Whenever I've come across this word I've always understood it to mean host. And then I came across this sentence from the bible:

Ô Jéhovah, qui sera l’hôte de ta tente?

I first understood that to mean who will be the host of your tent, but when I read the English equivalent hôte was translated as guest.

Multiple meanings of words are normal, but to me host and guest are opposites which both make sense in this sentence — how are you supposed to know which definition to use? Is host the one most will use? If someone said to me that they were watching a chat show yesterday and I then asked Qui était l'hôte de cette émission ? would they ever think that I meant guest?

I'm guessing the answer will be to assume host, but if that doesn't make sense in the context then use guest (except in my 1st example where to me they technically both could have made sense).

2 Answers 2


In French, hôte means both host and guest. Only the context will clarify which of the two meanings to choose. If the context doesn't help to decide, then the speaker should use a non-ambiguous term such as invité (e.g. invité of a TV show).

In Ô Jéhovah, qui sera l’hôte de ta tente?, it is clear that Jéhovah is the host, hence anyone else is a guest.

I would agree with your heuristic: assume hôte=host, and if that doesn't make sense in the context then hôte=guest.

  • 2
    And if I'm not mistaken, hôte has the same genealogy as host (heavenly or not), guest, and ghost.
    – Drew
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 2:04
  • 3
    In the feminine “une hôtesse” (host) is differentiated from “une hôte” (guest). Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 11:40
  • @Drew: I'm afraid you are mistaken. Ghost/Geist comes from older germanic words for "spirit/soul", which in turns come from PIE and Sanskrite with the meaning of "fury, anger, agitation, revenge". Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 9:20

I remember encountering this apparently double, and opposed, meaning in Latin. The explanation I read was that hosting was a reciprocal activity. You acted as a host to people in your social network who in turn acted as a host to you. So your host is a person who accommodates you when you are in his part of the world, and who is your guest when he is in yours. Thus host and guest are one.

(This seems more like a comment but don't have enough reputation points to comment.)

  • Makes sense. Interesting explanation :)
    – dVyper
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 9:14
  • can you provide references,since that seems interesting ... Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 11:42

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