Wikipedia says, "A roommate is a person with whom one shares a room or rooms. Affectionately known as a roomie."
My roommate and I share rooms . . . the kitchen, the living room, and the bathroom. However, we don't share bedrooms. In England you would call this person a housemate or flatmate. Why don't we, as Americans, differentiate between a roommate and a housemate. Wouldn't it eliminate confusion? And what exactly are the right words for this relationship in other languages? Consider this example:
While I was in Mexico I had the good fortune of having my roommate/housemate come visit me. I was very excited that she was coming to visit and therefore told everyone as many times as I could. When talking with my host family I wasn't exactly sure what term to use to describe our relationship. The dictionary told me companera de cuarto, but companera means companion, mate or partner. So, in order to avoid confusion, I decided to take it back to the basics and referred to my roommate as the girl I live with. I only realized that this was a mistake when my host mother asked me whether my roommate was my pair. Unsure of whether I understood her completely, I asked her to repeat herself. To which she responded, "Your pair, are you a lesbian?" Taken aback I realized I did understand her and had to figure out how to explain that no, in fact my roommate was not my partner, but rather a friend that I shared an apartment with to make rent cheaper. In the end we got it all sorted out, nothing like a little embarrassment to cement the bond between host mother and student.
So why am I writing about roommates? Because I have been living with mine for two years and 10 months and she's amazing.