AskDefine | Define town

Dictionary Definition



1 an urban area with a fixed boundary that is smaller than a city; "they drive through town on their way to work"
2 an administrative division of a county; "the town is responsible for snow removal" [syn: township]
3 the people living in a municipality smaller than a city; "the whole town cheered the team" [syn: townspeople, townsfolk]

User Contributed Dictionary



From tūn. Cognate with Dutch tuin ‘garden’, German Zaun, Danish and Swedish tun ‘fence’.


  • /taʊ̯n/, /taUn/
  • Rhymes: -aʊn


  1. a settlement; an area with residential districts, shops and amenities, and its own local government.


Usage notes

An urban city is typically larger than a rural town, which in turn is typically larger than a village. In rural areas, a town is considered urban. In urban areas, a town is considered suburban; a village in the suburbs.



  • Italian: comunale

See also

Extensive Definition

A town is a type of settlement ranging from a few hundred to several thousand (occasionally hundreds of thousands) inhabitants, although it may be applied loosely even to huge metropolitan areas. Usually, a "town" is thought of as larger than a village but smaller than a "city", though there are exceptions to this rule. The words "city" and "village" came into English from Latin via French. "Town" and "borough" (also "burrow", "burgh", "bury", etc.) are of native Germanic origin, from Old English burg, a fortified settlement, and tūn, an enclosed piece of land.

Origin of the word and use around the world

In Old English and Old Scots, "Town" (or "toun", "ton", etc.) originally meant a fortified municipality, whereas a borough was not fortified. But that distinction did not last long, and "Edina Burgh" or "Edinburgh"—modernly called a "city"—was a fortified "town" from its founding.
In modern American English, a town is usually a municipal corporation that is smaller than a city but larger than a village. In some cases, "town" is an alternate name for "city" or "village" (especially a larger village). Sometimes, the word "town" is short for "township." Some US states designate towns and townships as political subdivisions of Counties. In general, towns can be differentiated from townships, villages, or hamlets on the basis of their economic character, in that most of a town's population will tend to derive their living from manufacturing industry, commerce, and public service rather than primary industry such as agriculture or related activities.
A place's population size is not a reliable determinant of urban character. In many areas of the world, as in India at least until recent times, a large village might contain several times as many people as a small town. In the United Kingdom, there are historical cities that are far smaller than the larger towns.
The modern phenomenon of extensive suburban growth, satellite urban development, and migration of city-dwellers to villages have further complicated the definition of towns, creating communities urban in their economic and cultural characteristics but lacking other characteristics of urban localities.
Some forms of non-rural settlement, such as temporary mining locations, may be clearly non-rural, but have at best a questionable claim to be called a town.
The distinction between a town and a city similarly depends on the approach adopted: a city may strictly be an administrative entity which has been granted that designation by law, but in informal usage, the term is also used to denote an urban locality of a particular size or importance: whereas a medieval city may have possessed as few as 10,000 inhabitants, today some consider an urban place of fewer than 100,000 as a town, even though there are many officially designated cities that are very, very much smaller than that.

Age of Towns scheme

Australian geographer Thomas Griffith Taylor proposed a classification of towns based on their age and pattern of land use. He identified five types of town:


In Australia, the status of a town is formally applied in only a few states. Most states do define cities, and towns are commonly understood to be those centres of population not formally declared to be cities and usually with a population in excess of about 250 people.
The creation and delimitation of Local Government Areas is the responsibility of the state and territory Governments. In all states and the Northern Territory each incorporated area has an official status. The various LGA status types currently in use are -
  • New South Wales: Cities (C) and Areas (A)
  • Victoria: Cities (C), Rural Cities (RC), Boroughs (B) and Shires (S)
  • Queensland: Cities (C), Shires (S), Regions, Towns (T) and Island Councils (IC)
  • South Australia: Cities (C), Rural Cities (RC), Municipalities/Municipal Councils (M), District Councils (DC), Regional Councils (RegC) and Aboriginal Councils (AC)
  • Tasmania: Cities (C) and Municipalities (M)
  • Western Australia: Cities (C), Towns (T) and Shires (S)
  • Northern Territory: Cities (C), Towns (T), Community Government Councils (CGC) and Shires (S).


