A town is a medium-sized human settlement. Towns are generally larger
than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria which
constitute them vary considerably in differents part of the world.
1 Origin and use
2 Age of towns scheme
3 By country
3.8 Czech Republic
3.13 Greece and Cyprus
3.14 Hong Kong
3.27 New Zealand
3.34 South Africa
3.38 United Kingdom
England and Wales
3.39 United States
3.39.9 New England
3.39.10 New Jersey
3.39.11 New York
3.39.12 North Carolina
4 See also
7 External links
Origin and use
The word town shares an origin with the German word Zaun, the Dutch
word tuin, and the
Old Norse tun. The German word Zaun comes closest
to the original meaning of the word: a fence of any material. An early
borrowing from Celtic *dunom (cf.
Old Irish dun, Welsh din "fortress,
fortified place, camp," dinas "city").
In English and Dutch, the meaning of the word took on the sense of the
space which these fences enclosed. In England, a town was a small
community that could not afford or was not allowed to build walls or
other larger fortifications, and built a palisade or stockade instead.
In the Netherlands, this space was a garden, more specifically those
of the wealthy, which had a high fence or a wall around them (like the
garden of palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, which was the example for the
privy garden of William III and Mary II at Hampton Court). In Old
Norse tun means a (grassy) place between farmhouses, and is still used
in a similar meaning in modern Norwegian.
Old English and Early and Middle Scots, the word ton, toun, etc.
could refer to kinds of settlements as diverse as agricultural estates
and holdings, partly picking up the Norse sense (as in the Scots word
fermtoun) at one end of the scale, to fortified municipality at the
other. If there was any distinction between toun (fortified
municipality) and burgh (unfortified municipality) as claimed by
some[who?], it did not last in practice as burghs and touns developed.
For example, "Edina Burgh" or "Edinburgh" (called a city today) was
built around a fort and eventually came to have a defensive wall.
In some cases, "town" is an alternate name for "city" or "village"
(especially a larger village). Sometimes, the word "town" is short for
"township". In general, today towns can be differentiated from
townships, villages, or hamlets on the basis of their economic
character, in that most of a town's population will tend to derive
their living from manufacturing industry, commerce, and public
services rather than primary industry such as agriculture or related
A place's population size is not a reliable determinant of urban
character. In many areas of the world, as in
India at least until
recent times, a large village might contain several times as many
people as a small town. In the United Kingdom, there are historical
cities that are far smaller than the larger towns.
The modern phenomenon of extensive suburban growth, satellite urban
development, and migration of city-dwellers to villages have further
complicated the definition of towns, creating communities urban in
their economic and cultural characteristics but lacking other
characteristics of urban localities.
Some forms of non-rural settlement, such as temporary mining
locations, may be clearly non-rural, but have at best a questionable
claim to be called a town.
Towns often exist as distinct governmental units, with legally defined
borders and some or all of the appurtenances of local government
(e.g., a police force). In the United States these are referred to as
"incorporated towns". In other cases the town lacks its own governance
and is said to be "unincorporated". Note that the existence of an
unincorporated town may be legally set forth through other means, as
through zoning districts. In the case of some planned communities, the
town exists legally in the form of covenants on the properties within
the town. The
United States Census
United States Census identifies many census-designated
places (CDPs) by the names of unincorporated towns which lie within
them; however, those CDPs typically include rural and suburban areas
and even surrounding villages and other towns.
The distinction between a town and a city similarly depends on the
approach: a city may strictly be an administrative entity which has
been granted that designation by law, but in informal usage, the term
is also used to denote an urban locality of a particular size or
importance: whereas a medieval city may have possessed as few as
10,000 inhabitants, today some[who?] consider an urban place of fewer
than 100,000 as a town, even though there are many officially
designated cities that are much smaller than that.
Age of towns scheme
Thomas Griffith Taylor
Thomas Griffith Taylor proposed a classification
of towns based on their age and pattern of land use. He identified
five types of town:
Infantile towns, with no clear zoning
Juvenile towns, which have developed an area of shops
Adolescent towns, where factories have started to appear
Early mature towns, with a separate area of high-class housing
Mature towns, with defined industrial, commercial and various types of
Albania "qytezë" means town, which is very similar with the word
for city ("qytet"). Although there is no official use of the term for
any settlement. In Albanian "qytezë" means "small city" or "new
city", while in ancient times "small residential center within the
walls of a castle".
The center is a population group, larger than a village, and smaller
than a city.
In Australia, towns or "urban centre localities" are commonly
understood to be those centers of population not formally declared to
be cities and having a population in excess of about 200 people.
Centers too small to be called towns are generally understood to be a
In addition, some local government entities are officially styled as
towns in Queensland, Western
Australia and the Northern Territory, and
before the statewide amalgamations of the 1990s in Victoria some local
government entities were styled as towns, but now towns are only
localities that contain an urban centre with a population greater than
In Austria, designations are similar to those in
Germany with a
trichotomy in Gemeinde, Markt(gemeinde) and Stadt. Which translate to
"Community", "Market Community" and "City".
Main article: List of cities and towns in Bulgaria
Bulgarians do not, in general, differentiate between 'city' and
'town'. However, in everyday language and media the terms "large
towns" and "small towns" are in use. Usually "large towns" refers to
Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas or sometimes to all 28 oblast cities.
Bulgaria the Council of Ministers defines what constitutes a
settlement, while the President of
Bulgaria grants each settlement its
title. In 2005 the requirement that villages that wish to classify
themselves as town must have a social and technical infrastructure, as
well as a population of no fewer than 3500 people. For resort
settlements the requirements are lower with the population needing to
be no fewer than 1000 people but infrastructure requirements remain.
List of towns in Canada and Municipal government in
The legal definition of a town in
Canada varies by province or
territory, as each has jurisdiction over defining and legislating
towns, cities and other types of municipal organization within its own
The province of
Quebec is unique in that it makes no distinction under
law between towns and cities. There is no intermediate level in French
between village and ville (municipality is an administrative term
usually applied to a legal, not geographical entity), so both are
combined under the single legal status of ville. While an informal
preference may exist among English speakers as to whether any
individual ville is commonly referred to as a city or as a town, no
distinction and no objective legal criteria exist to make such a
distinction under law.
