What kind of place do you call home? Is it a house? A condominium? An apartment? Something else entirely?

Today, Wonderopolis takes a closer look at a special kind of home called an apartment. Apartments are complete homes that occupy only part of a larger building. If you’ve ever seen an apartment building in a large city, you know that a large building can contain hundreds of homes within it in the form of apartments.

Of course, if all those apartments are stuck together to form one big building, one might WONDER why they’re called apart — ments! And that’s a great question! The word “apartment” comes from the French word appartement and the Italian word appartimento, both of which mean “a separated place.”

If you think about it, it makes sense. Even though all the apartments within a single building are indeed stuck together, they are also apart from each other. Each apartment is a separate residence apart from the others!

Apartment buildings are often owned by a single owner who then rents out the individual apartments to people who are called tenants. Apartments that are owned by their tenants are often called condominiums. In Great Britain, apartments are usually called “flats.”

Apartments are usually defined by the number of bedrooms they have. A one-, two-, or three-bedroom apartment obviously has the corresponding number of bedrooms.

Some small apartments, however, have one main room that serves as the dining, living and bedroom combined. These apartments are called studio, efficiency, or bachelor apartments.

People who live in apartments usually share certain common areas with the others who live in the same building. These common areas can include lobbies, laundry facilities, mail rooms, and even swimming pools or exercise facilities.

Apartments have been around for a long time. Ancient Rome and Egypt both featured large apartment buildings. The need for apartments arose as cities became larger and populations grew. Urban areas simply don’t have enough real estate for everyone to have a house.

Many people prefer to live in apartments rather than houses, too. Apartments generally are easier to maintain than houses, since many of the maintenance functions are taken care of by the owner of the apartment building. Apartments also often allow people to live in the heart of a city where houses tend to be very expensive.

Many apartment buildings also offer better security in the form of doormen and alarm systems. In larger cities, this added security can give apartment tenants peace of mind.

21 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (9 votes, avg. 4.78 out of 5)
  1. OOOOH COOL!!! When I Went To NYC I Wish My Hotel Room Was Like That!!! :D

    I Wonder What’s Next?
    Tomorrow’s Wonder Of The Day Will Have You On Your Feet And Dancing!

    Probably Will Be Dancing Or Something Like That!!! :D

    • We think it’s super cool that you have traveled to New York City, Wonder Friend Max! Many of those hotel rooms are quite small, but it would be awesome to have an apartment like the one in the Wonder video! We cannot wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be, but we look forward to seeing you again!

      Check out our NYC Wonder, too: Wonder #718– Have You Ever Been to the Big Apple? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/have-you-ever-been-to-the-big-apple/ :)

  2. Hi Wonderopolis! I thought that the video today was very cool!! I also thought it was cool to find out where the word apartment comes from!

    I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about tap dancing!

  3. I love the video that you posted, but I nominated a wonder (why do pop rocks pop) and I want to know when it will come out. :(

    • Thanks for visiting us today, Gabriel AND for nominating a Wonder of your own! HOORAY! It takes a while to go from Wonder nomination to Wonder of the Day, and we’re lucky to receive so many Wonders from our friends all over the world! We look forward to checking out your pop rock Wonder! :)

  4. Thoughts: Wow that was an amazing house and I didn’t know that a little apartment can have all of those things in it with sliding walls.

    Predictions: I wonder if tomorrow’s wonder will be about dancing thanks for the video and the information. :)

    • We’re so excited you learned something new about apartment living, Michael W! It’s so cool to see how small space can be used so well! Thank you for sharing your prediction for tomorrow’s Wonder… we’re looking forward to finding out what it is, too! :)

    • Thanks so much for your suggestion on a new Wonder, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Karr’s Class! We Wonder if you have a favorite song by Justin Bieber? :)

  5. Coolio! I just live in a house. Plain old plain old. I wish I lived in something like that! Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!! :) ;) :P XD

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend ACT! It sounds like you have a great place to live– in a lovely house! We hope you’re having a super St. Patrick’s Day, too! Enjoy the day and thanks for sharing your comment with us! :)

  6. Hi I live in a building and it’s really tall. But on floors there are only 7 doors then on the next floor there are 12 doors why is that?

    • We’re so glad you’ve been WONDERing about apartments with us today, Wonder Friend Niana! It sounds like your building gets bigger and bigger as you move up! Sometimes there are more doors, or exits, in order to safely evacuate the building in case of an emergency. We hope you’ll continue to Wonder about your building– we hope you’ll tell us about what you find out! Perhaps you can find out how many apartments or residences are in the building itself? :)

    • Great question, Gordon! :) Condominiums are usually just like apartments… except the people who live in condos usually own them. The people who live in apartments rent them, which means they pay the landlord each month to live there. We’re so glad you shared your awesome comment! :)

  7. I cant wait til I get an apartment!!!!!!!! I CAN’T WAIT TILL I CAN HAVE A PLACE OF MY OWN!!!! Thank you for this awesome wonder!!!!! :)

    • Great question, Wonder Friend Emerson! Apartment buildings, and the number of apartments in each building, can vary. Also, some apartments only have one room, while others have three or four! It all depends on the building! For example, in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, there are lots of one-bedroom apartments available; sometimes they’re called studio apartments because the entire apartment is only one room! :)

    • Thanks for your encouraging comment, Emerson! We’re so glad you visited us to Wonder about apartments! Thanks for stopping by! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why are they called apartments?
  • How long have apartments been around?
  • What kind of home will you live in someday?

Wonder Gallery

895Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to explore apartments in greater detail? Grab a friend or family member and check out one or more of the following activities:

  • Are there apartments in the city or town where you live? If you live in a very small town or in a rural area, there might not be apartments near you. If you live in a large city, there are probably many apartment buildings you see every day. Head out on a short field trip with a friend or family member to check out the nearest apartment buildings you can find. How do they differ from the other types of places to live in the area? What choices do architects have to make when they design apartment buildings? How are they similar to single-family homes? How are they different?
  • Do you live in an apartment or know someone who does? Or do you live in a house? Maybe you’ve lived in several different types of homes over the course of your life. What type of home do you want to live in when you get older? A luxury apartment in a high-rise building in a large city? A large house in the suburbs? A log home in the woods on several hundred acres? Think about the future and where you would like to live. What type of home would best suit you? Write a short description of your future home. If you want, you can also draw a picture of what you think it will look like. When you’re finished, upload your story and/or picture to Facebook to share with your Wonder Friends. We can’t wait to learn about your future home!
  • Up for a challenge? A famous architect has designed a new skyscraper full of apartments in downtown Tokyo. Each apartment is supposed to be no more than 500 square feet. Grab your pen and paper and put on your architect’s hat. Your job is to design a layout for a sample apartment. Should it be a one-, two-, or three-bedroom apartment? Or a studio? You decide! It’s up to you. Make the most efficient use of the space that you can. What features are necessities? Which ones are luxuries? Can you make use of modern technologies in your design? Have fun and be as creative as you can be. You never know – this might lead you to want to be an architect one day!

Still Wondering

Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to travel From Ellis Island to Orchard Street. This online exhibition, produced by the Tenement Museum, allows students to play the role of an immigrant to New York City in the early twentieth century. Students will learn about the immigration experience by creating an identity, and making decisions about making a living and making a living in the Lower East Side. Video clips of an actress playing the role of an immigrant add context and give students helpful advice. Panoramic photographs of rooms in a tenement apartment give students a unique perspective into the lives of immigrants in the early twentieth century.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will have you on your feet and dancing!

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.