The post Difference between "town", "city" and "metropolis"? describes the usage of terms describing various sizes of cities. In the US, I have never encountered any place called a "village". Places with just a few houses were still called "town", however, I often hear Americans use this term to describe towns in other parts of the world.

  • Are there any regions in North America where the term "village" is used?
  • Do people in North America want to avoid this term when describing where they live?
  • Do Americans use the term differently when describing places within North America and without?
  • Does the word carry a derogitory connotation in North America?
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    In New Jersey, the incorporated municipalities are classified as cities, towns, townships, villages, or boroughs depending on what type of government they have. It has relatively little to do with their size. Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 0:57
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    I live about 15 miles south of the Village of Rantoul and about 4 miles from the Village of Savoy in Illinois. These are the official names of these municipalities, and yes, as Peter Shor says above, the designation depends on the type of government and not the physical size (or population). Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 1:03
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    Village often conjures up a nostalgic image of a small, quaint town. Nevertheless, as Peter & Dilip said, the term is still in use in a more generic sense, independent of size.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 1:05
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    Yeah, so I think Americans have somewhat distorted the meaning of village for their own uses. It has a rather more particular, even peculiar meaning, compared to Britain (where villages are abound everywhere). We never have "Village" in the name either. It's just a description of a settlement smaller than a town, larger than a hamlet. The place usually has to have certain buildings/facilities and lack others. Indeed, originally the very few number of "cities" in the UK had the prerequisite of a cathedral.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 2:11

6 Answers 6


As others have explained, the term 'village' is used in the US as a technical designation, a governmental-legalistic denomination.

But hardly anywhere in the US would someone use the term 'village' as a generic term for a very small settlement. That is, there is the official usage 'the village of East Davenport, Iowa', but never, ever, would someone say 'I live in a village outside of the main town'. In that sense, no one would describe or refer to where they live as 'a village'. Americans would use the term for a place in another country, but not for anywhere in the US.

'You live in a village' is not particularly derogatory, it just sounds weird if talking about some place in the US.

  • Agreed. "Suburb" is also more likely to be used, even if the place in question is still technically a village and not even directly attached via infrastructure or political boundaries to a city, but close to one. However a village nowhere near a city would probably still be referred to as a "small town". "Village" I think makes most Americans feel like they live in what we affectionately refer to as "podunk", and unfortunately that term comes with negative connotations. (See also: "cow-country", "hicksville", "doorknob", and "middle-of-nowhere" :) ) Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:48

There are many places called villages in the U.S., whether as a type of municipal entity, as a generic term for an independent human settlement somewhat smaller than a town, or to refer to small districts of larger settlements that retain an independent character (or were formerly independent villages), such as the neighborhood of Greenwich Village in New York City.

Beyond this there are countless housing developments, shopping centers, university residences, and the like which incorporate "village" or "villages" into their name.

  • I've only ever heard it in these marketing/branding terms. A realtor will refer to an area as X-village, but I've never heard anyone else describe their town as one.
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 16:16
  • @mgb Where do you live? Where there are multiple municipalities by the same name, people do specify. Usually people mean the City of Baltimore when they say "Baltimore," but in Maryland there is also Baltimore County, so some people say "Baltimore City" to specify that they do not live in "Baltimore County." Similarly, there is a "Village of Dryden" inside the "Town of Dryden" in New York, and people will know whether they are in the village or the town if you ask.
    – choster
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 16:21
  • West coast. Here there is a big city of X and a suburb that is "district of North X" and within it a core of "City of North X" and a fashionable area that only the condo developers describe as "North-X village". In the UK the City-Town-Village distinction is much more widely used by the locals and the authorities
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 16:28
  • Every state has its own system of municipal government, and I believe Alaska is the only place on the West Coast that recognizes "villages." That's probably why it's uncommon to hear of them. But I certainly do know people from rural upstate New York who speak of "the village where I grew up" or "going into the village for groceries."
    – choster
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 16:33

You have to remember that, in casual conversation, American English speakers often blur the distinction between things that aren't considered important to the meaning of the sentence.

For example:

A settlement may be legally a hamlet, but will be referred to by some as a "town" though usually not as a "city". The distinction here comes from the rural inhabitants that think of the term "city" to mean a larger, more urban environment, though not necessarily as complex as, say, New York City or London.

Still, the term "village" is often used with a romantic connotation, especially in marketing and advertising communications. So, a small city in the mountains will become a "quaint mountain village" because the term "village" will, to many Americans, convey thoughts of a "simpler" time, or even mental images of a pastural habitat.

  • Reminds me of the difference between "pond" and "lake". There are about half a dozen different definitions of distinctions which all contradict one another and none of which are consistently used.
    – asmeurer
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 3:04
  • Yes that's very similar. Pond, lake, lagoon, pool, and I'm sure many others are often used inconsistently.
    – user22244
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 3:08
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    Reminds me of wikipedia's list of terms for administrative divisions. I call it direct insight into the inner workings of socially produced ambiguity.
    – user19589
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 3:17

Anecdotally, I can say that I don't hear it in comman parlance, but do see it in official naming and signage. (see e.g. http://villagesofvanburen.com/ in SE Iowa.)

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    The Village of Fontana-on-Lake-Geneva in southeastern Wisconsin is a clear village. So is neighboring Williams Bay.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 19:15
  • All the villages where I'm from are favorable to those aligned chaotic evil and give +4 black mana, +2 red. But yours sound fun, too.
    – user19589
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 3:11
  • There is also, curiously, a "Fontana Village" in Tennessee, but it is a resort/campground, not (to my knowledge) a legal governmental entity.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 21:26

As the various answers and comments indicate, the noun village is commonly used in many, if not all parts of the US to describe municipalities and residential subdivisions etc. The word is also found in the title of a 1996 book.

With regard to the question as to whether village is used in a derogatory sense in the US, some uses of village as an adjective might be considered as derogatory, as in likening someone to the village idiot or, in some circles, saying that someone is a member of the Village People.


Though 2 1/2 years late in this discussion I'll throw my 2 cents worth in. Here in Wisconsin, as previously stated, cities are divided into 4 categories by population. Villages are also categorized by population. Towns are a political unit of government having less but similar duties in providing services for the populace such as road maintenance and law enforcement. Additionally there is a somewhat confusing further naming of an area, that of Townships. They are a land subdivision usually 36 square miles in size and are mostly rural in nature. They may surround a village which is totally autonomous, or be "burried" in a much larger city that surrounds them. As here in Madison, Wisconsin there is the town of Madison which is completely surrounded by the city. Often these isolated towns are eventually swallowed up by the city for a lot of reasons. Yes the name village is often used in common conversation. While a lad working for an Uncle on his farm in northern Virginia I remember him using the term in a comment 'lets go down to the village and pick up some ______ needed commodity'. The 'village' was what could be called a hamlet that provided postal service, fuel station, machine shop where farm machinery could be repaired, basic groceries, etc. Many needed services were provided there that went far beyond that 'villages' physical and population size. Often they were named 'Unincorporated _________' Yes, often 'Americaneese' drifts away from the 'Kings English' and we tend to be rather lax in keeping things proper in our language, but we do usually get the point across. Look this up on the internet for a more thoro explanation. Jim Martin


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