Definition of town noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//taʊn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//taʊn//
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  1. 1  [countable, uncountable] a place with many houses, shops/stores, etc. where people live and work. It is larger than a village but smaller than a city a university town They live in a rough part of town. The nearest town is ten miles away. We spent a month in the French town of Le Puy. see also small-town You will find other compounds ending in town at their place in the alphabet. Cultureplace namesBritain and the US have a rich variety of place names. Some names are derived from a feature of the countryside. Others are named after a church or fort. Some honour famous people, while others have been brought from abroad.Many names reflect the history of an area and of the people who once lived there. Some of the oldest place names in Wales and Scotland date back to the time of the Celts. Some towns in Southern England have Latin names dating from Roman times. Other names are of Anglo-Saxon or Viking origin and date from the period when these peoples invaded Britain. Later, the Normans introduced some French names.In the US many place names are derived from Native American words: Chicago, for example, means 'place of the onion' in the Algonquian language, Seattle is named after a chief, and Natchez after a tribe. Sometimes the names were translated, sometimes not: the Black Warrior River in Alabama runs through the city of Tuscaloosa, which was named after a Native American whose name means 'Black Warrior'. Names of Spanish origin are found mainly in the South-Western US. They include San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. A few names are of French origin, e.g. Baton Rouge and La Crosse. Some names are derived from more than one culture: Anaheim combines the Spanish name 'Ana' with the German 'heim' (= home).Many British towns take their name from a river. In Wales and Scotland many towns have names beginning with Aber-, which means 'river mouth', e.g. Aberystwyth, Aberdeen. In England towns close to a river mouth often end with -mouth, e.g. Weymouth. The name of the river forms the rest of the name. Names ending in -ford (Oxford) suggest a place where a river is shallow enough to cross. A town beside a lake may, in Scotland, contain loch- or, in England, -mere, e.g. Lochinver, Windermere.In Scotland, there are several place names beginning with Dun-, meaning 'hill', e.g. Dunbar. Any place whose name ends with -don (Swindon), -hurst (Sandhurst), -head (Gateshead) or, in Wales, begins with pen- (Penarth), probably stands on or near a hill. Towns near passes may end in -gate, e.g. Harrogate, or, in Scotland, begin with Glen-, e.g. Glencoe. Names ending with -coumbe or -combe (Ilfracombe) or -dale (Rochdale), or, in Wales, beginning with cwm- (Cwmbran) suggest that the town is in a valley.American place names based on natural features are easier to recognize. Examples include Two Rivers, River Edge, Mirror Lake, Ocean City, Gulf Breeze, Seven Hills, Shady Valley, Twentynine Palms, Lookout, Little Rock, Round Rock, White Rock and Slippery Rock. French names include La Fontaine and Eau Claire. Some place names describe a product, e.g. Bean City, Copper City.Many British towns developed around an early fort or castle. This may be indicated by a name ending in -burgh (Edinburgh), -bury (Salisbury), -caster or -cester (Doncaster, Gloucester) or -chester (Dorchester), or beginning or ending with castle (Newcastle). A Welsh variant is Caer- (Caernarfon).Names that include church-, kirk- or, in Wales llan- refer to a church (Offchurch, Kirkby, Llandaff). Towns where there was a monastery may have names ending in -minster (Kidderminster).Names ending with -ham (Evesham), -hampton (Southampton), -ington (Workington), -stock or -stoke (Woodstock, Basingstoke), -thorpe (Scunthorpe), -wich or -wick (Norwich, Warwick) mean that there was a village or farm there.In the US place names that refer to buildings include House, Brick Church and High Bridge. Atlanta, Georgia is named after a railway/​railroad.Some British place names refer to ancient tribes. The elements -ing and -ingham at the end of a name mean 'people of' and 'home of the people of', as in Reading ('Read's people') and Birmingham ('home of Beorma's people'). Places with names ending in -by were the homes of Viking invaders, e.g. Grimsby ('Grim's village').Some towns take their name from Christian saints, particularly if they had local connections. These include St Albans, St Andrews and St David's. Towns named after people who lived in more recent times are rare in Britain. They include Nelson, named after Lord Nelson and the new town Telford, named after the engineer Thomas Telford.By contrast, many towns in the US honour famous Americans, especially presidents. Abraham Lincoln is honoured in towns named Lincoln, Lincolnville, Lincolnwood, etc., Andrew Jackson at Jackson and Jacksonville and Thomas Jefferson at Jefferson, Jeffersonville and Jefferson City.Other towns named after famous Americans include Houston, Texas, named after Sam Houston; Cody, Wyoming, after Buffalo Bill; Boone, Tennessee, after Daniel Boone; and Custer, Montana, after General George Custer. Often the person is now little heard of, e.g. H M Shreve, a 19th century boat captain on the Mississippi River, whose name was used for Shreveport, Louisiana. A few towns are named after companies, e.g. Hershey, Pennsylvania.Many American towns are named after a place in Britain or another country from which settlers in the US originally came. British names are found especially in New England. They include Boston, Cambridge, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-sea, and Stafford. British names used in other parts of the US include the cities of New York and Birmingham, and Glasgow, a small town in Montana. Like New York (New Amsterdam), Brooklyn (Breukelyn) was originally named by Dutch settlers.Names from other countries include New Orleans, Moscow, Athens, Paris, Naples and New Holland.Americans enjoy creating unusual or humorous names, such as Tombstone in Arizona. Truth or Consequences in New Mexico is named after a radio quiz show. Other names include Cannon Ball, Pie Town, Smackover, Humble City, High Lonesome, Cut and Shoot, and Monkey's Eyebrow.
