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

Other Words from suburb

suburban \ sə-​ˈbər-​bən How to pronounce suburb (audio) \ adjective or noun
suburbanite \ sə-​ˈbər-​bə-​ˌnīt How to pronounce suburb (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 Watkins called deputies to his apartment in Pontiac, a suburb of Detroit, just before midnight Thursday. Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News, 11 Jan. 2022 Officials in New Albany, the Columbus suburb that’s performing the annexation, in DeWine’s office and at JobsOhio, the state’s private economic-development arm, all declined to comment. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, 11 Jan. 2022 The dramedy revolves around a couple whose dull lives in a sleepy middle-class suburb gets shaken up when an attractive new neighbor moves into the upper penthouse of their building. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 11 Jan. 2022 Now forty, with a thick beard and tattoos covering both arms, Kreutz grew up in a middle-class suburb in northern Virginia. Nick Romeo, The New Yorker, 10 Jan. 2022 One night, Vance held an event in Boardman, a suburb not far from the Lordstown GM plant that closed in 2019. Simon Van Zuylen-wood, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Jan. 2022 Firefighters were called to the 2300 block of Grove Street at 7:24 a.m. in the west Cook County suburb for what began as a garage fire, Flynn said. Katherine Rosenberg-douglas,, 5 Jan. 2022 In December 2020, Ali Badr was driving a rented 2017 Toyota Camry through a San Francisco Bay area suburb when police pulled him over and surrounded his car with their guns drawn. Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2022 In a Boston suburb in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, history teacher Justin Voldman said his students will spend the day journaling about what happened and talking about the fragility of democracy. Heather Hollingsworth, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 Jan. 2022

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.

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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-

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Time Traveler for suburb

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for suburb



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


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