I am not sure which term is more common when people talk and refer to metro station. Somebody told me you should use subway instead of metro and people use subway in everyday talking. Is this true? I am living in Washington,DC.

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    Is the person who told you this from New York City? I believe they are generally called Metro stations in DC, subway stations in NYC, T stations in Boston, and BART stations in San Francisco (I' m least sure about DC here, so I'll let somebody who knows answer). However, if you ask how to find a "metro station" in Boston, people won't know what you're talking about, while if you ask for a "subway station" anywhere, you'll be understood perfectly. (And in NYC, at least 20 years ago, if you asked about an IRT station, they'd send you to the correct subway line and not the BMT.) – Peter Shor Sep 17 '13 at 15:22
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    . . . and subway/"el" in Chicago – Kristina Lopez Sep 17 '13 at 16:26
  • I've added an American-English tag because, although US is in the question title, it's not explicit in the question. British usage of the word subway is different. – Andrew Leach Sep 17 '13 at 21:41
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, "subway" would be more immediately understandable than "metro," but either one would mark you as a visitor, since "BART" is the standard term here. Like the Chicago system and the Washington, D.C., system, BART runs underground in some places and on elevated (or ground-level) tracks in others. When I lived in D.C., everyone referred to its light-rail system as "the Metro." – Sven Yargs Sep 17 '13 at 22:14
  • @SvenYargs Metro is the rapid transit system, which is definitely heavy rail. The light rail is only a proposal… and not to be confused with the streetcar, which is actually under construction. – choster Sep 18 '13 at 1:31

Each region has a name for their transportation system, so it varies. For New York, I have mostly seen "subway", for DC it's "metro", for Boston and Pittsburgh it's "the T", for Chicago it's "the L".

In terms of strict dictionary definitions, both terms imply underground trains. Subway is a generic term, but metro is more localized to certain cities.

From M-W:

subway: a system of underground trains in a city

metro: an underground railway system in some cities

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  • Not "the El," but "the 'L'." What do you think this is, Philadelphia? :) – choster Sep 17 '13 at 21:31
  • @choster - I stand corrected :) – Lynn Sep 17 '13 at 21:55

Subway is generally used for underground train systems and metro for above ground. However I am being very general because each city has their own marketing/naming convention.

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  • References? This might be true internationally, but the only place I've heard metro in the United States is in DC, where it is short for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Certainly, nobody in New Jersey, Connecticut, or New York calls anything a metro except Metro North, which is the actual name of the commuter rail system serving Westchester and Connecticut (and they generally say Metro-North or the train and not just metro). – Peter Shor Sep 17 '13 at 19:36
  • Metro is used in St. Louis. If you call the "L" in Chicago a metro they won't look at you weird. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 17 '13 at 19:39
  • And metro is also extremely common internationally (possibly influenced by Paris's system). – Peter Shor Sep 17 '13 at 21:42

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