In Chile, towns (Spanish: pueblos) are defined by the National
Statistics Institute (INE) as an urban entity with a population from
2001 to 5000 or an area with a population from 1001 to 2000 and an
established economic activity.
In the Czech Republic, the word město (city) is used for very wide
variety of municipalities, ranging from Prague, the largest and
capital city with approximately 1.2 million inhabitants, to the
smallest, Přebuz, with just 74 inhabitants. Technically, a
municipality must have at least 3,000 inhabitants to be granted the
město title, although many smaller municipalities, especially some
former mining towns, retain the title město for historic reasons.
Currently, approximately 192 of the 592 města have less than 3,000
Some municipalities have been amalgamated together, such that the
whole is considered as a město.
Statutory cities (statutární město), which are defined by law no.
128/2000 Coll., can define their own self-governing municipal
districts.. There are 25 such cities, in addition to Prague, which is
a de facto statutory city.
In 2006, the legal concept of a town (městys, or formerly městečko)
was reintroduced. Currently, around 213 municipalities hold the title
Municipalities which do not qualify as a město or a městys default
to the title of obec (a municipality) or, unofficially, a vesnice
(village), even though they may consist of one or more villages.
In Denmark, in many contexts no distinction is made between "city",
"town" and "village"; all three translate as "by". In more specific
use, for small villages and hamlets the word "landsby" (meaning
"country town") is used, while the Danish equivalent of English "city"
is "storby" (meaning "large town"). For formal purposes, urban areas
having at least 200 inhabitants are counted as "by".
Historically some towns held various privileges, the most important of
which was the right to hold market. They were administered separately
from the rural areas in both fiscal, military and legal matters. Such
towns are known as "købstad" (roughly the same meaning as "borough"
albeit deriving from a different etymology) and they retain the
exclusive right to the title even after the last vestiges of their
privileges vanished through the reform of the local administration
carried through in 1970.
In Estonia, there is no distinction between a town and a city as the
word linn is used for both bigger and smaller settlements, which are
bigger than villages and boroughs. There are 30 municipal towns
(omavalitsuslik linn) in
Estonia and a further 17 towns, which have
merged with a municipal parish (vallasisene linn).
The town of Salins-les-Bains, France
From an administrative standpoint, the smallest level of local
authorities are all called "communes". However, some laws do treat
these authorities differently based on the population and different
rules apply to the three big cities Paris,
Lyon and Marseille. For
historical reasons, six communes in the Meuse département exist as
independent entities despite having no inhabitant at all.
For statistical purposes, the national statistical institute (INSEE)
operates a distinction between urban areas with fewer than 2,000
inhabitants and bigger communes, the latter being called "villes".
Smaller settlements are usually called "villages". The French term for
"town" is "bourg" but in fact, the French laws do not
really distinguish between towns and cities which are all commonly
Rügen Island, Germany
Main article: List of cities and towns in Germany
Germans do not, in general, differentiate between 'city' and 'town'.
The German word for both is Stadt as it is in many other languages
that do not make any difference between the Anglo-Saxon concepts.
However, the International Statistics Conference of 1887 defined
different sizes of Stadt, based on their population size, as follows:
Landstadt ("country town"; under 5,000), Kleinstadt ("small town";
5,000 to under 20,000), Mittelstadt ("middle town"; between 20,000 and
100,000) and Großstadt ("large town"; over 100,000). The term
Großstadt may be translated as "city". In addition, Germans may speak
of Millionenstadt, a city with over one million inhabitants (such as
Hamburg and Berlin).
Germany also the historical importance, the centrality and the
population density of an urban place might be taken as characteristics
of a 'city'. Many settlements became a Stadt by being awarded a
Stadtrecht in medieval times already. The word for a 'village', as a
smaller settlement, is Dorf. The current local government organization
is subject to state law of a state and the related denomination of a
specific settlement may differ from its common designation (e.g.
Samtgemeinde – a legal term in
Lower Saxony for a group of villages
[Dorf, pl. Dörfer] with common local government, united from single
municipalities [Gemeinde, pl. Gemeinden]).
Designations in different states are as diverse as for example in
Australian States and Territories and differ from state to state. In
some German states, the words Markt ("market"), Marktflecken (both
used in southern Germany) or Flecken ("spot"; northern
Germany e.g. in
Lower Saxony) designate a town-like residential community between
Gemeinde and Stadt with special importance to its outer conurbation
area. Historically those had Marktrecht (market right) but not full
town privileges; see Market town.
Greece and Cyprus
In written speech,
Greeks use the word πόλη (póli) to express
'city' and the word κωμόπολη (komópoli) to express 'town',
both with a feminine grammatical gender. For Greeks, a town
(komópoli) is a human settlement with a population of 2,000–9,999.
If a settlement has a lower population, it is considered a village
(χωριό, chorjó). For the cities, Greeks, use the word 'póli',
whereas for bigger cities with a population above 1 million, they
usually use another name, μητρόπολη (mitrópoli), in English
Metropolis. In the Greek speaking world (Greece and Cyprus) only
Salonica can be described as "metropoleis".
In spoken speech,
Greeks use the word for village to refer both to
villages and towns and the word for city to refer to both cities and
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December
Main article: List of cities and towns in Hong Kong
Nearly every town in
Hong Kong has its own town hall. The picture
Sha Tin Town Hall
Sha Tin Town Hall in the town of Sha Tin.
Hong Kong started developing new towns in the 1950s, to accommodate
exponential population increase. The very first new towns included
Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong. In the late 1960s and the 1970s, another
stage of new town developments was launched. Nine new towns have been
developed so far.
Land use is carefully planned and development
provides plenty of room for public housing projects. Rail transport is
usually available at a later stage. The first towns are Sha Tin, Tsuen
Wan, Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O. Tuen Mun was intended to be
self-reliant, but was not successful and turned into a bedroom
community like the other new towns. More recent developments are Tin
Shui Wai and North Lantau (Tung Chung-Tai Ho).
