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Эти синонимы. Но мне кажется, что все-таки тонкая разница есть.

My current understanding of the difference:

Беспризорный = "homeless" -- used in a more educated written register (literature etc.)

Бездомный = "homeless" -- most common everyday verbal usage for

Бомж = "homeless/bum" -- Acronym for: без определённого места жительства (slang/jargon)

Is there any additional difference in where one would encounter these words?

Am I correct in my assumptions about what "register" the words fall into? Or am I imagining the difference.

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Беспризорный - the one who does not have "призор", parental custody. Though this one can have a home, but the parent, who's supposed to live there too, is missing.

Бездомный - is literally "homeless", this is a neutral term. In rare cases, it could even be applied to the person who does not own a home and rents one (in Russia, an adult is commonly supposed to own a real estate or a part of it, renting for the whole life is a misfortune, unless it's a municipal property with no rental payment).

Бомж is an abbreviation for "без определённого места жительства", it's a rude and offensive term. "Одет как бомж" = "очень плохо одет". "Воняет как от бомжа" = "пахнет экскрементами".

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    Надо бы добавить, что слово "БОМЖ" может встречаться в официальных документах (откуда и пришло в язык), где всегда записывается заглавными буквами (аббревиатура же) и означает человека без регистрации ("прописки"). – Pavel Mayorov Jun 8 '16 at 7:41
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Беспризорный applies to minors and has more to do with a lack of custody/supervision than a lack of residence. Бездомный is the plain and neutral translation of "homeless". Бомж started out as a legal category and has taken on a derogatory character: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%91%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B6

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  • Беспризорный is mostly about underage homeless persons, children and teenagers - it is not used for depicting adult homeless persons. The derived noun "беспризорник" is used more often, but I'd rather not agree that this is higher-style language, maybe it's slowly getting outdated but we're definitely far from there.
  • Бездомный is neutral, it's just a person without home.
  • Бомж is less neutral, it's sort of homeless but quite often with negative connotations - drunk, junkie, dirty etc.

For a Russian speaker "бездомный" is closer to the image of homeless in a Les miserables way and "бомж" is more of a gentleman you can encounter on San Francisco streets: a quite aggressive, stinky, stoned or drunk junky shouting out loud some nonsense.

And yes, "бомж" is used only for describing modern homeless, most likely urban. No one will use it in translations of historic texts for instance.

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  • Please define what you mean by "gentlemen you can encounter on San Francisco streets." Is this a down-on-his-luck member of middle-class society who made poor financial choices? or an unwashed alcoholic with drug/immigration issues asking you for money? Which one would you encounter in a Russian lit. novel and which would be more common in the verbal register? – iAndelin Jun 7 '16 at 20:42
  • And to clarify, Беспризорный implies a degree of youthfulness? Or is it just more commonly applied to the young? – iAndelin Jun 7 '16 at 20:49
  • @iAndelin has edited answer to make it clearer – shabunc Jun 7 '16 at 20:57
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    @iAndelin Aside from degree of youthfulness, it may also be applied idiomatically to unanimated objects. – bipll Jun 7 '16 at 23:00
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There is also a Siberian/Far Eastern dialectism бич, which has roughly the same meaning as бомж, but can also be used to denote a seedy, socially degraded person, often alcoholic or drug addict, but not necessary homeless.

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Бездомный is homeless, sounds rather neutral.

Бомж (tramp,hobo) can be colloquial and БОМЖ as an abbreviation (of unfixed abode) is official.

Беспризорный has got a wider and a bit different meaning including that of homeless, mostly spoken of a child or a teenager uncared-for/ neglected by his/her family. Беспризорный can even define a forgotten neglected object/thing.

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  • Downvoters: add comments why you downvote! – Artemix Jun 9 '16 at 7:47

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