In Austria designations are similar to those in southern Germany with a trichotomy in Gemeinde, Markt(gemeinde) and Stadt.


In Chile towns are defined by the National Statistics Institute (INE) as an urban entity with a population from 2001 to 5000 or an area with a population from 1001 to 2000 and an established economic activity.


In Denmark no distinction is made between "city", "town" and "village"; both translate as "by". Very small villages (hamlets) though, goes as "landsby" (appr. "country town" or "rural town").


Similarly to Germany, in Poland there is no official distinction between a city and a town. The word for both is miasto (as distinct from a village or wieś). Town status is conferred by administative decree – some settlements remain villages even though they have a larger population than many smaller towns. See List of cities and towns in Poland.


Unlike English, the Russian language does not distinguish the terms "city" and "town"—both are translated as "" (gorod). Traditionally, the term "city" is applied to large metropolitan areas and the term "town"—to smaller urban localities.


Sweden cancelled the official legal term Town (in Swedish: Stad) in the year 1971. Only the word Municipality (in Swedish: Kommun. In US English approximately County) was used, making no legal difference between Stockholm and a countryside municipality. Before that there were a number of terms like "stad"/Town, "köping"/large village etc. The definition of Town (stad) was that it was given such a title. Since the 1980s some municipalities (13 out of 290), who were "stad" before 1971, again call themselves town (stad). This has no legal or administrative significance whatsoever, and the municipalities have to use the word "kommun" in laws. In other cases the seat of the municipality is called "town". There is no difference between city and town, both translates to "stad" in Swedish. The word "stad" is still in use in Sweden, referring to places which were "stad" before 1971.


There is no difference in the Ukrainian language between the notions of "town" and "city". Both these words are translated into Ukrainian as "" (misto). The smallest population of a city of Ukraine can be about 10,000. Cities/towns should be distinguished from urban-type settlements ("", selyshche mis'koho typu; informally "", mistechko), which, although urban in nature, do not have a city status. As a rule, the population of an urban-type settlement is between 2,000 and 10,000.

United Kingdom

England and Wales

In England and Wales, a town traditionally was a settlement which had a charter to hold a market or fair and therefore became a "market town". Market towns were distinguished from villages in that they were the economic hub of a surrounding area, and were usually larger and had more facilities.
In modern usage the term town is used either for old market towns, or for settlements which have a Town Council, or for settlements which elsewhere would be classed a city, but which do not have the legal right to call themselves such. Any parish council can decide to describe itself as a Town Council, but this will usually only apply to the smallest "towns" (because larger towns will be larger than a single civil parish).
Not all settlements which are commonly described as towns have a "Town Council" or "Borough Council". In fact, because of many successive changes to the structure of local government, there are now few large towns which are represented by a body closely related to their historic borough council. These days, a smaller town will usually be part of a local authority which covers several towns. And where a larger town is the seat of a local authority, the authority will usually cover a much wider area than the town itself (either a large rural hinterland, or several other, smaller towns). Additionally, there are also "new towns" which were created during the 20th century, such as Basildon, Redditch and Telford. Milton Keynes was designed to be a "new city" but legally it is still a town despite its size.
Some settlements which describe themselves as towns (e.g. Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire) are smaller than some large villages (e.g. Kidlington, Oxfordshire).
The status of a city is reserved for places that have Letters Patent entitling them to the name, historically associated with the possession of a cathedral. Some large municipalities (such as Northampton) are legally boroughs but not cities, whereas some cities are quite small — such as Ely or St David's for instance.
It appears that a city may become a town, though perhaps only through administrative error: Rochester (Kent) has been a city for centuries but, when in 1998 when the Medway district was created, a bureaucratic blunder meant that Rochester lost its official city status and is now technically a town.
It is often thought that towns with bishops' seats rank automatically as cities: however, Chelmsford remains a town despite being the seat of the diocese of Chelmsford. St. Asaph, which is the seat of the diocese of St Asaph, is another such town. In reality, the pre-qualification of having a cathedral of the established Church of England, and the formerly established Church in Wales or Church of Ireland, ceased to apply from 1888.
The word town can also be used as a general term for urban areas, including cities. In this usage, a city is a type of town — a large one, with a certain status. For example, Greater London is sometimes referred to colloquially as "London town". (The "City of London" is the historical nucleus, informally known as the "Square Mile", and is administratively separate from the rest of Greater London, while the City of Westminster is also a city and London borough). Also, going from the suburbs to central London is to "go into town".