Hungary there is no official distinction between a city and a town
(the word for both in Hungarian is: város). Nevertheless, the
expressions formed by adding the adjectives "kis" (small) and "nagy"
(large) to the beginning of the root word (e.g. "nagyváros") have
been normalized to differentiate between cities and towns (towns being
smaller, therefore bearing the name "kisváros".) In Hungary, a
village can gain the status of "város" (town), if it meets a set of
diverse conditions for quality of life and development of certain
public services and utilities (e.g. having a local secondary school or
installing full-area sewage collection pipe network). Every year the
Minister of Internal Affairs selects candidates from a
committee-screened list of applicants, whom the President of Republic
usually affirms by issuing a bill of town's rank to them. Since being
a town carries extra fiscal support from the government, many
relatively small villages try to win the status of "városi rang"
Before the fall of communism in 1990, Hungarian villages with fewer
than 10,000 residents were not allowed to become towns. Recently some
settlements as small as 2,500 souls have received the rank of town
(e.g. Visegrád, Zalakaros or Gönc) and meeting the conditions of
development is often disregarded to quickly elevate larger villages
into towns. As of middle 2013, there are 346 towns in Hungary,
encompassing some 69% of the entire population.
Towns of more than 50,000 people are able to gain the status of
"megyei jogú város" (town with the rights of a county), which allows
them to maintain a higher degree of services. (There are a few
exceptions, when towns of fewer than 50,000 people gained the status:
Salgótarján and Szekszárd) As of
middle 2013, there are only 23 such towns in Hungary.
Main article: List of cities and towns in Iceland
Main article: List of populated places in the Republic of Ireland
The Local Government act 2001 provides that from January 1, 2002
(section 10 subsection (3) Within the county in which they are
situated and of which they form part, there continue to be such other
local government areas as are set out in Schedule 6 which – (a) in
the case of the areas set out in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of that Schedule,
shall be known as boroughs, and – (b) in the case of the areas set
out in Chapter 2 of Part 1 and Part 2 of that Schedule, shall be known
as towns, and in this Act a reference to a town shall include a
reference to a borough.
These provisions affect the replacement of the boroughs, Towns and
urban districts which existed before then. Similar reforms in the
nomenclature of local authorities ( but not their functions) are
effected by section 11 part 17 of the act includes provision (section
185(2)) Qualified electors of a town having a population of at least
7,500 as ascertained at the last preceding census or such other figure
as the Minister may from time to time prescribe by regulations, and
not having a town council, may make a proposal in accordance with
paragraph (b) for the establishment of such a council and contains
provisions enabling the establishment of new town councils and
provisions enabling the dissolution of existing or new town councils
in certain circumstances
The reference to town having a population of at least 7,500 as
ascertained at the last preceding census hands much of the power
relating to defining what is in fact a town over to the Central
Statistics Office and their criteria are published as part of each
Planning and Development Act 2000
Another reference to the Census and its role in determining what is or
is not a town for some administrative purpose is in the Planning and
Development act 2000 (part II chapter I which provides for Local area
A local area plan shall be made in respect of an area which —(i) is
designated as a town in the most recent census of population, other
than a town designated as a suburb or environs in that census, (ii)
has a population in excess of 2,000, and (iii) is situated within the
functional area of a planning authority which is a county council.
Central Statistics Office criteria
These are set out in full at 2006 Census Appendices.
In short they speak of "towns with legally defined boundaries" ( i.e.
those established by the Local Government Act 2001) and the remaining
664 as "census towns", defined by themselves since 1971 as a cluster
of 50 or more occupied dwellings in which within a distance of 800
meters there is a nucleus of 30 occupied houses on both sides of the
road or twenty occupied houses on one side of the road there is also a
200 meter criterion for determining whether a house is part of a
A street in Paravur town, India
The 2011 Census of
India defines towns of two types: statutory town
and census town. Statutory town is defined as all places with a
municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area
committee. Census towns are defined as places that satisfy the
Minimum population of 5,000
At least 75% of male working population engaged in non-agricultural
Density of population at least 400/km2. (1,000 per sq. mile).
All the statutory towns, census towns and out growths are considered
as urban settlements, as opposed to rural areas.
In contemporary Persian texts, no distinction is made between "city"
and "town"; both translate as "Shahr" (شهر). In older Persian texts
(until the first half of the 20th century), the
Arabic word "Qasabeh"
(قصبه) was used for a town. However, in recent 50 years, this word
has become obsolete.
There is a word in Persian which is used for special sort of satellite
townships and city neighborhoods. It is Shahrak (شهرک), (lit.:
small city). Another smaller type of town or neighborhood in a big
city is called Kuy (کوی). Shahrak and Kuy each have their different
legal definitions. Large cities such as Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan,
Tabriz, etc. which have millions of populations are referred to as
The pace in which different large villages have gained city status in
Iran shows a dramatic increase in the last two decades.
Bigger cities and towns usually are centers of a township (in Persian:
Shahrestan (شهرستان). Shahrestan itself is a subdivision of
Ostan استان (Province).
Modern Hebrew does provide a word for the concept of a town: Ayara
(עיירה), derived from Ir (עיר), the biblical word for "city".
However, the term "Ayara" is normally used only to describe towns in
foreign countries, i.e. urban areas of limited population,
particularly when the speaker is attempting to evoke nostalgic or
romantic attitudes. The term is also used to describe a Shtetl, a
pre-Holocaust Eastern European Jewish town.
Within Israel, established urban areas are always referred to as
cities (with one notable exception explained below) regardless of
their actual size. Israeli law does not define any nomenclature for
distinction between urban areas based on size or any other factor –
meaning that all urban settlements in Israel are legally referred to
The exception to the above is the term Ayeret Pituakh (עיירת
פיתוח, lit. "Development Town") which is applied to certain
cities in Israel based on the reasons for their establishment. These
cities, created during the earlier decades of Israeli independence
(1950s and 1960s, generally), were designed primarily to serve as
commercial and transportation hubs, connecting smaller agricultural
settlements in the northern and southern regions of the country (the
"Periphery") to the major urban areas of the coastal and central
regions. Some of these "development towns" have since grown to a
comparatively large size, and yet are still referred to as
"development towns", particularly when the speaker wishes to emphasize
their (often low) socio-economic status. Nonetheless, they are rarely
(if ever) referred to simply as "towns"; when referring to one
directly, it will be either be called a "development town" or a
"city", depending on context.
