What is the difference between these two terms? In what contexts are they used?

Also, which one best fits with "gewählt- ~"?

Dictionaries were not helpful enough this time.

Edit: I wanted to specify something. Basically the term I'm looking for is related to another one, I'll explain:

  1. Residenza in italian is the place you live according to the register of births, the house in your hometown. (Let's ignore cases of moving to other cities, etc).

  2. Domicilio instead is the place where you currently live. You're not a "fixed citizen" there, you could move back to another place anytime.

A quick example of this is when a student has his "residenza" in a small town, and rents an apartment in a big city to attend university, that would be his "domicilio".

Note: Please don't erase what you wrote in your answers, that ,of course, is still valuable to my first question. If different, please add the answer to this edit to your current answer.

  • 2
    In meaning they are both identically. Wohnsitz is much more common. Domizil sounds to me bumptious. Contexts: You can often hear it in news, in court, ... I think in informal speech both are relatively seldom. You would rather rephrase your sentence.
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 16:40
  • Domizil is used in legal context then? I see... If you post an answer starting from your comment, it would answer my question! :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 16:43
  • 3
    Wohnsitz is what you use in official contexts. ("Geben Sie Ihren Wohnsitz an.") Domizil is, well, bumptious - completely agree with Em1. (You'll hear it in TV magazines reporting about some celeb's new villa.) Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 17:10
  • I edited your question, because a user might be under impression that you're giving him/her orders! Hope you don't mind.
    – user508
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 13:24
  • @Alenanno: careful, even in Italian "residenza" and "domicilio" don't mean what you wrote. The former is the place where you physically spend most of your time, while the latter is where you have the centre of all or some of your business.
    – fdierre
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 10:31

5 Answers 5


In accordance with the comments on your question, my advice is to use "Wohnsitz" in any context:

Der Angeklagte hat seinen Wohnsitz in Hamburg.

Johannes hat seinen Erstwohnsitz bei seinen Eltern. Seine Studentenbude hat er als Zweitwohnsitz angemeldet.

"Domizil" is something for your passive vocabulary. Understand it when someone says it, but don't bother using it.

Be aware the "Wohnsitz" is generally used when referring to the adress (or town or country) of someone's residence, rather than to the flat or house itself. This is not so much the case with Domizil.

  • Danke! What about the legal use? Can you tell me something about it?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 18:34
  • 1
    I'm not a jurist, but I think you should be fine with "Wohnsitz" even there. It's not informal.
    – elena
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 18:37
  • @elena See the edit! (don't delete your answer, that is not substitutive, just an add-on!) :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 9:44
  • 1
    @Alenanno: elena has already answer that: "Johannes hat seinen Erstwohnsitz ... Zweitwohnsitz angemeldet" is exactly the situation you're looking for. In this case Erstwohnsitz is residenza, Zweitwohnsitz is domicilio. But Zweitwohnsitz does not always mean that you're "currently living there", it could also mean that you spend just 3 days a week at that place. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 10:00

A google search shows much more results for Wohnsitz then for Domizil. I tried to find a good explanation, but most are just like: Domizil is a Wohnsitz.

Regarding to your question in legal context, I will add some further information about Wohnsitz


Ort, an dem eine Person den Mittelpunkt ihrer Lebensbeziehungen hat (§§ 7 ff. BGB). Kinder teilen i.d.R. den Wohnsitz der Eltern (bei verschiedenen Wohnsitzen des Elternteils, der das Kind in persönlichen Angelegenheiten vertritt), auch wenn sie sich tatsächlich an einem anderen Ort aufhalten.

Nach dem Wohnsitz bestimmt sich v.a. der Gerichtsstand und der Erfüllungsort.


Translation (in my broken english): Wohnsitz is the location where a person spend the most time of his life (§§ 7 ff. BGB). Children's Wohnsitz is usually the Wohnsitz of their parents [...][*]. The court of jurisdiction is appointed to their Wohnsitz.

So, I never read the §§ 7 ff. BGB, but there you find all regulations belonging to Wohnsitz. Wohnsitz is a very formal word, used in many official documents, in court, etc. You can also hear the word in news (have a look on elena's example, this could be a typically sentence in a newspaper, but also written in a protocol in court)


Here I want to c&p the sentence from Hendrik Vogt (mich mit fremden Federn schmücken):

You'll hear it in TV magazines reporting about some celeb's new villa.

The word is bumptious. Don't use it.

More words:

  • Residenz is used, when you name the domicile of an important person or the official residence of an ambassador. Another possibility in this context is Sitz.
  • Heim is a used for nursing home, children's home,... You can find it in informal use, like: Ich gehe heim, Das mache ich daheim, ... But note, in this use it isn't a noun.
  • Bude is very colloquial, used e.g. by student's, talking about their Wohnheim.

There a handful more synonyms, but I do not want to mention all of them.

Finally, take a look at ngram for Domizil vs Wohnsitz.

[*] I omit the bracket part. It's about children's Wohnsitz if parents home is separate.

EDIT: Regarding your update, I will add some further thoughts:

Your Wohnsitz is registered from the time when you are born. The Wohnsitz is the same place as your parents home. This is also called as your Hauptwohnsitz (principal residence). When you move to another town, you change your (Haupt)Wohnsitz. If you have two homes, e.g. your parents' home and your student Wohnheim, then you register a Nebenwohnsitz (secondary residence).

Domizil is just another word for Wohnsitz. I think you can use is for your principal and secondary residence. At least in the sense as John Smithers mentioned.


From your edit I can add the following (used in a fiscal/juristic background):

  • Wohnsitz: Place where you are officially registered (Einwohnermeldeamt).
  • Lebensmittelpunkt: Place where you spent most of your time.
  • Hauptwohnsitz: Place where you are registered and have your Lebensmittelpunkt
  • Zweitwohnsitz: Place registered in addition to Hauptwohnsitz.

There is a difference when used in the financial world.

If someone has to pay a bill of exchange (order to pay a certain person a specific amount of money at a specific time and place), then he normally can do that where he lives (an seinem Wohnort/Wohnsitz). (That would be called "Zahlstelle" in financial terms.)

But some bills of exchange are not paid where the debtor lives, they are paid at a different business location of the bank. Then the bank location is called "Domizil" to distinguish it from "Zahlstelle"/the place of residence of the debtor.

Besides that I want to mention that "Domizil" is also used in a humorous way like in "Feriendomizil", which means the hotel/apartment where you stay during vacation.

Answering your addition:

We do not have this differentiation in German between "Residenz" and "Domizil" (maybe not anymore).

A "Residenz" is the place where royals or the chief of state lives. Your "Residenza" would be more comparable to the German "Geburtsort", "Heimatort".

"Wohnsitz"/"Wohnort" is the place where you actually live and are registered (you should be registered where you live. You can fool the authorities if you wish, but that's a different topic).

  • See the edit! (don't delete your answer, that is not substitutive, just an add-on!) :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 9:45

The other answers point out that both can be used identically, and wiki states the same. But I as a native feel, that "Wohnsitz" is refering to the location/adress where you live (as also already stated in the other answers, more like a legal term) - but domizil is rather refering to the house/condo/whatever itself and not the location of it. Anyway it is a very unusual word, just avoid using it.

  • You're quite right pointing out this difference. Note that it's also mentioned in elena's answer. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 17:09

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