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 Whitt Melton, co-owner of Legendary Black Belt Academy in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, said the business has been open to offer child care for essential workers but will now expand and open its planned summer camp. USA TODAY, "Summer camp, Operation Haircut, thanking meatpackers: News from around our 50 states," 21 May 2020 Polling sites in the Omaha suburb of Papillion reported lower in-person turnout than normal. Grant Schulte, Anchorage Daily News, "Nebraska primary voters avoid polls, shatter mail-in record," 13 May 2020 Jillian Yeskel, a stylist in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, told me. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, "Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice," 29 Apr. 2020 Bartolini's, Chicago, Illinois Brothers Christopher and Dominic Bartolini started this Italian family eatery in the Chicago suburb of Midlothian back in 1995. Laura Kiniry, Smithsonian Magazine, "Far From Home? These Regional Comfort Foods Can Be Shipped To Your Door," 29 Apr. 2020 The first diagnosis of the coronavirus in the United States occurred in mid-January, in a Seattle suburb not far from the hospital where Dr. Francis Riedo, an infectious-disease specialist, works. Charles Duhigg, The New Yorker, "Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not," 26 Apr. 2020 Of 200 people tested on the street in the Boston suburb of Chelsea, some 30% had been exposed to the virus. Andrew Joseph, STAT, "The results of coronavirus ‘serosurveys’ are starting to be released. Here’s how to kick their tires," 24 Apr. 2020 His customer bought both, tucking them away with his onions and lentils before disappearing down a narrow lane in a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. The Economist, "Worth a shot Faced with a ban on booze, Sri Lankans have been making moonshine," 23 Apr. 2020 Mount Neboh has 1,200 members from throughout the city and surrounding suburbs, Green said. Ray Sanchez, CNN, "9 coronavirus deaths in one Harlem church overwhelm pastor and his flock," 18 Apr. 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

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 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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