1. a person who lives in a town or city.


  1. a thickly populated area, usually smaller than a city and larger than a village, having fixed boundaries and certain local powers of government.
  2. a densely populated area of considerable size, as a city or borough.
  3. (especially in New England) a municipal corporation with less elaborate organization and powers than a city.
  4. (in most U.S. states except those of New England) a township.
  5. any urban area, as contrasted with its surrounding countryside.
  6. the inhabitants of a town; townspeople; citizenry.
  7. the particular town or city in mind or referred to: living on the outskirts of town; to be out of town.
  8. a nearby or neighboring city; the chief town or city in a district: I am staying at a friend’s apartment in town.
  9. the main business or shopping area in a town or city; downtown.
  10. British.
    1. a village or hamlet in which a periodic market or fair is held.
    2. any village or hamlet.
  11. Scot. a farmstead.


  1. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or belonging to a town: town laws; town government; town constable.

  1. 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.
  2. on the town,
    1. 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.
  3. paint the town. paint(def 16).


    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
  1. a city, borough, or other urban area
  2. (in the US) a territorial unit of local government that is smaller than a county; township
  3. the nearest town or commercial district
  4. London or the chief city of an area
  5. the inhabitants of a town
  6. the permanent residents of a university town as opposed to the university staff and studentsCompare gown (def. 3)
  7. go to town
    1. to make a supreme or unrestricted effort; go all out
    2. Australian and NZ informalto lose one’s temper
  8. on the town seeking out entertainments and amusements

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.

In addition to the idiom beginning with town

  • town and gown

also see:

  • all over the place (town)
  • ghost town
  • go to town
  • man about town
  • one-horse town
  • only game in town
  • on the town
  • out of town
  • paint the town red
  • talk of the town

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