The two words 'urban' and 'urbane' are of related meaning; according to etymology one the child of the other.

But how do we form verbs from these separate adjectives?

We can speak of 'urban' Lancashire, or the 'urbanisation of India', and it is clear what we mean.

Now an 'urbane' individual is a courteous, well-mannered person, given to a sophisticated and well-educated approach to life. But if we want to speak about a process by which, let's say, a tribe of nomads, take on education, settled life, and public institutions, albeit in a non-urban society, how would we describe the process? It couldn't be 'urbanisation' because that involves building towns and cities.

  • If you ask the urbane, they will tell you they were always that way.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 23:37
  • @Oldcat A couple of books I would recommend to you, both concern South Africa. One is Alan Paton's 'Cry the beloved country'; the other Nelson Mandela's 'Long Walk to Freedom'. Large areas of the world today are transitioning in the way Europe did in the 18th and 19th centuries from peasant/ aristocratic societies to urban ones. But it is not 'urbanisation', because it doesn't just involve building structures, which is what that might imply.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 6:42

2 Answers 2


The process you are describing essentially means bringing someone into a particular culture, with emphasis on qualities that are deemed polite, etc. When applied to a hypothetical tribe of nomads, the implicit assumption is that the tribe's own culture is rude and uncouth, and that the "urbane" culture is proper and superior. Depending on how you feel about that assumption you might want to use different words.

  • Educated, educating: The tribe was educated in proper manners, etc.
  • Re-educated
  • Assimilated
  • Colonized
  • Civilized
  • Acculturate
  • But none of them quite mean 'urbane' do they, least of all 'colonised'. It is possible to be 'civilised' (accepting of a civic authority) but not urbane. What we are talking about is an urban society. But unfortunately it means two things. It means on the one hand buildings, roads, hospitals, etc. But it also refers to manners, and that is where 'urbane' is relevant. But if I just want to express the idea of people being urbane in manner, what is the process called?
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 16:02
  • "urban" is a technical term for a kind of population density, and a broadly-used term for the kinds of cultures that develop in those settings. "urbane" is a value judgement, on a person's behaviour and culture. You make a person urbane by indoctrinating them with the culture you feel meets the criteria of "urbane". "urbane" and "urban" do not go hand in hand. They are related words, but the meanings have shifted quite a bit. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 16:17
  • First meaning per OED: Urbane 1a. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a town or city, esp. as opposed to the countryside.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:37
  • @WS2: See this corpus link showing that nobody uses "urbane" to mean "urban", they only use it to mean "polite, civilized". And in the sense where it IS synonymous with "urban" then just use "urbanized". Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 13:04
  • This is precisely my point. Urbane does not mean urban. So if you speak of 'urbanisation' people think you mean the development of houses, shopping centres etc on land which was once a green field. What I need is a word which means 'urbane - isation'!
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 14:22

I would have to say that the tribe members could become sophisticated. That would differentiate their knowledge of the world from their acquisition of an urban environment.

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