The word comes from Anglo-Norman hamelet(t)e, corresponding to Old French hamelet, the diminutive of Old French hamel. This, in turn, is a diminutive of Old French ham, possibly borrowed from (West Germanic) Franconian languages. Compare with modern French hameau, Dutch heem, German Heim, Old English hām and Modern English home.
In Afghanistan the counterpart of the hamlet is the qala (Dari: قلعه, Pashto: کلي) meaning "fort" or "hamlet". The Afghan qala is a fortified group of houses, generally with its own community building such as a mosque, but without its own marketplace. The qala is the smallest type of settlement in Afghan society, trumped by the village (Dari/Pashto: ده), which is larger and includes a commercial area.
In Australia a hamlet is a small village. Officially, a hamlet differs from a village in having no commercial premises, but has residences and may have community buildings such as churches and public halls.
In Canada's provinces, hamlets are usually small unincorporated communities within a larger municipality (similar to civil townships in the United States), such as many communities within the single-tier municipalities of Ontario or within Alberta's specialized and rural municipalities.