sub·​urb | \ ˈsə-ˌbərb How to pronounce suburb (audio) \

Definition of suburb

1a : an outlying part of a city or town
b : a smaller community adjacent to or within commuting distance of a city
c suburbs plural : the residential area on the outskirts of a city or large town
2 suburbs plural : the near vicinity : environs

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from suburb

suburban \ sə-​ˈbər-​bən How to pronounce suburban (audio) \ adjective or noun
suburbanite \ sə-​ˈbər-​bə-​ˌnīt How to pronounce suburbanite (audio) \ noun

The Suburbs vs. the Urbs

Given that most of the common words in our language beginning sub- tend to have meanings concerned with “beneath” (as in subterranean and submarine) or “less than” (as with subpar), you would be forgiven for assuming that the suburbs were so named because of their location below, or their status as less than, their urban counterparts. Not so, however: sub- may have other meanings at the beginning of a word; in this case, it indicates not depth or inferiority, but proximity. In other words, the suburbs are a region close to the urbs.

Is urbs an English word? Yes; it is rarely used, but it refers typically to a city, particularly when distinguished from a suburb.

Examples of suburb in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But in the intervening years, much of the region's buzzy dining developments moved away from suburbs like Royal Oak to the downtown core. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "The latest in a string of restaurant closures, Royal Oak's Bistro 82 to shutter Jan. 25," 4 Jan. 2020 And Graves visited the New Democrat Coalition, the caucus largely from the suburbs whose growth fueled the Democratic takeover in the 2018 midterm elections. Author: Paul Kane, Anchorage Daily News, "A bipartisan committee has ideas to make Congress more bipartisan - and lawmakers are listening," 29 Dec. 2019 For the 12th year in a row, six dozen friends from the suburbs came to the Tenderloin on Saturday armed with peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and small backpacks full of drinks and toiletries. Steve Rubenstein,, "Families’ sandwiches for homeless are a small gift but a big sign of concern," 21 Dec. 2019 Over the last year, bizarre stories from the Houston suburbs have both shocked and entertained our readers. Rebecca Hennes, Houston Chronicle, "Shocking, bizarre stories to come out of Houston neighborhoods in 2019," 13 Dec. 2019 Firefighters from the Sydney suburb of Inglewood ran for their lives as the fire burned out of control in Orangeville, around 45 miles (75 kilometers) southwest of Sydney. Adam Renton, CNN, "Bushfire rips through treetops near Sydney as firefighters run for their lives," 6 Dec. 2019 The Democratic primary fight, in a sprawling congressional district that extends south from the San Antonio suburbs down to Loredo on the border with Mexico, is quickly becoming one of the hottest flash-points in the party’s ideological civil war. NBC News, "Leading progressive groups endorse Rep. Henry Cuellar primary challenger," 3 Dec. 2019 Aldermen from the Chicago suburb of Evanston on Monday approved directing all sales tax revenue collected from recreational marijuana purchases to a fund that will establish a local reparations program. Genevieve Bookwalter,, "Chicago suburb will use recreational marijuana sales tax proceeds to fund local reparations program," 27 Nov. 2019 Buoyed by resistance from lawmakers and community activists from California’s suburbs, the bill was shelved in the spring. Los Angeles Times, "California Housing Crisis Podcast: The case for cities to control what gets built," 21 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'suburb.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of suburb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for suburb

Middle English suburbe, from Anglo-French, from Latin suburbium, from sub- near + urbs city — more at sub-

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about suburb

Time Traveler for suburb

Time Traveler

The first known use of suburb was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for suburb

Last Updated

8 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for suburb


How to pronounce suburb (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of suburb

: a town or other area where people live in houses near a larger city


sub·​urb | \ ˈsə-ˌbərb How to pronounce suburb (audio) \

Kids Definition of suburb

: a smaller community close to a city

Other Words from suburb

suburban \ sə-​ˈbər-​bən \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on suburb

What made you want to look up suburb? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!