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borough

[bur-oh, buhr-oh]
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noun
  1. (in certain states of the U.S.) an incorporated municipality smaller than a city.
  2. one of the five administrative divisions of New York City.
  3. British.
    1. an urban community incorporated by royal charter, similar to an incorporated city or municipality in the U.S.
    2. a town, area, or constituency represented by a Member of Parliament.
    3. (formerly) a fortified town organized as and having some of the powers of an independent country.
  4. (in Alaska) an administrative division similar to a county in other states.
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Origin of borough

before 900; Middle English burw(e), borwg(h), borogh, bor(u)g, bur(u)g, burgh town, Old English burg fortified town; cognate with Old Norse borg, Old Saxon, Dutch burg, German Burg castle, Gothic baurgs city; MIr brí, brig, Welsh, Breton bre hill, Avestan bərəz- height; akin to Armenian bardzr, Hittite parkus high. See barrow2.
Can be confusedborough burro burrow
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for borough

borough

noun
  1. a town, esp (in Britain) one that forms the constituency of an MP or that was originally incorporated by royal charterSee also burgh
  2. any of the 32 constituent divisions that together with the City of London make up Greater London
  3. any of the five constituent divisions of New York City
  4. (in the US) a self-governing incorporated municipality
  5. (in medieval England) a fortified town or village or a fort
  6. (in New Zealand) a small municipality with a governing body
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Word Origin

Old English burg; related to beorgan to shelter, Old Norse borg wall, Gothic baurgs city, Old High German burg fortified castle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for borough

n.

Old English burg, burh "a dwelling or dwellings within a fortified enclosure," from Proto-Germanic *burgs "hill fort, fortress" (cf. Old Frisian burg "castle," Old Norse borg "wall, castle," Old High German burg, buruc "fortified place, citadel," German Burg "castle," Gothic baurgs "city"), from PIE *bhrgh "high," with derivatives referring to hills, hill forts, fortified elevations (cf. Old English beorg "hill," Welsh bera "stack, pyramid," Sanskrit bhrant-, Avestan brzant- "high," Greek Pergamos, name of the citadel of Troy).

In German and Old Norse, chiefly as "fortress, castle;" in Gothic, "town, civic community." Meaning shifted in Middle English from "fortress," to "fortified town," to simply "town" (especially one possessing municipal organization or sending representatives to Parliament). In U.S. (originally Pennsylvania, 1718) often an incorporated town; in Alaska, however, it is the equivalent of a county. The Scottish form is burgh. The Old English dative singular byrig survives in many place names as -bury.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper