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[toun] /taʊn/
a thickly populated area, usually smaller than a city and larger than a village, having fixed boundaries and certain local powers of government.
a densely populated area of considerable size, as a city or borough.
(especially in New England) a municipal corporation with less elaborate organization and powers than a city.
(in most U.S. states except those of New England) a township.
any urban area, as contrasted with its surrounding countryside.
the inhabitants of a town; townspeople; citizenry.
the particular town or city in mind or referred to:
living on the outskirts of town; to be out of town.
a nearby or neighboring city; the chief town or city in a district:
I am staying at a friend's apartment in town.
the main business or shopping area in a town or city; downtown.
  1. a village or hamlet in which a periodic market or fair is held.
  2. any village or hamlet.
Scot. a farmstead.
of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or belonging to a town:
town laws; town government; town constable.
go to town, Informal.
  1. to be successful.
  2. to do well, efficiently, or speedily:
    The engineers really went to town on those plans.
  3. to lose restraint or inhibition; overindulge.
on the town,
  1. Informal. in quest of entertainment in a city's nightclubs, bars, etc.; out to have a good time:
    a bunch of college kids out on the town.
  2. supported by the public charity of the state or community; on relief.
paint the town. paint (def 16).
before 900; Middle English toun, tun, Old English tūn walled or fenced place, courtyard, farmstead, village; cognate with Old Norse tūn homefield, German Zaun fence, Old Irish dún fort
Related forms
townless, adjective
intertown, adjective
1. See community. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for towns
  • These acts employed promoters to book shows in towns ahead of time.
  • Many important reforms were made and many towns were founded.
  • The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people to the towns.
  • Those towns had become fortresses and showed more reliable loyalty to him than to others.
  • Prefectures are governmental bodies larger than cities, towns, and villages.
  • The majority of these cities and towns are within one of five metropolitan areas.
  • There is a difference between disease outbreaks in rural or forest areas and in towns.
  • The following towns and communities share borderlines with the city of pforzheim.
  • towns he spreads his message of change to are often destroyed.
  • His late dates and early morning parties were the talk of several towns.
British Dictionary definitions for towns


  1. a densely populated urban area, typically smaller than a city and larger than a village, having some local powers of government and a fixed boundary
  2. (as modifier): town life, related adjective urban
a city, borough, or other urban area
(in the US) a territorial unit of local government that is smaller than a county; township
the nearest town or commercial district
London or the chief city of an area
the inhabitants of a town
the permanent residents of a university town as opposed to the university staff and students Compare gown (sense 3)
go to town
  1. to make a supreme or unrestricted effort; go all out
  2. (Austral & NZ, informal) to lose one's temper
on the town, seeking out entertainments and amusements
Derived Forms
townish, adjective
townless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English tūn village; related to Old Saxon, Old Norse tūn, Old High German zūn fence, Old Irish dūn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for towns



Old English tun "enclosure, garden, field, yard; farm, manor; homestead, dwelling house, mansion;" later "group of houses, village, farm," from Proto-Germanic *tunaz, *tunan (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian tun "fence, hedge," Middle Dutch tuun "fence," Dutch tuin "garden," Old High German zun, German Zaun "fence, hedge"), an early borrowing from Celtic *dunom (cf. Old Irish dun, Welsh din "fortress, fortified place, camp," dinas "city;" see down (n.2)).

Meaning "inhabited place larger than a village" (mid-12c.) arose after the Norman conquest, to correspond to French 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 Latin oppidium, which occasionally was applied to Rome or Athens (each of which was more properly an urbs).

First record of town hall is from late 15c. 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for towns


Related Terms

throw in the towel



Any person who wears a turban, esp a person from the Middle East (1985+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with towns
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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