Word Origin & History
c.1340 (implied in suburban), "residential area outside a town or city," from O.Fr. suburbe, from L. suburbium "an outlying part of a city," from sub "below, near" + urbs (gen. urbis) "city." Close to crowds but just beyond the reach of municipal jurisdiction, suburbs in 17c., especially those of London,
had a sense of "inferior, debased, and licentious habits or life" (e.g. suburban sinner, slang for "loose woman, prostitute"). By 1817, the tinge had shifted to "inferior manners and narrow views." Compare also Fr. equivalent faubourg. Suburbanite formed 1890; suburbia first attested 1896, probably influenced by utopia, originally in England with ref. to London.
"[T]he growth of the metropolis throws vast numbers of people into distant dormitories where ... life is carried on without the discipline of rural occupations and without the cultural resources that the Central District of the city still retains." [Lewis Mumford, 1922]