Although Italian provides different words for city (città), town
(paese) and village (villaggio, old-fashioned, or frazione, most
common), no legal definitions exist as to how settlements must be
classified. Administratively, both towns and cities are ruled as
comuni/comunes, while villages might be subdivisions of the former.
Generally, in everyday's speech, a town is larger or more populated
than a village and smaller than a city. Various cities and towns
together may form a metropolitan area (area metropolitana). A city,
can also be a culturally, economically or politically prominent
community with respect to surrounding towns. Moreover, a city can be
such by Presidential decree. A town, in contrast, can be an inhabited
place which would elsewhere be styled a city, but has not received any
official recognition. Remarkable exceptions do exist: for instance,
Bassano del Grappa, was given the status of "città" in 1760 by
Francesco Loredan's dogal decree and has since then carried this
title. Also, the Italian word for town (paese with lowercase P) must
not be confused with the Italian word for country/nation (Paese
usually with uppercase P).
In Japan city status (shi) was traditionally reserved for only a few
particularly large settlements. Over time however the necessary
conditions to be a city have been watered down and today the only
loose rules that apply are having a population over 50,000 and over
60% of the population in a "city centre". In recent times many small
villages and towns have merged in order to form a city despite seeming
geographically to be just a collection of villages.
The distinction between towns (machi/chō) and villages (mura/son) is
largely unwritten and purely one of population size when the
settlement was founded with villages having under 10,000 and towns
Main article: Eup (administrative division)
In both of South Korea and North Korea, towns are called eup (읍).
In Latvia, towns and cities are indiscriminately called pilsēta in
singular form. The name is a contraction of two Latvian words: pils
(castle) and sēta (fence), making it very obvious what is meant by
the word – what is situated between the castle and the castle fence.
However, a city can be called lielpilsēta in reference to its size. A
village is called ciemats or ciems in Latvian.
List of towns in Lithuania
In Lithuanian, a city is called miestas, a town is called miestelis
(literally "small miestas).
Metropolis is called didmiestis (literally
Before 1848 there was a legal distinction between stad and non-stad
parts of the country, but the word no longer has any legal
significance. About 220 places got "stadsrechten" (city rights) and
are still so called for historical and traditional reasons, though the
word is also used for large urban areas that never got such rights.
Because of this, in the Netherlands, no distinction is made between
"city" and "town"; both translate as "stad". A hamlet ("gehucht")
usually has fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, a village ("dorp") ranges
from 1,000 up to 25,000 inhabitants, and anything above the latter can
call itself either village or city, mostly depending on historic
reasons or size of the place. As an example: a large city like The
Hague never gained city rights, but because of its size - more than
half a million inhabitants - it is regarded as such. Staverden, with
only 40 inhabitants would be a hamlet, but because of city rights it
may call itself a city.
For statistical reasons, the
Netherlands has three sorts of cities:
"kleine stad" (small-sized cities): 50,000 — 99,999 inhabitants
"middelgrote stad" (medium-sized cities): 100,000 — 249,999
"grote stad" (big, or large cities): 250,000 and more
Only Amsterdam, Rotterdam,
The Hague and
Utrecht are regarded as
In New Zealand, a town is a built-up area that is not large enough to
be considered a city. Historically, this definition corresponded to a
population of between approximately 1,000 and 20,000. Towns have no
independent legal existence, being administered simply as built-up
parts of districts, or, in some cases, of cities.
New Zealand's towns vary greatly in size and importance, ranging from
small rural service centres to significant regional centres such as
Blenheim and Taupo. Typically, once a town reaches a population of
somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people, it will begin to be
informally regarded as a city. One who regards a settlement as too
small to be a town will typically call it a "township" or "village."
In Norway, "city" and "town" both translate to "by", even if a city
may be referred to as "storby" ("large town"). They will all be part
of and administered as a "kommune" ("municipality")
In the nordic countries a minimum of 200 people need to reside in the
same geographic area, and in
Norway the spacing between houses can in
general not be further apart than 50 meters, if the settlement is to
Norway has had inland the northernmost city in the world: Hammerfest.
Now the record is held by New Ålesund on the norwegian island
Main articles: List of cities and municipalities in the Philippines
and Municipalities of the Philippines
In the Philippines, the local official equivalent of the town is the
municipality (Filipino bayan). Every municipality, or town, in the
country has a mayor and a vice mayor as well as local town officials.
Philippine towns are composed of a number of villages and communities
called barangays with one (or a few cluster of) barangay(s) serving as
the town center or poblacion, and are juridically separate from
cities, which are typically larger and more populous (some smaller and
less populated) than, and which political and economic status are
above that of, towns.
Unique in Philippine towns is that they have fixed budget, population
and land requirements to become as such, i.e. from a barangay, or a
cluster of such, to a town, or to become cities, i.e. from town to a
city. Respectively, examples of these are the town of B.E. Dujali in
Davao del Norte
Davao del Norte province, which was formed in 1998 from a cluster of 5
barangays, and the city of El Salvador, which was converted from a
town to a city in 2007. Each town in the
Philippines was classified by
its annual income and budget.
Poland is an example of a utopian ideal town. It was
declared a UNESCO
World Heritage Site in 1992
Main article: List of cities and towns in Poland
Germany and Sweden, in
Poland there is no linguistic
distinction between a city and a town. The word for both is Miasto, as
a form of settlement distinct from following: village (wieś), hamlet
(przysiółek), settlement (osada), or colony (kolonia).
is conferred by administrative decree, new towns are announced by the
Government in a separate Bill effective from the first day of the
year. Some settlements tend to remain villages even though they have a
larger population than many smaller towns.
Town may be called in
diminutive way as "Miasteczko", what is colloquially used for
localities with a few thousand residents. Such localities have usually
a Mayor (Burmistrz) as a chief of town council.
