of, relating to, or designating a city or town: densely populated urban areas.
living, located, or taking place in a city: urban rooftop gardening.
characteristic of or accustomed to cities; citified: He’s an urban type—I can’t picture him enjoying a whole week at our cabin in the woods.
of or relating to the experience, lifestyle, or culture of African Americans living in economically depressed inner-city neighborhoods: Their first album had a hard, urban vibe.
Offensive. (used as a euphemism for Black or African American, rather than in reference to cities or their residents): a drug problem that particularly impacts the urban residents in this small town.
In the early 20th century, factories in northern cities recruited large numbers of African Americans from southern states. This migration north transformed the historically rural Black American experience into an urban one.
In the 1950s, courts outlawed segregation and mandated the racial integration of schools, resulting in decades of white flight . Many white families abandoned inner-city neighborhoods, relocating themselves and their assets to suburban communities. Discrimination over the years kept suburbia largely white and wealthy, enjoying well-funded school districts and other amenities.
Meanwhile, urban life, especially in the inner city , became increasingly associated with poverty and decay. In response, the government built housing projects for low-income residents, but this further concentrated poverty in isolated neighborhoods (ghettos that became popularly known as 'hoods ).
By the end of the 20th century, inner-city urban life was associated with African Americans of low socioeconomic status. Similarly, in discussions about poverty, crime, and drugs, the terms inner-city and urban became convenient euphemisms for Black —a way to avoid implying causality between race and life circumstance.
The term urban can factually describe a particular living situation, for example, urban poverty versus rural poverty. However, as a euphemism for slums, crime, or race, the use of the term urban is inaccurate, outdated, and offensive.
Such use is inaccurate and outdated because city neighborhoods have been steadily changing. Urban renewal and gentrification have brought new residents and assets to city centers. Urban poverty still exists, but its current manifestation doesn’t match the stereotypes of decay, gang violence, and drug culture built around news stories and images from the 1970s and 1980s.
Even more offensive is the inaccurate substitution of urban to mean Black when not referring to city dwellers. If two cowboys get into a fist fight in a rural honky-tonk, and if one of them is white and one is Black, the reporting of that story should in no way refer to one of those men as urban .
Even accurate use of the word urban may raise troubling racial issues. If someone who authentically claims an urban identity creates a line of clothing and markets it to suburban consumers, is calling that clothing urban acceptable? Does the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album promote recognition of R & B fusion artists, or does it mean that there are two separate but equal Grammy Awards for Album of the Year?
It should be clear whether one is talking about race (Black civil rights leaders), poverty (educational opportunities for low socioeconomic status students), or geography (urban food insecurity and rural hunger).
While the terms urban or inner-city can evoke one specific minority experience in the United States, they should not be used interchangeably with racial identity words like Black or African American . Nor should suburban be used indiscriminately to reference white America. Each of these circumstances and identities is a mix of class and geography, albeit with strong racial associations. The terms urban and suburban should therefore be used mindfully and only when evoking all aspects of those specific American experiences.
- an·ti·ur·ban, adjective
- non·ur·ban, adjective
- sem·i·ur·ban, adjective
- un·ur·ban, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use urban in a sentence
Impact-focused OZ investment is not restricted to urban communities.Opportunity Zones haven’t fully reached their potential, but don’t write them off yet | jakemeth | September 16, 2020 | Fortune
In fact, human-food sources accounted for as much as 60 to 75 percent of what urban coyotes ate.
A large chunk of the fine particulate matter pollution in urban areas—ranging from 20 to 70 percent—is secondary organic aerosols, or SOAs.
What’s more, these districts are similar in that they are relatively racially diverse and urban, which partly explains progressives’ success here.Ed Markey Won, But It’s Still Been A Rough Year For Incumbents | Nathaniel Rakich (email@example.com) | September 2, 2020 | FiveThirtyEight
For instance, there’s Margaret Anadu, head of Goldman Sachs’s urban investment group.
We see detoxing as a path to transcendence, a symbol of modern urban virtue and self-transformation through abstinence.How Taryn Toomey’s ‘The Class’ Became New York’s Latest Fitness Craze | Lizzie Crocker | January 9, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
In the wee hours of Christmas morning, a flight deal was shared in an exclusive Facebook group for urban travelers.‘We Out Here’: Inside the New Black Travel Movement | Charlise Ferguson | January 4, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
Young, hip, urban millennials are using tools like Instagram to become one of the fastest growing travel markets.‘We Out Here’: Inside the New Black Travel Movement | Charlise Ferguson | January 4, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
His New Deal Coalition brought together Southerners, Northern ethnic minorities, and urban blacks under the same banner.Steve Scalise Shows There’s a Fine Line Between Confederate & Southern | Lloyd Green | January 2, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
The former provides entrepreneurial training and educational programs for youths from low-income urban areas around the world.
urban property and lands were assessed at values far beyond those at which the owners truly estimated them.The Philippine Islands | John Foreman
Today in the cities, and particularly in the quickly growing urban areas, there are different conditions.Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents | Oswald Chettle Mazengarb et al.
But what, in the name of the great prince, is the meaning of her declining the urban expedition?Private Letters of Edward Gibbon (1753-1794) Volume 1 (of 2) | Edward Gibbon
I could find no solution, unless it be that instinctive belief of a city-bred civilization that all joys are urban.The Idyl of Twin Fires | Walter Prichard Eaton
At sight of him urban smiled again, and would have spoken; for he recognized the great Duke.God Wills It! | William Stearns Davis
British Dictionary definitions for urban
of, relating to, or constituting a city or town
living in a city or town
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