A burgh (pronounced burruh) is the Scots' term for a town or a municipality. Burghs were highly autonomous units of local government in Scotland from at least the 12th century until their abolition in 1975 when a new regional structure of local government was introduced across the country. Usually based upon a town, they had a municipal corporation and certain rights, such as self-government and representation in the sovereign Parliament of Scotland adjourned in 1707.
Historically, the most important burghs were royal burghs, followed by burghs of regality and burghs of barony. Some newer settlements were only designated as police burghs, a classification which also applies to most of the older burghs.
It should be noted that the word 'burgh' is generally not used as a synonym for 'town' or 'city' in everyday speech, but is reserved mostly for government and administrative purposes. Legally speaking, burghs in Scotland were abolished in 1975, and the term has since fallen into disuse.

External links

town in Tosk Albanian: Stadt
town in Arabic: مدينة
town in Aragonese: Ziudat
town in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܡܕܝܢܬܐ
town in Franco-Provençal: Vila
town in Aymara: Marka
town in Bashkir: Ҡала
town in Belarusian: Горад
town in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Горад
town in Central Bicolano: Ciudad
town in Bavarian: Ståd
town in Bosnian: Grad (naseljeno mjesto)
town in Bulgarian: Град
town in Catalan: Ciutat
town in Chuvash: Хула
town in Czech: Město
town in Welsh: Tref
town in Danish: By
town in Pennsylvania German: Schtadt
town in German: Stadt
town in Estonian: Linn
town in Modern Greek (1453-): Πόλη
town in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Sitê
town in Spanish: Ciudad
town in Esperanto: Urbo
town in Basque: Hiri
town in Persian: شهر
town in French: Ville
town in Western Frisian: Stêd
town in Friulian: Citât
town in Manx: Balley
town in Galician: Cidade
town in Korean: 시 (행정 구역)
town in Hindi: शहर
town in Croatian: Grad
town in Ido: Urbo
town in Indonesian: Kota
town in Inuktitut: ᓄᓇᓖᑦ/nunaliit
town in Ossetian: Сахар
town in Icelandic: Bær
town in Italian: Città
town in Hebrew: עיר
town in Georgian: ქალაქი
town in Kurdish: Bajarok
town in Ladino: Sivdad
town in Latin: Oppidum
town in Latvian: Pilsēta
town in Lithuanian: Miestas
town in Limburgan: Sjtad
town in Hungarian: Város
town in Macedonian: Град
town in Maori: Tāone
town in Malay (macrolanguage): Bandar
town in Dutch: Stad
town in Dutch Low Saxon: Stad (woonstee)
town in Cree: ᐅᑌᓈᐤ
town in Japanese: 村落
town in Norwegian: By
town in Norwegian Nynorsk: By
town in Narom: Ville
town in Occitan (post 1500): Vila
town in Low German: Stadt
town in Polish: Miasto
town in Portuguese: Cidade
town in Crimean Tatar: Şeer
town in Kölsch: Stadt
town in Romanian: Oraş
town in Vlax Romani: Foro
town in Quechua: Hatun llaqta
town in Russian: Город
town in Albanian: Qyteti
town in Sicilian: Cità
town in Simple English: Town
town in Slovak: Mesto
town in Somali: Magaalo
town in Serbian: Град
town in Finnish: Kaupunki
town in Swedish: Stad
town in Tagalog: Lungsod
town in Thai: เมือง
town in Vietnamese: Thành phố
town in Cherokee: ᎦᏚᎲᎢ
town in Turkish: Şehir
town in Turkmen: Şäher
town in Ukrainian: Місто
town in Urdu: شہر
town in Venetian: Çità
town in Vlaams: Stad
town in Contenese: 城市
town in Samogitian: Miests
town in Chinese: 镇

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1