sub·​urb | \ˈsə-ˌbərb \

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

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Other Words from suburb

suburban \ sə-​ˈbər-​bən \ adjective or noun
suburbanite \ sə-​ˈbər-​bə-​ˌnīt \ 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

Want to see how much lacrosse has grown in Chicago’s western suburbs? Gregg Voss,, "Multi-sport athletes among reasons lacrosse is thriving in Chicago's west suburbs," 11 July 2018 His mother, who’d served in the Navy, moved the two of them to the western suburb of Bolingbrook. Ben Austen, The New Republic, "How one American city chose to tackle crime, combat racism, and reckon with the legacy of police brutality," 21 June 2018 The trusts own or control tens of thousands of acres including some of the most picturesque and environmentally-sensitive tracts from Philadelphia’s western suburbs to the Jersey Shore. Frank Kummer,, "With thousands of acres, millions of dollars, land trusts are a force in local development," 14 June 2018 Based in the western suburbs, Riverside Center is a supplemental education center dedicated to imaginative learning. Jen Banowetz, Naperville Sun, "Riverside Folk Festival comes to Cantigny," 14 June 2018 Sheehan, 32, finished fourth in a 10-person free-for-all in the fifth congressional district in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "Defeated but unbowed: Two Pennsylvania scientists regroup after primary loss," 22 May 2018 President Donald Trump carried the district in the conservative Western Phoenix suburbs by 21 percentage points, and its previous occupant, Trent Franks, a Republican, ran unopposed. NBC News, "Republican Debbie Lesko claims victory in Arizona special election," 25 Apr. 2018 The three were on his new route on a recent Friday evening through Upper Arlington — a 91% white suburb of Columbus with a median household income of more than $100,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — when someone called the police. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "A Mother Speaks Out After Someone Called the Cops on Her Son, an 11-Year-Old Black Paperboy," 12 July 2018 In 2013 and 2014, the police in Biscayne Park, Florida, a quiet suburb of Miami, solved 29 of 30 burglary cases. Adam K. Raymond, Daily Intelligencer, "Florida Police Chief Told Cops to Arrest Random Black People to Boost Stats," 12 July 2018

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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Statistics for suburb

Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for suburb

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

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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 \

Kids Definition of suburb

: a smaller community close to a city

Other Words from suburb

suburban \ sə-​ˈbər-​bən \ adjective

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Comments on suburb

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