Cities are the biggest localities, generally must be bigger than 100
thousand of residents, they are ruled by President (Prezydent) as a
City Council. There are bare a few (mainly historic or
political) exemptions which have allowed towns lesser than 100
thousand of people, to obtain President title for their Mayors, and to
become recognized as Cities that way. Just to name a few:
Bolesławiec, Gniezno, Zamość.
Like other Iberian cultures, in
Portugal there is a traditional
distinction between towns (vilas) and cities (cidades). Similarly,
although these areas are not defined under the constitution, and have
no political function (with associated organs), they are defined by
law, and a town must have:
at least 3,000 inhabitants
at least half of these services: health unit, pharmacy, cultural
centre, public transportation network, post office, commercial food
and drinking establishments, primary school and/or bank office
In this context, the town or city is subordinate to the local
authority (civil parish or municipality, in comparison to the North
American context, where they have political functions. In special
cases, some villages may be granted the status of town if they possess
historical, cultural or architectonic importance.
The Portuguese urban settlements heraldry reflects the difference
between towns and cities, with the coat of arms of a town bearing
a crown with 4 towers, while the coat of arms of a city bears a crown
with 5 towers. This difference between towns and cities is still in
use in other Portuguese speaking countries, but in Brazil is no longer
Main article: List of cities and towns in Romania
Romania there is no official distinction between a city and a town
(the word for both in Romanian is: oraş). Cities and towns in Romania
can have the status either of oraş municipiu, conferred to large
urban areas, or only oraş to smaller urban localities. Some
settlements remain villages (communes) even though they have a larger
population than other smaller towns.
Main article: Types of inhabited localities in Russia
The town of
Reutov is separated from the city of
Moscow just by the
Unlike English, the
Russian language does not distinguish the terms
"city" and "town"—both are translated as "город" (gorod).
Occasionally the term "город" is applied to urban-type
settlements as well, even though the status of those is not the same
as that of a city/town proper.
In Russia, the criteria an inhabited locality needs to meet in order
to be granted city/town (gorod) status vary in different federal
subjects. In general, to qualify for this status, an inhabited
locality should have more than 12,000 inhabitants and the occupation
of no less than 85% of inhabitants must be other than agriculture.
However, inhabited localities which were previously granted the
city/town status but no longer meet the criteria can still retain the
status for historical reasons.
In South Africa the
Afrikaans term "Dorp" is used interchangeably with
the English equivalent of "Town". A "town" is a settlement that has a
size that is smaller than that of a city.
In Spain, the equivalent of town would be villa, a population unit
between a village (pueblo) and a city (ciudad), and is not defined by
the number of inhabitants, but by some historical rights and
privileges dating from the Middle Ages, such as the right to hold a
market or fair. For instance, while
Madrid is technically a villa,
Barcelona, with a smaller population, is known as a city.
Visby is one of the most well-preserved former Hanseatic cities in
Sweden. Today it is the seat of Gotland Municipality.
Stad (Sweden) and Köping
Swedish language does not differentiate between towns and cities
in the English sense of the words; both words are commonly translated
as stad, a term which has no legal significance today. The term
tätort is used for an urban area or a locality, which however is a
statistical rather than an administrative concept and encompasses
densely settled villages with only 200 inhabitants as well as the
major cities. The word köping corresponds to an English market town
(chipping) or German Markt but is mainly of historical significance,
as the term is not used today and only survives in some toponyms. Some
towns with names ending in -köping are cities with over 100 000
inhabitants today, e.g. Linköping.
Before 1971, 132 larger municipalities in
Sweden enjoyed special royal
charters as stad instead of kommun (which is similar to a US county).
However, since 1971 all municipalities are officially defined as
kommun, thus making no legal difference between, for instance,
Stockholm and a small countryside municipality. Every urban area that
was a stad before 1971 is still often referred to as a stad in daily
speech. Since the 1980s, 14 of these municipalities brand themselves
as stad again, although this has no legal or administrative
significance, as they still have refer to themselves as kommun in all
For statistical purposes, Statistics
Sweden officially defines a stad
as an urban area of at least 10,000 inhabitants. In the Swedish
language the term for a major city is storstad (literally "big town"),
but there is no clear definition as to when a stad should be called a
storstad. Most Swedes would only call Stockholm,
Gothenburg and Malmö
storstäder, i.e. "major cities", although
Uppsala fulfills the
definition of "municipality with a population that exceeds 200 000
Fire station in town of Bohorodchany
In Ukraine the term town (містечко, mistechko) existed from
the Medieval period until 1925, when it was replaced by the Soviet
regime with urban type settlement. Historically, town in the
Ukrainian lands was a smaller populated place that was chartered under
German town law
German town law and had a market square (see Market town). Today
informally, town is also referred to cities of district significance,
cities with small population, and former Jewish shtetls.
City status in the United Kingdom
England and Wales
Main articles: List of urban areas in
England by population and list
of urban areas in
Wales by population
A traditional English town centre at Rugby
England and Wales, a town traditionally was a settlement which had
a charter to hold a market or fair and therefore became a "market
town". Market towns were distinguished from villages in that they were
the economic hub of a surrounding area, and were usually larger and
had more facilities.
In parallel with popular usage, however, there are many technical and
official definitions of what constitutes a town, to which various
interested parties cling.
In modern official usage the term town is employed either for old
market towns, or for settlements which have a town council, or for
settlements which elsewhere would be classed a city, but which do not
have the legal right to call themselves such. Any parish council can
decide to describe itself as a town council, but this will usually
only apply to the smallest "towns" (because larger towns will be
larger than a single civil parish).
Not all settlements which are commonly described as towns have a "Town
Council" or "
Borough Council". In fact, because of many successive
changes to the structure of local government, there are now few large
towns which are represented by a body closely related to their
historic borough council. These days, a smaller town will usually be
part of a local authority which covers several towns. And where a
larger town is the seat of a local authority, the authority will
usually cover a much wider area than the town itself (either a large
rural hinterland, or several other, smaller towns).
Additionally, there are "new towns" which were created during the 20th
century, such as Basildon,
Redditch and Telford.
Milton Keynes was
designed to be a "new city" but legally it is still a town despite its
Some settlements which describe themselves as towns (e.g.
Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire) are smaller than some large villages
(e.g. Kidlington, Oxfordshire).
