sub·​urb ˈsə-ˌbərb How to pronounce suburb (audio)
: an outlying part of a city or town
: a smaller community adjacent to or within commuting distance of a city
suburbs plural : the residential area on the outskirts of a city or large town
suburbs plural : the near vicinity : environs
suburban adjective or noun
suburbanite noun

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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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Kershaw, who lives in the Dallas suburb of University Park and is a close friend of Texas general manager Chris Young, was a free agent for four months last winter. Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2022 The character was created in 1988, in a Dallas suburb, by Sheryl Leach, who’d grown up in the area. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, 13 Oct. 2022 Majors was a churchgoing kid who grew up in Cedar Hill, a Dallas suburb, with his mother; his older sister, Monica; and his younger brother, Cameron. Clover Hope, Men's Health, 11 Oct. 2022 Jones, coming off of an impressive 29-19 win at Cocoa, flew out of Orlando International Airport on Friday for a much longer road trip to Duncanville, a Dallas suburb. And Staff Reports, Orlando Sentinel, 2 Sep. 2022 In July, police in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, where Barber lived, said in a statement that Barber died of heatstroke and that his death was ruled an accident. ABC News, 1 Sep. 2022 The brother of former NFL cornerback Aqib Talib is wanted as the suspect in a murder in a Dallas suburb that followed an altercation at the end of a youth football game Saturday night. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, 14 Aug. 2022 A week before they were killed, the girls and their mother had fled their home in the Dallas suburb of Lewisville and went to Oklahoma to escape Said. Jamie Stengle, Chron, 10 Aug. 2022 A week before they were killed, the girls and their mother fled their home in the Dallas suburb of Lewisville and went to Oklahoma to escape Said. Stephanie Pagones, Fox News, 9 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near suburb

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



sub·​urb ˈsəb-ˌərb How to pronounce suburb (audio)
: a part of a city or town near its outer edge
: a smaller community close to a city
plural : the area of homes close to or surrounding a city
suburban adjective or noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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