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[toun] /taʊn/
a thickly populated area, usually smaller than a city and larger than a village, having fixed boundaries and certain local powers of government.
a densely populated area of considerable size, as a city or borough.
(especially in New England) a municipal corporation with less elaborate organization and powers than a city.
(in most U.S. states except those of New England) a township.
any urban area, as contrasted with its surrounding countryside.
the inhabitants of a town; townspeople; citizenry.
the particular town or city in mind or referred to:
living on the outskirts of town; to be out of town.
a nearby or neighboring city; the chief town or city in a district:
I am staying at a friend's apartment in town.
the main business or shopping area in a town or city; downtown.
  1. a village or hamlet in which a periodic market or fair is held.
  2. any village or hamlet.
Scot. a farmstead.
of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or belonging to a town:
town laws; town government; town constable.
go to town, Informal.
  1. to be successful.
  2. to do well, efficiently, or speedily:
    The engineers really went to town on those plans.
  3. to lose restraint or inhibition; overindulge.
on the town,
  1. Informal. in quest of entertainment in a city's nightclubs, bars, etc.; out to have a good time:
    a bunch of college kids out on the town.
  2. supported by the public charity of the state or community; on relief.
paint the town. paint (def 16).
Origin of town
before 900; Middle English toun, tun, Old English tūn walled or fenced place, courtyard, farmstead, village; cognate with Old Norse tūn homefield, German Zaun fence, Old Irish dún fort
Related forms
townless, adjective
intertown, adjective
Synonym Study
1. See community.


[toun] /taʊn/
[ith-ee-uh l] /ˈɪθ i əl/ (Show IPA),
1784–1844, U.S. architect. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for town
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I need cheerfulness and rest for a long time after this day in town.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • He never could find out what was "going on" to bring so many folks into town.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • One time he landed in Pocatello when there wa'n't but one game in town.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • But the house and the town grated harshly now upon the young man.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Dollars are worth more apiece in New York than any town I've ever been in.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
British Dictionary definitions for town


  1. a densely populated urban area, typically smaller than a city and larger than a village, having some local powers of government and a fixed boundary
  2. (as modifier): town life, related adjective urban
a city, borough, or other urban area
(in the US) a territorial unit of local government that is smaller than a county; township
the nearest town or commercial district
London or the chief city of an area
the inhabitants of a town
the permanent residents of a university town as opposed to the university staff and students Compare gown (sense 3)
go to town
  1. to make a supreme or unrestricted effort; go all out
  2. (Austral & NZ, informal) to lose one's temper
on the town, seeking out entertainments and amusements
Derived Forms
townish, adjective
townless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English tūn village; related to Old Saxon, Old Norse tūn, Old High German zūn fence, Old Irish dūn
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
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Word Origin and History for town

Old English tun "enclosure, garden, field, yard; farm, manor; homestead, dwelling house, mansion;" later "group of houses, village, farm," from Proto-Germanic *tunaz, *tunan (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian tun "fence, hedge," Middle Dutch tuun "fence," Dutch tuin "garden," Old High German zun, German Zaun "fence, hedge"), an early borrowing from Celtic *dunom (cf. Old Irish dun, Welsh din "fortress, fortified place, camp," dinas "city;" see down (n.2)).

Meaning "inhabited place larger than a village" (mid-12c.) arose after the Norman conquest, to correspond to French ville. The modern word is partially a generic term, applicable to cities of great size as well as places intermediate between a city and a village; such use is unusual, the only parallel is perhaps Latin oppidium, which occasionally was applied to Rome or Athens (each of which was more properly an urbs).

First record of town hall is from late 15c. Townie "townsman, one raised in a town" is recorded from 1827, often opposed to the university students or circus workers who were just passing through. Town ball, version of baseball, is recorded from 1852. Town car (1907) originally was a motor car with an enclosed passenger compartment and open driver's seat. On the town "living the high life" is from 1712. Go to town "do (something) energetically" is first recorded 1933. Man about town "one constantly seen at public and private functions" is attested from 1734.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for town


Related Terms

bean town

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with town
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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