The status of a city is reserved for places that have Letters Patent
entitling them to the name, historically associated with the
possession of a cathedral. Some large municipalities (such as
Northampton and Bournemouth) are legally boroughs but not cities,
whereas some cities are quite small — such as Ely or St David's. The
Brighton and Hove
Brighton and Hove was created from the two former towns and
some surrounding villages, and within the city the correct term for
the former distinct entities is somewhat unclear.
It appears that a city may become a town, though perhaps only through
administrative error: Rochester (Kent) has been a city for centuries
but, when in 1998 the
Medway district was created, a bureaucratic
blunder meant that Rochester lost its official city status and is now
technically a town.
It is often thought that towns with bishops' seats rank automatically
as cities: however,
Chelmsford was a town until 5 June 2012 despite
being the seat of the diocese of Chelmsford, created in 1914. St
Asaph, which is the seat of the diocese of St Asaph, only became a
city on 1 June 2012 though the diocese was founded in the mid sixth
century. In reality, the pre-qualification of having a cathedral of
the established Church of England, and the formerly established Church
Wales or Church of Ireland, ceased to apply from 1888.
The word town can also be used as a general term for urban areas,
including cities and in a few cases, districts within cities. In this
usage, a city is a type of town; a large one, with a certain status.
For example, central
Greater London is sometimes referred to
colloquially as "London town". (The "
City of London" is the historical
nucleus, informally known as the "Square Mile", and is
administratively separate from the rest of Greater London, while the
City of Westminster is also technically a city and is also a London
Camden Town and Somers
Town are districts of London, as New
Town is a district of
Edinburgh – actually the Georgian centre.
List of burghs in Scotland
List of burghs in Scotland and
List of towns and cities
Scotland by population
A town in
Scotland has no specific legal meaning and (especially in
areas which were or are still Gaelic-speaking) can refer to a mere
collection of buildings (e.g. a farm-town or in Scots ferm-toun), not
all of which might be inhabited, or to an inhabited area of any size
which is not otherwise described in terms such as city, burgh, etc.
Many locations of greatly different size will be encountered with a
name ending with -town, -ton, -toun etc. (or beginning with the Gaelic
equivalent baile etc.).
A burgh (pronounced burruh) is the Scots' term for a town or a
municipality. They were highly autonomous units of local government
from at least the 12th century until their abolition in 1975, when a
new regional structure of local government was introduced across the
country. Usually based upon a town, they had a municipal corporation
and certain rights, such as a degree of self-governance and
representation in the sovereign Parliament of
Scotland adjourned in
The term no longer describes units of local government although
various claims are made from time to time that the legislation used
was not competent to change the status of the Royal Burghs described
below. The status is now chiefly ceremonial but various functions have
been inherited by current Councils (e.g. the application of various
endowments providing for public benefit) which might only apply within
the area previously served by a burgh; in consequence a burgh can
still exist (if only as a defined geographical area) and might still
be signed as such by the current local authority. It should be noted
that the word 'burgh' is generally not used as a synonym for 'town' or
'city' in everyday speech, but is reserved mostly for government and
Historically, the most important burghs were royal burghs, followed by
burghs of regality and burghs of barony. Some newer settlements were
only designated as police burghs from the 19th century onward, a
classification which also applies to most of the older burghs.
The tiny farming community of Wyatt, Indiana
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution largely
leaves local-government organization to the individual U.S. states,
the definition (if any) of "town" varies widely from state to state.
In some states, the term "town" refers to an area of population
distinct from others in some meaningful dimension, typically
population or type of government. The characteristic that
distinguishes a town from another type of populated place — a city,
borough, village, or township, for example — differs from state to
state. In some states, a town is an incorporated municipality; that
is, one with a charter received from the state, similar to a city (see
incorporated town), while in others, a town is unincorporated. In some
instances, the term "town" refers to a small incorporated municipality
of less than a population threshold specified by state statute, while
in others a town can be significantly larger. Some states do not use
the term "town" at all, while in others the term has no official
meaning and is used informally to refer to a populated place, of any
size, whether incorporated or unincorporated. In still other states,
the words "town" and "city" are legally interchangeable.
Small town life has been a major theme in American literature,
especially stories of rejection by young people leaving for the
Since the use of the term varies considerably by state, individual
usages are presented in the following sections:
In Alabama, the legal use of the terms "town" and "city" is based on
population. A municipality with a population of 2,000 or more is a
city, while less than 2,000 is a town (Code of
Alabama 1975, Section
11-40-6). For legislative purposes, municipalities are divided into
eight classes based on population. Class 8 includes all towns, plus
cities with populations of less than 6,000 (Code of
In Arizona, the terms "town" and "city" are largely interchangeable. A
community may incorporate under either a town or a city organization
with no regard to population or other restrictions according to
Arizona law (see
Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 9). Cities may
function under slightly differing governmental systems, such as the
option to organize a district system for city governments, but largely
retain the same powers as towns.
Arizona law also allows for the
consolidation of neighboring towns and the unification of a city and a
town, but makes no provision for the joining of two adjacent cities.
In California, the words "town" and "city" are synonymous by law (see
Cal. Govt. Code Secs. 34500–34504). There are two types of cities in
California: charter and general law. Cities organized as charter
cities derive their authority from a charter that they draft and file
with the state, and which, among other things, states the
municipality's name as "
City of (Name)" or "
Town of (Name)."
Government Code Sections 34500–34504 applies to cities organized as
general law cities, which differ from charter cities in that they do
not have charters but instead operate with the powers conferred them
by the pertinent sections of the Government Code. Like charter cities,
general law cities may incorporate as "
City of (Name)" or "
Some cities change their minds as to how they want to be called. The
sign in front of the municipal offices in Los Gatos, California, for
example, reads "
City of Los Gatos", but the words engraved on the
building above the front entrance when the city hall was built read
Town of Los Gatos." There are also signs at the municipal corporation
limit, some of which welcome visitors to the "
City of Los Gatos" while
older, adjacent signs welcome people to the "
Town of Los Gatos."
