ur·​ban | \ˈər-bən \

Definition of urban 

(Entry 1 of 2)

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


biographical name
Ur·​ban | \ˈər-bən \

Definition of Urban (Entry 2 of 2)

name of 8 popes: especially II ( Odo \ ˈō-​(ˌ)dō \ 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

More from Mansion Ted and Nicole Abramson’s five-bedroom house in Minneapolis features the mix of urban and rural on its exterior. Cecilie Rohwedder, WSJ, "Farmhouse Fever Sweeps City Homes," 5 July 2018 Survivors were of all ethnicities and had been attacked in both urban and rural environments. Laura Seay, Washington Post, "How rape is weaponized in civil wars," 29 June 2018 The strain is felt in every corner of the country, and nearly every demographic, from urban and rural to young and old (44 of renters under 30, and 54 percent of renters over 65, are cost-burdened). Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "U.S. housing market continues rebound, despite increased inequality, says Harvard report," 19 June 2018 The college, to be focused on the preparation of primary-care doctors who practice in underserved urban and rural communities, will be the first new medical school in Houston in nearly half a century. Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, "UH hires three deans for planned med school," 18 June 2018 Dairy farmers Andrea Brossard and Patti Roden went to the West Allis Farmers Market on Saturday to help bridge the urban and rural divide. Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Dairy farmers tell their story at West Allis Farmers Market," 16 June 2018 Empty fields dot the area for blocks; a place where bunny rabbits hop through a desolate urban landscape. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "A daughter of Detroit defies odds, takes car industry into the future," 13 July 2018 On July 3, one of this country’s most recognizable landmarks was reintroduced to the world with a new name, a new museum and a substantial redesign of its urban landscape. Philip Kennicott, kansascity, "St. Louis’ Gateway Arch emerges with new name, skeptical view of western expansion," 3 July 2018 For example, all the queens in rural colonies died or left about five weeks into the study, while the majority of queens in urban and suburban areas were still alive by week six. Deborah Netburn, latimes.com, "Struggling bumblebees can thrive in an unlikely place: The city," 27 June 2018

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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Statistics for urban

Last Updated

10 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for urban

The first known use of urban was circa 1634

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English Language Learners Definition of urban

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


ur·​ban | \ˈər-bən \

Kids Definition of urban

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

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Comments on urban

What made you want to look up urban? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


full of whispering sounds

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