Old English hamstede "home, town, village," from home (n.) + stead (q.v.). In U.S. usage, "a lot of land adequate for the maintenance of a family" (1690s), defined by the Homestead Act of 1862 as 160 acres. Similar formation in Dutch heemstede, Danish hjemsted.
1872, American English, from homestead (n.). Homesteader also is from 1872.
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