Bringing in the boar's head. In heraldry, the boar's head was sometimes used as symbol of hospitality, often seen as representing the host's willingness to feed guests well.[1] It is likewise the symbol of a number of inns and taverns.[2]
Trestles in the medieval House of Stratford coat of arms:
The trestle (also tressle, tressel and threstle) in heraldry is also used to mean hospitality, as historically the trestle was a tripod used both as a stool and a table support at banquets.[3]

Hospitality is the relationship of a host towards a guest, wherein the host receives the guest with some amount of goodwill and welcome. This includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.[4] Hospitality is also the way people treat others, for example in the service of welcoming and receiving guests in hotels. Hospitality plays a role in augmenting or decreasing the volume of sales of an organization.

Hospitality ethics is a discipline that studies this usage of hospitality.


"Hospitality" derives from the Latin hospes,[5] meaning "host", "guest", or "stranger". Hospes is formed from hostis, which means "stranger" or "enemy" (the latter being where terms like "hostile" derive). By metonymy, the Latin word hospitalis means a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn.[6] Hospes/hostis is thus the root for the English words host, hospitality, hospice, hostel, and hotel.

Historical practice

In ancient cultures, hospitality involved welcoming the stranger and offering him food, shelter, and safety.[7]

Global concepts

Ancient Greece

Main article: Xenia (Greek)

In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. Conversely, the guest was expected to abide by a set code of behaviour. The ancient Greek term xenia—or theoxenia when a god was involved—expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. This relationship was codified in the Homeric epics, and especially in the Odyssey.[8] In Greek society, a person's ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The ancient Greeks, since the time of Homer, believed that the goddess of hospitality and hearth was Hestia, one of the original six Olympians.

India and Nepal

In India and Nepal, hospitality is based on the principle Atithi Devo Bhava, meaning "the guest is God". This principle is shown in a number of stories where a guest is revealed to be a god who rewards the provider of hospitality. From this stems, the Indian or Nepalese practice of graciousness towards guests at home and in all social situations. The Tirukkuṛaḷ, an ancient Indian work on ethics and morality, explains the ethics of hospitality in verses 81 through 90, dedicating a separate chapter to it (chapter 9).[9]


Mosaic at San Vitale, Ravenna, Abraham and the angels, pre-547

Judaism praises hospitality to strangers and guests, based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 18:1–8 and 19:1–8). In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, meaning "welcoming guests". Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests,[10] and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.[11]

Abraham set the standard as providing three things:

The initial letters of these Hebrew words spell Aishel (Genesis 21:33).


In Christianity, hospitality is a virtue. It is a reminder of sympathy for strangers and a rule to welcome visitors.[12] This is a virtue found in the Old Testament, with, for example, the custom of the foot washing of visitors or the kiss of peace.[13] Jesus taught in the New Testament that those who had welcomed a stranger had welcomed him.[14] He expanded the meaning of brother and neighbor to include the stranger, that he or she be treated with hospitality.[15][16]

Pope John Paul II wrote: "Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives."[17] He also said, "Only those who have opened their hearts to Christ can offer a hospitality that is never formal or superficial but identified by 'gentleness' and 'reverence'."[18] Some Western countries have developed a host culture for immigrants based on the Bible.[19] In some Christian belief, a guest should never be made to feel that they are causing undue extra labor by their presence.[16]


One of the main principles of Pashtunwali is Melmastyā́. This is the display of hospitality and profound respect to all visitors (regardless of race, religion, national affiliation, or economic status) without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.[20]


In Islam, there is a strong emphasis on expressing goodwill through the phrase peace be upon you Assalamu Alaikum. This practice is rooted in the teachings of Muhammad. These teachings extend to the treatment of guests and even prisoners of war. Authentic sources and Quranic verses underscore the importance of showing kindness and peace towards these people.[citation needed]

Abu Aziz ibn Umair reported: "I was among the prisoners of war on the day of the battle of Badr. Muhammad had said, 'I enjoin you to treat the captives well.' After I accepted Islam, I was among the Ansar (Inhabitants of Madinah) and when the time of lunch or dinner arrived, I would feed dates to the prisoners for I had been fed bread due to the command of Muhammad."[21]

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.[Quran 16:125]

Good hospitality is crucial in Islam even in business. According to another report,[22] Muhammad passed by a pile of food in the market. He put his hand inside it and felt dampness, although the surface was dry. He said:

"O owner of the food, what is this?"

The man said, "It was damaged by rain, O Messenger of God."

He said, "Why did you not put the rain-damaged food on top so that people could see it! Whoever cheats us is not one of us."

Celtic cultures

Celtic societies also valued hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person's request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter for guests but also to make sure that they did not come to harm under their care.[23]

Northern European cultures

In Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands, it is often considered inappropriate to feed children from another family. Visiting children may be asked to leave at dinnertime or to wait in another room, or the host family may call the visitor's parents and ask for permission.[24]


Current usage

Interior of the Moro Sky Bar on the 25th and topmost floor of Sokos Hotel Torni in the city center of Tampere, Finland.

