Difference Between Flat and Apartment


Main Difference

The main difference between the flat and apartment is that the word flat is commonly used in British English and the word apartment is commonly used in American English.

Flat vs. Apartment

The flat is a set of rooms for living in, usually on one floor of a building. The apartment is a set of rooms for living in, usually on many floors of a building. Both words refer to a residential unit that is rented out to tenants. The term “flat” is commonly used in British English. The word “apartment” is more occasionally used in American English. Flats are typically the part of a larger building. Apartments are self-contained private residences within a larger building. A flat mainly has a set of rooms but is likely to have them all on one level. An apartment may consist of many rooms, spread across a couple of floors inside a building on one level of a building. It is worth noting that the word “flat” is still used in American English and the word “apartment” exists in British English. A flat is a luxurious apartment in the United States. In the United Kingdoms, an apartment is an upscale flat and an apartment with many rooms set within a house. Flat refers to a regular flat that may or may not have a lot of amenities. Apartment tends to imply a better flat or one with more amenities and luxuries. Both words are used in the United Kingdom. A flat is generally an ordinary residence that does not constitute the entire space within a building. An apartment generally tends to imply a similar concept, but more luxurious. In this way, the flat is a residence usually occupied by the middle or lower class. While apartment refers to a residence mainly occupied by upper or high class.


Comparison Chart

A suite of rooms in a larger building containing several such other residencesA suite of rooms forming one residence
British or UK EnglishAmerican English
Occupied by
Middle or lower classUpper class
Less luxurious with fewer amenitiesMore luxurious with more amenities
On only one floorOn many floors

What is Flat?

This term flat is mainly used in British English. The term flat is derived from the Old English word ‘flat,’ which means “floor” or “dwelling.” It implies to an apartment or a residential unit that is rented out to tenants. A flat usually implies a set of rooms that are located on only one floor. It is a set of rooms forming an individual residence, typically on one floor and within a larger building with several such residences. The definitions of flat from different sources assert that the flat only contains a single storey. This term commonly refers to apartments without a stair. The term “flat,” however, is used in Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other areas that use British English. In North America, the term “flat” is mostly used to refer to upscale apartments. In some countries, the term flat is known as housing units of lesser quality meant for low-income or mediocre families. Flat tends to imply a regular residence that may not have a lot of amenities, and that is less luxurious.


What is Apartment?

The apartment is a set of rooms for living in, usually on one floor of a building. The term apartment is derived from the French word ‘apartment’ meaning “a separated place.” It is a type of residential unit which occupies a larger building called an apartment complex, apartment building, or a tower block. The term apartment is largely preferred in American English. The American dictionaries define the apartment as a room or suite of rooms typically designed as a residence. It is generally located in a building occupied by more than one household. However, in British English, an apartment mainly refers to a flat that is well appointed or used for holidays. Also, an apartment may not be limited to only a single floor. In common, apartments refer to luxurious and expensive flats with a lot of amenities. The apartment is known as a residential unit inside a large structure or building which contains many other such dwelling units. Apartments are also called bachelor, studio, furnished, or unfurnished. Apartment usually indicates a dwelling that is more upper class or luxurious with more amenities than a traditional flat.


Key Differences

  1. The flat is a residence with a set of rooms, typically situated on one floor within a larger building and containing several such residences whereas apartment is a set of rooms designed as a residence and typically located in a building which is occupied by more than one household.
  2. The term flat is used in British English conversely the term apartment is mainly used in American English.
  3. A flat typically contains one story; on the other hand, an apartment can have multi-storeys.
  4. The flat sometimes refers to low-quality apartments while the apartment sometimes refers to luxurious and expensive flats.
  5. The flat is a residence usually occupied by middle or lower class on the flip side apartment refers to a residence mainly occupied by upper or high class.


Flats and apartments are residential units with some differences typically in their varying meaning in British and American English.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson