A house is a building that functions as the primary dwelling place for a person or family. It can be single-family or multi-family, and may be owned by a private individual, corporation, or public entity such as a municipality. A house is usually larger than a flat, and it may contain rooms for cooking, eating, sleeping, and bathing. It may also contain a garden or yard for recreation. Houses may be built from wood, brick, or other materials. They may be located in rural, suburban, or urban areas. Houses may be grouped together into neighborhoods, which are often governed by local government agencies.

The earliest houses were simple tent-like structures made from branches and covered with mud or other material. A well-preserved example of a house from the fifth millennium BC has been discovered at Tell Madhur in Iraq. Later, houses were built from stone and other more durable materials. In many societies, women lived in smaller houses than men, which could be as small as a single room. Houses can be categorized by their size, architectural style, and location within a society.

In some cultures, houses were used for ceremonial purposes. For instance, some ancient Egyptian tombs contained a house for the spirits of the dead. In other cultures, the house was the center of social life. A palace, for instance, was a house where the ruler lived, while a hut was a simple dwelling place for common people.

A house can also be a metaphor for the state of one’s mental or emotional health. Someone who feels overwhelmed may feel like they are living in a house full of noise, confusion, and demands. A house can also symbolize security and safety, as in the idea of “a home for the holidays” or “a safe place to live.”

Houses can be a symbol of wealth, status, or power, as in the case of palaces and mansions. In contrast, a shack or a trailer may indicate poverty or lack of resources.

The word house is also used to refer to governing bodies, such as the Houses of Parliament in Britain or the United States’ House of Representatives. The term can also be used to describe a group of people, such as a family or a theater audience.

The House is the lower chamber of Congress, and its members are known as Members of Congress or Representatives. Each Member is elected for a two-year term, and the House has the power to impeach a President and other federal officials, subject to approval by the Senate. The Constitution limits the number of Members to 435, but Congress has increased the size of the House on several occasions. In addition to its legislative powers, the House has other responsibilities, including overseeing the federal budget and ratifying treaties. It also has the power to formally censure or reprimand its members. A House Speaker is the chief executive of the House and second in line for presidential succession after the Vice President.