the first place. I am sorry you are disappointed. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:32

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