What Does House of Ill Repute Mean?

House of Ill Repute Meaning

Definition: A brothel.

Origin of House of Ill Repute

This expression is a euphemism for a brothel, first appearing in the early 18th century.

The first published use of this phrase was in John Vanbrugh’s 1728 play Journey to London:

  • He was never in London before but one week and then he was kidnapp’d into a House of ill Repute.

Other euphemisms during the same era were house of ill fame or house of accommodation.

This allusion is clear. In a brothel, many prostitutes occupy and live in the same house. Additionally, the practice of selling sex for money is often illegal or considered immoral. Ill repute means bad reputation.

Examples of House of Ill Repute

what is a house of ill reputeHere is an example that involves two college students on a school trip overseas.

Robin: Come with me. I’m about to head to Kingstown.

Harry: Why? What’s in Kingstown?

Robin: I heard that there are some cool bars there. I want to go to this one club called Ye Olde Tavern.

Harry: No! You can’t go there!

Robin: Why not?

Harry: That’s a house of ill repute. If the school finds out you went there, they might expel you!

Robin: What is a house of ill repute?

Harry: It’s a brothel. You know? A house filled with prostitutes.

Robin: Really? I had no idea.

houses of ill reputeIn this dialogue, two coworkers are discussing the past weekend.

Mal: I had the worst weekend.

Xiomara: What happened?

Mal: My family came into town for a family reunion, and a lot of them were staying at my house.

Xiomara: Yeah, I guess that could be fun or awful, depending on your family.

Mal: Actually, that wasn’t the problem. The family was great. One of the neighbors called the police. She saw all the people staying there and thought that I was turning my home into a house of ill repute!

Xiomara: Oh no! What did the police say?

Mal: They realized all the people were just my cousins and they laughed about it. Still, it was very embarrassing!

More Examples

This excerpt is about a man who played the piano in a brothel.

  • After attending the Wharton School of Business, he took over the family’s Darling Furniture and Toy company, where the driven entrepreneur expanded the business to 50 stores and sold it in the late 1950s. Cuba was calling, so he made a foray to Havana. He landed a gig playing piano in a house of ill repute. –LA Times

This excerpt is about a poster for a movie.

  • Comani’s deftly altered poster implies that the movie house, home of the 20th century’s distinctive and dominant new art form, is itself a house of ill repute. Marvelous pleasure can certainly be had there, but there is just as certainly a cost. –LA Times


The phrase a house of ill repute is another way to describe a house of prostitution.