  2. 2  the town [singular] the people who live in a particular town The whole town is talking about it.
  3. 3  [uncountable] the area of a town where most of the shops/stores and businesses are Can you give me a lift into town? see also downtown, midtown, out-of-town, uptown
  4. 4[uncountable] (especially North American English) a particular town where somebody lives and works or one that has just been referred to I'll be in town next week if you want to meet. He married a girl from out of town. The gossips finally drove her out of town. This restaurant serves the best steaks in town. see also out-of-town
  5. 5[singular, uncountable] life in towns or cities as opposed to life in the country Pollution is just one of the disadvantages of living in the town. CollocationsTown and countryTown live in a city/​a town/​an urban environment/(informal) a concrete jungle/​the suburbs/​shanty towns/​slums live (especially North American English) downtown/​in the downtown area/(British English) in the city centre enjoy/​like the hectic pace of life/​the hustle and bustle of city life cope with the stress/​pressure of urban life get caught up in the rat race prefer/​seek the anonymity of life in a big city be drawn by/​resist the lure of the big city head for the bright lights (of the big city/​New York) enjoy/​love the vibrant/​lively nightlife have/​be close to all the amenities be surrounded by towering skyscrapers/​a soulless urban sprawl use/​travel by/​rely on (British English) public transport/(North American English) public transportation put up with/​get stuck in/​sit in massive/​huge/​heavy/​endless/​constant traffic jams tackle/​ease/​reduce/​relieve/​alleviate the heavy/​severe traffic congestion be affected/​choked/​damaged by pollutionCountry live in a village/​the countryside/​an isolated area/​a rural backwater/(informal) the sticks enjoy/​like the relaxed/​slower pace of life enjoy/​love/​explore the great outdoors look for/​find/​get/​enjoy a little peace and quiet need/​want to get back/​closer to nature be surrounded by open/​unspoilt/​picturesque countryside escape/​quit/​get out of/​leave the rat race seek/​achieve a better/​healthy work-life balance downshift to a less stressful life seek/​start a new life in the country (British English, informal) up sticks/ (North American English, informal ) pull up stakes and move to/​head for… create/​build/​foster a strong sense of community depend on/​be employed in/​work in agriculture live off/​farm/​work the land tackle/​address the problem of rural unemployment
  6. Word OriginOld English tūn ‘enclosed piece of land, homestead, village’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch tuin ‘garden’ and German Zaun ‘fence’. Wordfinderamenity, city, ghetto, high-rise, metropolitan, population, slum, suburb, town, urbanExtra examples Dad’s in town shopping. Darlington’s twin town of Amiens Exeter, the county town of Devon He left town yesterday for a conference in Cape Town. How many people live in the town? I spent years moving from town to town. I was out of town last week. I’m going into town—can I get you anything? It was built as a new town in the 1960s. It’s been a ghost town since the gold rush ended. Kitzbühel is an ancient fortified town with fine medieval buildings. London was a boom town and the stock market was soaring. Millie hit the town, looking for excitement. Mum’s in town doing some shopping. Rio was a boom town and trade was thriving. She has gone back to live in her home town. They wanted to move out of town and start a new life in the country. They’ll be back in town tomorrow. a 19th-century mill town that used to produce cotton a busy market town a lake just outside the town a sleepy provincial town in southern France a thriving holiday town an out-of-town superstore the dusty border town of Eagle Pass, Texas the rolling hills that surround the town the sun-drenched beach towns of Southern California Do you prefer the town to the country? I’ll be in town next week if you want to go out for a drink. Sackville is a small university town in eastern Canada.Idioms
    go to town (on something)
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    (informal) to do something with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, etc., especially by spending a lot of money They really went to town on the decorations for the party.
    a man who frequently goes to fashionable parties, clubs, theatres, etc. In his new suit, he looked quite the man about town. (informal) the most important thing of a particular type, or the only thing that is available (informal) visiting restaurants, clubs, theatres, etc. for entertainment, especially at night a night on the town How about going out on the town tonight? (informal) to go to a lot of different bars, clubs, etc. and enjoy yourself
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: town