Meanwhile, the village does not exist in
California as a municipal
corporation. Instead, the word "town" is commonly used to indicate any
unincorporated community that might otherwise be known as an
unincorporated village. Additionally, some people may still use the
word "town" as shorthand for "township", which is not an incorporated
municipality but an administrative division of a county.
The Hawaiian Island of
Oahu has various communities that may be
referred to as towns. However, the entire island is lumped as a single
incorporated city, the
County of Honolulu. The towns on Oahu
are merely unincorporated census-designated places.
In Illinois, the word "town" has been used both to denote a
subdivision of a county called a township, and to denote a form of
municipality similar to a village, in that it is generally governed by
a president and trustees rather than a mayor. In some areas a
"Town" may be incorporated legally as a
Village (meaning it has at
large Trustees) or a
City (meaning it has aldermen from districts) and
absorb the duties of the
Township it is coterminous with (maintenance
of birth records, certain welfare items). Evanston, Berwyn and Cicero
are examples of Towns in this manner. Under the current Illinois
Municipal Code, an incorporated or unincorporated town may choose to
incorporate as a city or as a village, but other forms of
incorporation are no longer allowed.
Louisiana a "town" is defined as being a municipal government
having a population of 1,001 to 4,999 inhabitants.
While a "town" is generally considered a smaller entity than a "city",
the two terms are legally interchangeable in Maryland. The only
exception may be the
Independent city of Baltimore, which is a special
case, as it was created by the Constitution of Maryland.
In Nevada, a town has a form of government, but is not considered to
be incorporated. It generally provides a limited range of services,
such as land use planning and recreation, while leaving most services
to the county. Many communities have found this "semi-incorporated"
status attractive; the state has only 20 incorporated cities, and
towns as large as Paradise (186,020 in 2000 Census), home of the Las
Vegas Strip. Most county seats are also towns, not cities.
Main article: New
In the six New
England states, a town is a municipality and a more
important unit than the county. In Connecticut,
Rhode Island and 7 out
of 14 counties in Massachusetts, in fact, counties only exist as map
divisions and have no legal functions; in the other three states,
counties are primarily judicial districts, with other functions
primarily in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. In all six, towns
perform functions that in most states would be county functions. The
defining feature of a New
England town, as opposed to a city, is that
a town meeting and a board of selectmen serve as the main form of
government for a town, while cities are run by a mayor and a city
council. For example, Brookline,
Massachusetts is a town, even though
it is fairly urban, because of its form of government.
Town (New Jersey)
A "town" in the context of New Jerseyan local government refers to one
of five types and one of eleven forms of municipal government. While
Town is often used as a shorthand to refer to a Township, the two are
not the same. The
Town Act of 1895 allowed any municipality or area
with a population exceeding 5,000 to become a
Town through a petition
and referendum process. Under the 1895 Act, a newly incorporated town
was divided into at least three wards, with two councilmen per ward
serving staggered two-year terms, and one councilman at large, who
also served a two-year term. The councilman at large served as
chairman of the town council. The
Town Act of 1988 completely revised
Town form of government and applied to all towns incorporated
Town Act of 1895 and to those incorporated by a special
charter granted by the Legislature prior to 1875.
Under the 1988 Act, the mayor is also the councilman at large, serving
a term of two years, unless increased to three years by a petition and
referendum process. The Council under the
Town Act of 1988 consists of
eight members serving staggered two-year terms with two elected from
each of four wards. One councilman from each ward is up for election
each year. Towns with different structures predating the 1988 Act may
retain those features unless changed by a petition and referendum
process. Two new provisions were added in 1991 to the statutes
governing towns, First, a petition and referendum process was created
whereby the voters can require that the mayor and town council be
elected to four-year terms of office. The second new provision defines
the election procedure in towns with wards. The mayor in a town chairs
the town council and heads the municipal government. The mayor may
both vote on legislation before council and veto ordinances. A veto
may be overridden by a vote of two-thirds of all the members of the
council. The council may enact an ordinance to delegate all or a
portion of the executive responsibilities of the town to a municipal
administrator. Fifteen New Jersey municipalities currently have a type
of Town, nine of which operate under the town form of government.
Administrative divisions of New York
Administrative divisions of New York § Town
In New York, a town is similarly a division of the county, but with
less importance than in New England. Of some importance, a town
provides a closer level of governance than its enclosing county,
providing almost all municipal services to unincorporated communities,
called hamlets, and selected services to incorporated areas, called
villages. In New York, a town typically contains a number of such
hamlets and villages. However, due to their independent nature,
incorporated villages may exist in two towns or even two counties
(example: Almond (village), New York). Everyone in New York who does
not live on an
Indian reservation or a city lives in a town and
possibly in one of the town's hamlets or villages. (There are no towns
in the five counties – also known as boroughs – that make up New
York City.) What is a "town" in New York is called a township in some
In North Carolina, all cities, towns, and villages are incorporated as
municipalities. According to the
North Carolina League of
Municipalities, there is no legal distinction among a city, town,
or village—it is a matter of preference of the local government.
North Carolina cities have populations as small as 1,000
residents, while some towns, such as Cary, have populations of greater
In Pennsylvania, only one municipality is incorporated as a "town":
Bloomsburg. Most of the rest of the state is incorporated as townships
(there are also boroughs and cities), which function in much the same
way as the towns of New York or New England, although they may have
different forms of government.
In Texas, although some municipalities refer to themselves as "towns"
or "villages", these names have no specific designation in
legally all incorporated places are considered cities.
See also: List of cities and towns in Utah
In Utah, the legal use of the terms "town" and "city" is based on
population. A municipality with a population of 1,000 or more is a
city, while less than 1,000 is a town. In addition, cities are divided
into five separate classes based on population.
Main article: Administrative divisions of
Virginia § Towns
In Virginia, a town is an incorporated municipality similar to a city
(though with a smaller required minimum population). But while cities
Virginia law independent of counties, towns are contained
City government in Washington (state)
A town in the state of Washington is a municipality that has a
population of less than 1,500 at incorporation, however an existing
town can reorganize as a code city.
