The word hotel represents the Old French hostel, from Latin hopes, hospitis, a stranger, foreigner, thus a guest. It thus appears that the city townhouse of the French nobleman was used by him not as a home but as a private place of temporary lodging, perhaps with a permanent staff, where he was treated as an occasional guest. The term had exactly the same equivalent in mediaeval London as “Inn”, of which almost every great nobleman possessed one, generally within the City of London. The English word “hotel” developed a more specific meaning as serviced rooms for rent, as did the word “inn”, when replaced by the suffix “house”, for example the mediaeval townhouse of the Earl of Northumberland would have been known as “Northumberland’s Inn”, but a later version was called “Northumberland House” Cognates can be confusing: the modern usage in English of hotel denotes a commercial building accommodating travelers, a hostelry that is more ambitious than the modern meaning of inn. Modern French also applies hotel to commercial non-private hotels: confusingly the Hotel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde was built as a hotel particular and is today a public hotel. The Hotel des Invalides retains its early sense of a hospice for war wounded.
In French, a hotel de villa or Marie is a town hall (and not a hotel), such as the Hotel de Ville, Paris or the Hotel de Ville de Montréal. Other official bodies might give their name to the structure in which they maintained a seat: aside from Paris. several other French cities have an Hotel de Cluny, maintained by the abbey of Cluny. The Hotel de Sens was built as the Paris residence of the archbishop of Sens.