In the West today hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment. However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one's ingroup.

Anthropology of hospitality

In anthropology, hospitality has been analyzed as an unequal relation between hosts and guests, mediated through various forms of exchange.[25]

Jacques Derrida offers a model to understand hospitality that divides unconditional hospitality from conditional hospitality. Over the centuries, philosophers have considered the problem of hospitality. To Derrida, there is an implicit hostility in hospitality, as it requires treating a person as a stranger, distancing them from oneself; Derrida labels this intrinsic conflict with the portmanteau "hostipitality".[26] However, hospitality offers a paradoxical situation (like language), since the inclusion of those who are welcomed in the sacred law of hospitality implies that others will be rejected.

Julia Kristeva alerts readers to the dangers of "perverse hospitality", takes advantage of the vulnerability of aliens to dispossess them.[27] Hospitality reduces the tension in the process of host-guest encounters, producing a liminal zone that combines curiosity about others and fear of strangers.[28] Hospitality centres on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while traveling.[29] However, some disagree. Anthony Pagden describes how the concept of hospitality was historically manipulated to legitimate the conquest of the Americas by imposing the right of free transit, which was conducive to the formation of the modern nation state. This suggests that hospitality is a political institution, which can be ideologically deformed to oppress others.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Wade, William Cecil (1898). The Symbolism of Heraldry. London: G. Redway. pp. 31, 67.
  2. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony (1845). The Curiosities of Heraldry. London: J. R. Smith. pp. 73.
  3. ^ Guillim, John (1724). A Display of Heraldry. London: S. Roycroft & R. Blome. pp. 228–229.
  4. ^ de Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier (2013) [1765], "Hospitality", Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 8, translated by Bourgault, Sophie, Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project, hdl:2027/spo.did2222.0002.761 – via University of Michigan Library((citation)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Lewis, C. (2000). Elementary Latin Dictionary. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 371.
  6. ^ Marchant, J.R.V.; Charles, Joseph F., eds. (1958). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (395th Thousand ed.). New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. p. 254.
  7. ^ Pohl, Christine D. (1999). Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 9780802844316.
  8. ^ Reece, Steve (1993). The Stranger's Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. catalogues the various expectations of host and guest in Homeric Greek society.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Kagan, Yisrael Meir (1888). Ahavath chesed: the Love of Kindness (2nd, rev. ed.). Warsaw: Feldheim. p. 284. ISBN 0873061675.
  11. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sotah, 46B.
  12. ^ Montandon, Alain (2000). L'hospitalité au XVIIIe siècle. France: Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal. p. 12.
  13. ^
    • Elwell, Walter A. (2001). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. U.S.: Baker Academic. p. 458.
    • Cunningham, Lawrence; Egan, Keith J. (1996). Christian Spirituality: Themes from the Tradition. U.S.: Paulist Press. p. 196.
  14. ^ Baker, Gideon (2013). Hospitality and World Politics. U.K.: Springer. p. 159.
  15. ^ "The Good Samaritan". Christian Bible Reference Site.
  16. ^ a b Cook, Emily J. "Hospitality Is Biblical — and It's Not Optional".
  17. ^ "Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to volunteer workers". The Holy See. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 8 March 1997.
  18. ^ "Pastoral visit to the island of Ischia. Homily of John Paul II" (PDF). The Holy See. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 5 May 2002.
  19. ^ Kleist, J. Olaf; Glynn, Irial (2012). History, Memory and Migration: Perceptions of the Past and the Politics of Incorporation. U.S.: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 113.
  20. ^
  21. ^ al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr, 18444.
  22. ^ Saheeh Muslim
  23. ^ MacKinnon, Charles (1984). Scottish Highlanders. Barnes & Noble Books. p. 76.
  24. ^ Amanda Holpuch (June 2, 2022). "Do Swedish People Feed Their Guests?".
  25. ^ Andrikopoulos, Apostolos (2017). "Hospitality and Immigration in a Greek Urban Neighborhood: An Ethnography of Mimesis: Hospitality and Immigration in a Greek Urban Neighborhood". City & Society. 29 (2): 281–304. doi:10.1111/ciso.12127. hdl:11245.1/d78a7a33-3a2f-45eb-a925-d899b0948b94.
  26. ^ Derrida, Jaques (2000), "Hostipitality", Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities, 5 (3), translated by Stocker, Barry; Morlock, Forbes: 3–18, doi:10.1080/09697250020034706, S2CID 214614479.
  27. ^ Kristeva, J. (1991). Extranjeros para nosotros mismos. Translated by Gispert, X. Barcelona: Plaza & Janes Editores.
  28. ^ Graburn, N.H. (1983). "The anthropology of tourism". Annals of Tourism Research. 10 (1): 9–33. doi:10.1016/0160-7383(83)90113-5.
  29. ^ Lashley, C. (1995). "Towards an understanding of employee empowerment in hospitality services". International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. 7 (1): 27–32. doi:10.1108/09596119510078207.
  30. ^ Pagden, A. (1995). Lords of all the worlds: ideologies of empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500–c. 1850. Yale University Press.

Further reading