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 The Famagusta suburb has remained off-limits and under Turkish military control since 1974 when its Greek Cypriot residents fled advancing Turkish troops., "Leftist, Hard-liner in Turkish Cypriot Leadership Runoff," 11 Oct. 2020 Construction is underway on the first market-rate apartments in several decades in the city, a mostly residential northwest suburb across the river from Anoka. Jim Buchta, Star Tribune, "First phase of $100M riverfront development in Champlin underway," 9 Oct. 2020 On Wednesday, demonstrators gathered in Wauwatosa -- a Milwaukee suburb -- to voice opposition to Chisholm's decision. Fox News, "Wisconsin federal prosecutor warns against unrest after officer avoids charges in fatal shooting of Black teen," 8 Oct. 2020 People wearing face masks streamed in after being allowed through a checkpoint by police near the beachfront of Varosha, a deserted suburb of Famagusta in breakaway Northern Cyprus, in the east of the divided Mediterranean island. Washington Post, "World Digest: Oct. 8, 2020," 8 Oct. 2020 That conspiracy apparently was devised in a Columbus suburb this summer. Jackie Borchardt, The Enquirer, "Feds: Plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hatched in Ohio suburb," 8 Oct. 2020 The Berliner also collected and distributed food and clothing to refugees from her comfortable home in a quiet, upper-middle-class suburb. Lenora Chu, The Christian Science Monitor, "Refugees find welcome, warmth at German hearth," 7 Oct. 2020 This is especially true in Cedar Park, Texas -- a suburb outside of Austin -- where people on both sides have been vandalizing and stealing each other's political signs, according to residents Marne Litton and Tasha Hancock. Marika Gerken, CNN, "These neighbors show us love can still exist on opposing sides of politics," 7 Oct. 2020 At the time, Jex was 40 years old and a 16-year veteran of the Police Department in West Jordan, a fast-growing suburb of Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune, "© Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune. Reporting by Matt Canham. Photos and video by Scott Sommerdorf. Editing by Sheila R. McCann, with assistance from Dan Harrie, David Noyce, Catherine Reese Newton and Nick Parker. Page design by Amy Lewis Davis.," 6 Oct. 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.

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

16 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Namesakes Word Quiz

  • a citrus fruit possibly named after a person
  • Which of the following is a fruit named after a Moroccan seaport?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!