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

Other Words from suburb

suburban \ sə-​ˈbər-​bən How to pronounce suburb (audio) \ adjective or noun
suburbanite \ sə-​ˈbər-​bə-​ˌnīt How to pronounce suburb (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 Mercer Island, which is a very small suburb of Seattle. New York Times, 6 May 2022 Residents in Jinze, an ancient town of canals and bridges that is a suburb of Shanghai, were more blunt. Wenxin Fan, WSJ, 2 May 2022 Cayce is a suburb of nearly 14,000 people just west of Columbia. NBC News, 25 Apr. 2022 Mayfield Heights is a thriving suburb, so why is a WalMart closing its huge store on S-O-M Center Road at Mayfield Road? Leila Atassi, cleveland, 20 Apr. 2022 Today, Mountain Brook is the richest suburb in the state — and over 97 percent white. Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, 30 Mar. 2022 Manchester is an economically diverse inner-ring suburb of about 30,000 with a manufacturing history, not a gold coast bedroom town. Daniela Altimari,, 14 Mar. 2022 According to Fox 6 Milwaukee, police say that the shooting occurred on Saturday morning at an apartment complex in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee. Adam Sabes, Fox News, 6 Feb. 2022 Fishers is a suburb of Indianapolis, whose population has grown dramatically, from 76,794 in 2010 to 95,310 in 2019. Andrew Depietro, Forbes, 25 Jan. 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.

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

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

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Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Suburb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for suburb


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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