Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Domicile Definition:

The permanent residence of a person; a place to which, even if he or she were temporary absent, they intend to return.

Related Terms: Permanent Resident, Habitual Residence, Abode, Dwelling, Ordinarily Resident

Sometimes spelled domicil (especially in old English).

The permanent residence of a person; a place to which, even if he or she were temporary absent, they intend to return.

In law, it is said that a person may have many residences but only one domicile.

See also habitual residence.

The definition of domicile has vexed jurists for centuries. In Whicker v Hume, Justice Cranworth described it by way of an illustration:

"From which you cannot be separated if nothing removes you. When you depart from them, you are seen as a stranger."

In that same case, Justice Wensleydale offered:

"One very good definition (of domicil) is habitation in a place with the intention of remaining there for ever, unless some circumstance should occur to alter his intention."

In Lord v Colvin, Justice Kindersley wrote:

"That place is properly the domicil of a person in which he has voluntarily fixed the habitation of himself and his family, not for a mere special or temporary purpose, but with a present intention of making it his permanent home, unless and until something (which is unexpected or the happenning of which is uncertain) shall occur to induce him to adopt some other permanent home."

Other relevant statements of law:

  • "The place where a man lives is properly taken to be his domicile until facts adduced establish the contrary." [District of Columbia v. Murphy, 314 US 441 (Supreme Court of United States, 1941)].

  • "Domicile is not necessarily synonymous with residence, and one can reside in one place but be domiciled in another. For adults, domicile is established by physical presence in a place in connection with a certain state of mind concerning one's intent to remain there. One acquires a domicile of origin at birth, and that domicile continues until a new one (a domicile of choice) is acquired." [Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 US 30 (Supreme Court of United States, 1989)]

  • "Domicil is a compound of fact and law." [Sweeney v. District of Columbia, 113 F. 2d 25 (United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, 1940)].

  • "Domicile is the most steadfast of the words, and is pretty well anchored in legal literature so far as meaning is concerned. Residence, on the other hand, has an evasive way about it, with as many colors as Joseph's coat. It reflects the context in which it is found, whereas domicile controls the context. Residence is physical, whereas domicile is generally a compound of physical presence plus an intention to make a certain definite place one's permanent abode, though, to be sure, domicile often hangs on the slender thread of intent alone, as for instance where one is a wanderer over the earth. Residence is not an immutable condition of domicile." [Weible v. United States, 244 F. 2d 158 (United States Court of Appeals, 1957)]

  • "No exact definition can be given of domicile; it depends upon no one fact or combination of circumstances; but, from the whole taken together, it must be determined in each particular case. It is a maxim, that every man must have a domicile somewhere; and also that he can have but one. Of course it follows that his existing domicile continues until he acquires another; and, vice versâ, by acquiring a new domicile, he relinquishes his former one. From this view it is manifest that very slight circumstances must often decide the question." [Jones v. Saint John, 30 SCR 122 (Supreme Court of Canada, 1889) - adopting Thorndike v. Boston, 1 Met. 242.]

  • "Residence and domicile are two perfectly distinct things. It is necessary in the administration of the law that the idea of domicile should exist, and that the fact of domicile should be ascertained, in order to determine which of two municipal laws may be invoked for the purpose of regulating the rights of parties. We know very well that succession and distribution depend upon the law of the domicile. Domicile, therefore, is an idea of law. It is the relation which the law creates between an individual and a particular locality or country. To every adult person the law ascribes a domicile, and that domicile remains his fixed attribute until a new and different attribute usurps its place." [Bell v Kennedy, 1 Sc. App. 307; adopted in Wadsworth v. McCord, 12 SCR 466, Supreme Court of Canada, 1886)]

  • "Residence is not to be confounded with domicile; the latter usually means a man's home, and as a rule is not lost without an intention to abandon it and take up a new home. Naturalisation is one test. Our soldiers are still domiciled in Canada, although residents for the time being of England, France, or Saloniki, as the case may be." [Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptives v. City of Barrie, 34 D.L.R. 691 (Ontario Court of Appeal, 1917)]


  • Lord v Colvin, 4 Drew 366 (1859)
  • Whicker v Hume, [1858] 7 HL 124

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