In my dialect of English, shared living arrangements (normally non-familial) can be described by three terms.
A housemate (or flatmate) is someone who shares your house (normally not your room, but this is open)
A roommate is someone who shares your room (normally not your bed)
A bedmate is self-explanatory.
In US English, “roommate” seems to cover all three, but US English speakers seem able to infer which is intended from the context. Can anyone help me with a usage guide?
I came to this point after reading an NYT article on urban dorms about a woman in NY, who is helping young professionals lower their cost of NY City living by matching them with “roommates”. This sounded pretty challenging until it became apparent that everyone gets their own room. Not that putting together a workable group to share a house isn’t a problem, but it’s one that most people in my age cohort dealt with repeatedly on their own, admittedly with varying degrees of success. So to me, the take-home point would have been the professionalisation of yet another activity people previously did for themselves, rather than the fact that when rents are high relative to income, groups of unrelated people share houses (wasn’t there a popular TV show about this a few years back?).