Why Is Real Estate Called ‘Real Estate’?

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Real Estate is one of those series of words that many of us use daily. We may not realize the history and story behind why real estate is called “real estate.”

The word Real Estate comes from the Latin word realis, but it refers ideally to the physical and economic characteristics of real estate or real property. The word Real Estate can date back to the 17th Century. Today, Real Estate is a legal term used in many English-speaking jurisdictions worldwide.

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The Etymology Of The Word Real Estate

The term Real Estate is a term that many of us are familiar with, but like many words, there is a reason why the two words “real” and “estate” were put together to make a work with one single meaning.

The word real in Real Estate goes back to the Latin works of a realist. The combination of the words real estate comes from the “estate that is real.” Or, in other words, property that is intangible and cannot be moved.

Investopedia defines real estate as:

“Real estate is the land along with any permanent improvements attached to the land, whether natural or man-made—including water, trees, minerals, buildings, homes, fences, and bridges. Real estate is a form of real property. It differs from personal property, which are things not permanently attached to the land, such as vehicles, boats, jewelry, furniture, and farm equipment.”


Even the word “real estate” classifies the type of property that real estate is as being different from personal property, which can move. Real estate is a property that can not move.

In the Merriam- Webster dictionary, under the definition of real, it states this about the word used for real in real estate:

“…of or relating to fixed, permanent, or immovable things (such as lands or tenements)real property

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Even the definition of the word estate has the same type of property attached to it, i.e., an immovable, tangible property.

The word real can also mean things like “existing” or “true,” which refers to real estate being permanent and fixed property.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines estate as:

“…especially  a person’s property in land and tenements.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary

The two words together, “real” and” estate:” can both refer to immovable property, which aligns with the legal definition of real estate as we know it today.

The combining of the words “real” and “property” for real estate was first used in London, England, in 1666, during the famous London fire. The term realty was also used during that time, which is why we continue to use the word realty today.

Understanding what Real Estate means is essential as the words “real estate” are considered a legal term in some jurisdictions, particularly the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom. Australia and The Bahamas – in other words, in English-speaking countries.

Types Of Real Estate Defined

The term real estate can also is known as real property. Here are some things that are referred to in the word real estate:

Physical Characteristics Of Real Estate Defined

To further understand the legal definition of real estate, it is good to understand its legal and physical characteristics. In other words, what helps to physically define real estate as legally being considered real estate under the law.

Here are the three basic physical characteristics of real estate:

Economic Characteristics Of Real Estate Defined

Real estate also has very distinct economic characteristics that define it as real estate and help secure and influence the value of the real estate investment.

Here are some of the economic characteristics of real estate:

Because of the legal terms and the economic and physical characteristics, the words “real” and “estate” are the perfect choices in the English language to refer to real estate or real property.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of real estate?

Real estate refers to land and any structures or improvements attached to it, including buildings, houses, and natural resources. It encompasses both the physical property and the rights associated with it.

What is the origin of the term “real estate”?

The term “real estate” comes from the Latin word “realis,” which means “relating to things.” It originally referred to the physical and economic characteristics of land and property.

When did the term “real estate” originate?

The term “real estate” can be traced back to the 17th century when it began to be used to describe property and land ownership. It has since become a widely used legal term in many English-speaking countries.

What does “real property” mean?

“Real property” is another term used interchangeably with “real estate.” It refers to land and any permanent structures or improvements attached to it, including both residential and commercial properties.

What are the physical characteristics of real estate?

The physical characteristics of real estate include the location, size, topography, access, and natural features of the land. These aspects can influence the value and potential uses of the property.

How is real estate classified in legal terms?

Real estate is often classified into different categories based on its use, such as residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural. It can also be categorized as undeveloped land or improved property.

What are some common types of real estate transactions?

Common types of real estate transactions include buying and selling properties, leasing or renting residential or commercial spaces, property development, and real estate investments.

Can You Take The Real Estate Exam Without Taking Any Classes?

Becoming a Real Estate agent in the United States requires you to take a real estate exam for the state or area where you want to sell real estate. Each state will have some slightly different real estate laws.

By clicking here, you can read more about Can You Take The Real Estate Exam Without Taking Any Classes?

What Is A Life Estate? Real Estate Explained  

A life estate is when a person is granted the right to use the property for the term of their life. Once the life estate holder dies, the property is passed on to the owner. The individual who holds the life estate does have rights to the property and can usually still get income from the property for the term of their life.

By clicking here, you can read more about What Is A Life Estate? Real Estate Explained

Anita Hummel
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