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From Middle English city, citie, citee, cite, from Old French cité, from Latin cīvitās (“citizenry; community; a city with its hinterland”), from cīvis (“native; townsman; citizen”), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱey- (“to lie down, settle; home, family; love; beloved”).

Cognate with Old English hīwan pl (“members of one’s household, servants”). See hewe. Doublet of civitas.

Displaced native Middle English burgh, borough (“fortified town; incorporated city”) and sted, stede (“place, stead; city”).

Alternative forms

  • citie, cittie, cyte, cytee (obsolete)


  • IPA(key)/ˈsɪti/
  • (Northern England) IPA(key)/sɪtɪ/
  • (US) IPA(key)/ˈsɪɾi/


city (plural cities)

  1. A large settlement, bigger than a town; sometimes with a specific legal definition, depending on the place.
    São Paulo is the largest city in South America.
  2. (Britain) A settlement granted special status by royal charter or letters patent; traditionally, a settlement with a cathedral regardless of size.
  3. (Australia) The central business district; downtown.
    I’m going into the city today to do some shopping.
  4. (slang) A large amount of something (used after the noun).
    It’s video game city in here!
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