Word Origin & History
O.E. tun "enclosure, enclosed land with buildings," later "village," from P.Gmc. *tunaz, *tunan (cf. O.S., O.N., O.Fris. tun "fence, hedge," M.Du. tuun "fence," Du. tuin "garden," O.H.G. zun, Ger. Zaun "fence, hedge"), an early borrowing from Celtic *dunom (cf. O.Ir. dun, Welsh din "fortress, fortified
place, camp;" see down
(n.2)). Meaning "inhabited place larger than a village" (1154) arose after the Norman conquest, to correspond to Fr. ville. The modern word is partially a generic term, applicable to cities of great size as well as places intermediate between a city and a village; such use is unusual, the only parallel is perhaps L. oppidium, which occasionally was applied to Rome or Athens (each of which was more properly an urbs). First record of town hall is from 1481; townhouse "residence in a town" is from 1825. Townie "townsman, one raised in a town" is recorded from 1827, often opposed to the university students or circus workers who were just passing through. Town ball, version of baseball, is recorded from 1852. Town car (1907) originally was a motor car with an enclosed passenger compartment and open driver's seat. On the town "living the high life" is from 1712. Go to town "do (something) energetically" is first recorded 1933. Man about town "one constantly seen at public and private functions" is attested from 1734.