I know that rural relates to living in the countryside, and urban and suburban refer to living in cities, towns or residential areas. But some places, like in upstate New York, have dense trees and woodland. A forest, basically. What do you call that?

Urban life and (required word) life?

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    While arboreal usually suggests living in trees, it can be used to mean living among trees.
    – bib
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 17:46
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    Urban and forested are not exclusive. The city I live in is in a forest. If you don't weed you get trees. Historically this wasn't the case but nowadays we burn more oil than wood to keep warm. So wild tree's are back in many developed areas. Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 18:18
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    "woodland life".
    – Graffito
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 18:29
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    @CandiedOrange Manhattan would fit your description....those pesky seedlings in the concrete cracks evoke wolves hunting deer among stately trees, rushing streams, sylvan glades....
    – ab2
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 19:11
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    – DJohnM
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 20:10

5 Answers 5


Try sylvan from the Latin silva, a wood.

From Wingless Flights: Appalachian Women in Fiction by Danny Miller

Likewise, much of Frost's language in this article emphasizes the golden age simplicity and wholesomeness of the Appalachian region. He speaks of his "sylvan hosts" on his visits to the mountaineers and of their "sylvan life".

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    Nice catch. Very poetic though.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 18:00
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    Yes ... "sylvan" does sound rather poetic (indeed flowery) ... perhaps "woodsy" or "forested" are a bit more down to earth, so to speak. But as others have noted, rural itself covers a lot of different terrain.
    – Cargill
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 20:00
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    Sometimes spelled silvan. Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 21:42
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    Especially if you're from Pennsilvania.
    – deadrat
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 21:44
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    @WilsonofGordon Most definitely. Most, but not all, of the OED's cites for sylvan are from works of poetry, going back to the 1500s.
    – deadrat
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 10:42

To classify it in the range that includes urban and suburban, a forested area beyond those sections would still be classified as rural.

Note that you could have a densely wooded area within the boundaries of an otherwise built up city. It might be considered an urban forest. You could also have a totally denuded area, far from any city (such as a strip mine) which would be considered rural.

So, urban vs. suburban vs. rural basically indicates the locality's population density, rather than the specific amount of natural vegetation.

EDIT — I also like @deadrat's answer of "sylvan", but wanted to show a horrible example of how that word is often misappropriated by development marketers, in places that are clearly suburban: enter image description here

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    I think OP has a misunderstanding of the word rural which somehow makes them think it does not apply to forested areas. Many, if not most, places in the U.S. that are considered rural are heavily forested. I have lived in forested areas my entire life (a large chunk of my life even in a literal hand-built log cabin, and currently on the edge of an actual United States National Forest) and have always heard the term rural used to describe such areas. rural is the answer. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 17:40
  • I'm not convinced population density has much to do with it. An abandoned city is still an urban setting, for example. Development might be a more accurate basis for "urbanness".
    – talrnu
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 22:39
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    @talrnu You make a good point, but there are exceptions, for example, a highly developed military installation in a rural area. Abandoned cities are anomalies — they might be urban settings, but I don't know if you'd still call it urban if people no longer live there.
    – ElmerCat
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 23:03
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    If it's really far away from cities it's definitely Rural, if not so much it's Suburban, if it's really close to it, it's Urban Rural areas are usually related to the agricultural economy/life style due to their distance from cities which make people who live in rural areas produce their own food in some cases, if it's not the case, let's say it's a house in the mountains you can call it remote which is a way broader term.
    – Kyle
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 11:29
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    "Woods woods" nice Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 12:06

"Woodland" is a clear and simple adjective without baggage.


I would throw in "bucolic".

relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.

Example usage from Seabiscuit: An American Legend:

Even in the bucolic surroundings of Columbia, Seabiscuit could not escape the carnival atmosphere.


The word "rustic" may be useful here, it's less poetic than "sylvan".

"of, relating to, or living in the country, as distinguished from towns or cities"

Definition from dictionary.reference.com

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    Rustic does not mean forested. A sylvan setting may be rustic, but a rustic setting is not necessarily sylvan. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 0:19
  • Hi @Clifton, welcome to ELU. Answers are generally better with definitions, and a reference/link to where you got that definition. I've suggested an edit to achieve this for this post.
    – AndyT
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 12:11

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