ur·​ban | \ ˈər-bən How to pronounce urban (audio) \

Definition of urban

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city


biographical name
Ur·​ban | \ ˈər-bən How to pronounce Urban (audio) \

Definition of Urban (Entry 2 of 2)

name of 8 popes: especially II ( Odo \ ˈō-​(ˌ)dō How to pronounce Urban (audio) \ of Lagery) circa 1035–1099 (pope 1088–99)

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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.

Examples of urban in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective According to a study conducted by The Inter Press Service, 83.7% of 12 to 16-year-olds attended schools in urban areas compared to 66.4% of the same age group in rural areas. Brenda Barrientos, refinery29.com, "Renata Flores & Her Music Are An Act of Indigenous Resistance," 8 Oct. 2020 Health care access and funding would be increased to Native people living in tribal lands and in more urban areas, Biden pledged. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, "Biden meets with Arizona tribal leaders to discuss his proposed Native policy proposals," 8 Oct. 2020 By contrast, power prices around cities are often higher due to transmission congestion, helping support fossil fuel plants that degrade air quality in urban areas. Benjamin Storrow, Scientific American, "U.S. Wind and Solar Installation Are Smashing Records, But the Trend May Not Last," 8 Oct. 2020 Nearly two-thirds of all hospital beds in the country are in urban areas, which are home to only one-third of the population. New York Times, "‘Rural Surge’ Propels India Toward More Covid-19 Infections Than U.S.," 8 Oct. 2020 The report also notes that growing numbers of people in urban areas are likely to fall into extreme poverty, an issue that has traditionally affected mostly people in rural areas. Clare Duffy, CNN, "The pandemic could push 150 million more people worldwide into 'extreme poverty'," 7 Oct. 2020 But the pandemic is pushing poverty upon people in congested urban areas, with higher levels of education, and who work in industries such as informal services, construction and manufacturing. Josh Zumbrun, WSJ, "Coronavirus Has Thrown Around 100 Million People Into Extreme Poverty, World Bank Estimates," 7 Oct. 2020 With companies allowing employees to work from home, people have fled cramped and costly urban areas in droves, seeking extra room in the suburbs or cheaper cities. Noah Buhayar, Bloomberg.com, "San Francisco Apartment Rents Crater Up to 31%, Most in U.S.," 13 Oct. 2020 The stickers show a series of women in Native communities across the state; there’s also one representing urban areas. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s new ‘I Voted’ stickers celebrate women and highlight Native languages," 13 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'urban.' 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 urban


circa 1634, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for urban


Latin urbanus, from urbs city

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Time Traveler for urban

Time Traveler

The first known use of urban was circa 1634

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Statistics for urban

Last Updated

18 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Urban.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/urban. Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for urban


How to pronounce Urban (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of urban

: of or relating to cities and the people who live in them


ur·​ban | \ ˈər-bən How to pronounce urban (audio) \

Kids Definition of urban

: of, relating to, or being a city urban life

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