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What’s your definition of a hostel?

30th April 2008 Print, the market leader in online hostel reservations, is demanding a radical dictionary change to avoid the ‘down-and-out’ stigma of the word hostel. The firm wants major dictionaries in the UK to scrap current definitions that a hostel is either for homeless and destitute people or just for workers, students, or youths.

“The image of boarding school dormitories, cold showers and mugs of cocoa is out of date. The vast majority of hostels in the world provide very high standards of accommodation and top rate facilities” says Feargal Mooney, Chief Executive of, who has written to the main UK dictionaries to campaign for the redefinition.

“Hostels are budget, fun, sociable accommodation for people of all ages. To describe them as homeless shelters or cheap bunkhouse lodgings for youths is simply wrong. Dictionaries are stuck firmly in the rambling shorts and knapsack era of Enid Blyton books. They need to get with the times.”

The letter comes as hostels around the world are enjoying a surge of popularity as owners revamp and re-style them into trendy, sociable accommodation. Families are booking in because they combine a sense of adventure with comfort and safety. Older holiday makers and so-called ‘grey-gappers’ stay in hostels because they offer prime city and resort locations at a fraction of hotel prices, and students are using them because they are a great way to meet new people and pick up excellent travel tips.

“Hostels have moved on but, sadly, some dictionary definitions haven’t. Language is always evolving and modern hostels are nothing like the image some dictionaries portray – it is time they changed”, says Feargal Mooney., which books in the region of 15million hostel beds every year, has written to the Oxford, Collins and Chambers’ dictionaries asking for urgent revisions. The word ‘hostel’ comes from the Latin ‘hospes’ for guests and has been applied to lodging houses of all standards throughout the ages. It became synonymous with cheap, no-frills accommodation after the war when youth hostelling became popular and into the 1960s when students needed affordable rooms while travelling around Europe on tight budgets.