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

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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 Eve Bloomgarden, a 39-year-old endocrinologist who lives with her husband and two children in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill., saw patients only through telemedicine for the first several months of the pandemic. Arian Campo-flores, WSJ, "‘We Can’t Just Limp Along’: Americans Reinvent Fall," 7 Sep. 2020 In a Chicago suburb, e-commerce retailer Jim Tuchler expected the pandemic would at least bring a little relief in the competition for talent at his firm, Gifts For You. Michael Sasso,, "Factory Owners Hiking Pay to Lure Workers Even With Jobless Rate," 6 Sep. 2020 Blake moved to Kenosha several years ago for a fresh start, his family said, after growing up in North Carolina and Evanston, a Chicago suburb. Casey Tolan, CNN, "A Black man shot in the back, a teenage shooting suspect, a city in flames: The week that shook Kenosha and the country," 4 Sep. 2020 Last Tuesday, in a move that should inspire bosses everywhere, Ryan Tracy closed his two businesses in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge to give his staff a mental health day after a rough week. Mary Schmich,, "Column: Show some love. Be good to each other. A Park Ridge cafe owner inspires us on Labor Day," 4 Sep. 2020 In 1996, Brock saved two women and four young children trapped in a burning home in Ford Heights, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Man who drowned trying to save teens in Lake Michigan is remembered as a hero," 10 Aug. 2020 Zhao, who is from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois, is looking forward to being back on campus after an interrupted spring semester, even with the prospect of online classes. Michael Hill, Star Tribune, "No parties, no trips: Colleges set COVID-19 rules for fall," 9 Aug. 2020 Zhao, who is from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois, is looking forward to being back on campus after an interrupted spring semester, even with the prospect of online classes. The Associated Press,, "How Tulane's strict coronavirus guidelines compare as schools reexamine 'college experience'," 9 Aug. 2020 Six listed the same Cleveland address and another four listed the same address in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood. Jessie Balmert, The Enquirer, "Kanye West submits paperwork to make the Ohio ballot in U.S. president race," 5 Aug. 2020

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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Statistics for suburb

Last Updated

10 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2020.

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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

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Comments on suburb

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