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relating to towns and cities, or happening there

Origin and usage

The adjective urban was first used in English in the early 17th century. It comes from the Latin ‘urbanus’, which is derived from ‘urbs’ meaning ‘city’.


Urban comes from the Latin word for city, ‘urbs’. It is often used in contrast with ‘rural’, which means ‘relating to or in the countryside’, and ‘suburban’, which comes from the same root as urban and means ‘in a suburb, or relating to a suburb’.

An urban myth (or legend) is an imaginary story about modern life that many people believe to be true. Such stories can be remarkably tenacious even when they have been shown to be completely false. The term urban legend has been around since the 1930s, but the first recorded use of urban myth dates from 1982 and comes in a New York Times story referring to the widely-believed idea that there are alligators living in the New York sewers.


“The collapse of the Tower of Babel is perhaps the central urban myth.”
(Neil MacGregor)

“Under trees, the urban dweller might restore his troubled soul and find the blessing of a creative pause.”
(Walter Gropius)

Related words

built-up, city, downtown

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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