Town government authority is
limited relative to cities, the other main classification of
municipalities in the state. As of 2012[update], most
municipalities in Washington are cities. (See
List of towns in
Main article: Administrative divisions of Wisconsin
Wisconsin has Towns which are areas outside of incorporated cities and
villages. These Towns retain the name of the Civil
Township from which
they evolved and are often the same name as a neighboring City. Some
Towns, especially those in urban areas, have services similar to those
of incorporated Cities, such as police departments. These Towns will
from time to time incorporate into Cities, such as Fox Crossing in
2016 from the former town of Menasha. Often this is to protect
against being annexed into neighboring cities and villages.
Wyoming statute indicates towns are incorporated municipalities with
populations of less than 4,000. Municipalities of 4,000 or more
residents are considered "first-class cities".
In Vietnam, a district-level town (Vietnamese: thị xã) is the
second subdivision, below a province (tỉnh) or municipality (thành
phố trực thuộc trung ương). A commune-level town (thị
trấn) a third-level (commune-level) subdivision, below a district
List of towns
Megalopolis (city type)
^ Goodall, B. (1987) The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography.
^ "The Australian", December 13, 2012
^ Consolidated version of Law no. 128/200 Coll.
^ "Byopgørelsen pr. 1. januar – Varedeklaration – Danmarks
Statistik". Dst.dk. 2005-03-22. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
^ Universität Dortmund: Kleine und mittlere Städte – Blaupausen
der Großstadt?, Dokumentation des Expertenkolloquiums am 29. April
2004 in Dortmund
^ Megyei jogú városok – essay of Hungarian Central Statistical
Office (Hungarian, July 2012)
^ "Magyarország megyei jogú városai" – list of Hungarian town
with the rights of a county on "Térport" related webpage of Ministry
of National Development (Hungarian, access date: May 4, 2013.)
^ "Some Concepts and Definitions" (PDF). Census of India. Retrieved 7
^ "Law n.º 11/82 (Lei das designações e determinação de categoria
das povoações), of June, 2nd" (PDF). Archived from the original
(PDF) on 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
^ "Flags of the World". Crwflags.com. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
^ Mistechko. Public electronic dictionary of Ukrainian language
^ Miles Orvell, The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in
American Memory, Space, and Community (University of North Carolina
^ See the
Township Code, 60 ILCS 1 et seq.
^ See Phillips v.
Town of Scales Mound, 195 Ill. 353, 357, 63 N.E. 180
^ See generally Article 2 of the
Illinois Municipal Code, 65 ILCS
5/2‑1‑1 et seq.
North Carolina League of Municipalities: How Municipalities Work.
Web page. Accessed February 14, 2012.
Utah Code, Title 10, Chapter 2, Section 301".
Legislature. Archived from the original on August 8, 2011. Retrieved
May 11, 2010.
^ Charles A. Grymes. "
City in Virginia". Retrieved
2011-05-31. Cities own and maintain their roads, while Virginia
counties (except for Arlington and Henrico) rely upon VDOT for road
maintenance. Cities get a fixed allocation of state funding for
building and maintaining those roads, while counties must compete with
each other and other VDOT priorities for a substantial portion of
their road budget. Cities have been granted more authorities, such as
the right of city councils to issue bonds to build roads without a
voter referendum (counties must get voter approval in a referendum
before issuing road bonds)... In Virginia, towns have distinct
boundaries, established by the General Assembly or by courts guided by
laws passed by the legislature. Towns are *not* independent from
counties; residents of towns are still residents of the county in
which the town is located. For example, residents of the four towns of
Haymarket, Quantico, Dumfries, and Occoquan are also residents of
Prince William County. They pay both town and county property taxes,
and town residents get to vote for a town council/mayor.
^ "Classification of Washington Cities". Municipal Research and
Services Center of Washington. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
^ "A Comparison of the Powers of a
Town and a Noncharter Code City".
Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. Retrieved
December 14, 2012.
Australian Bureau of Statistics: Australian Standard Geographical
Classification (ASGC) 2005
Look up town in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Open-Site Regional — Contains information about towns in numerous
Geopolis : research group, university of Paris-Diderot, France
— Access to Geopolis Database
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
Common English terms1
Local government area
Combined statistical area
Metropolitan statistical area
Micropolitan statistical area
Free imperial city
Royal free city
Indian government district
Regional county municipality
Mountain resort municipality
Special administrative region
Federal capital territory
Organized incorporated territory
Autonomous territorial unit
Local administrative unit
Exclusive economic zone
Free economic zone
Special economic zone
Other English terms
Non-English or loanwords
Kunta / kommun
Arabic terms for country subdivisions
Muhafazah (محافظة governorate)
Wilayah (ولاية province)
Mintaqah (منطقة region)
Mudiriyah (مديرية directorate)
Imarah (إمارة emirate)
Baladiyah (بلدية municipality)
Shabiyah (شعبية "popularate")
Second / third-level
Mintaqah (منطقة region)
Qadaa (قضاء district)
Nahiyah (ناحية subdistrict)
Markaz (مركز district)
Mutamadiyah (معتمدية "delegation")
Daerah/Daïra (دائرة circle)
Liwa (لواء banner / sanjak)
City / township-level
Amanah (أمانة municipality)
Baladiyah (بلدية municipality)
Ḥai (حي neighborhood / quarter)
Sheyakhah (شياخة "neighborhood subdivision")
English translations given are those most commonly used.
French terms for country subdivisions
Greek terms for country subdivisions
apokentromenes dioikiseis / geniki dioikisis§ / diamerisma§ /
nomos§ / periphereiaki enotita
demos / eparchia§ / koinotita§
§ signifies a defunct institution
Portuguese terms for country subdivisions
Historical subdivisions in italics.
Slavic terms for country subdivisions
krajina / pokrajina
oblast / oblast' / oblasti / oblys / obwód / voblast'
opština / općina / občina / obshtina
powiat / povit
selsoviet / silrada
voivodeship / vojvodina
guberniya / gubernia
starostwo / starostva
Spanish terms for country subdivisions
Historical subdivisions in italics.
Turkish terms for country subdivisions
ağalık (feudal district)
reya (Romanian principalities)
voyvodalık (Romanian provinces)
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical
derivations in italics.
See also: Census division, Electoral district, Political division, and
List of administrative divisions by country