city part, borough, city district, suburb

Natka

New Member
Slovak, Slovakia
Hello,

when a city is divided into parts (the city centre including), what is the best expression for them, "city parts" or borough, city district, suburb?

thanks,

Natalia
 
  • sarahjuanita

    Member
    England, English
    Well in BE the suburbs mean the areas in the outside of the city - mainly housing areas and are in general more family areas. A borough is an area of a city (inner or outer) that relates to local government - each borough has a member of parliament who represents that borough in the House of Commons. I live in London so we have Hackney, Camden, Islington etc which are all boroughs, all areas of the city. So possibly borough is the best word for you to use if you are talking about an English city in any case (we don't really use district that much to describe areas of a city), but maybe you need to check with someone from the US if you're talking about an American city.
     

    Natka

    New Member
    Slovak, Slovakia
    Thank you for response, I think a borough or city part would fit for a Slovak city, Natalia
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    when a city is divided into parts (the city centre including), what is the best expression for them, "city parts" or borough, city district, suburb?
    First of all, you should know that "city" is difficult, if not impossible, to define since people tend to refer to a large metropolitan area by the name of the dominant independent political entity of that name. Sometimes, even the U.S. Post Office contributes to the problem.

    For example, I used to live in Tigard, Oregon, which is an independent city with no connection to Portland (the larger, contiguous, city nearby). The Post Office decided that Tigard should be called "Portland" with its own postal code.

    Moreover, the U.S. Post Office has decided that everybody has to have an address with the name of a city, regardless of whether that person actually lives in that incorporated area. My mailing address is "North Plains, Oregon" but I live seven miles outside the city limits.

    Sometimes a "city" is even divided across state lines, such as Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

    The U.S. Bureau of the Census has established "Metropolitan Statistical Areas in an attempt to gain some coherence. The Portland, Oregon MSA includes not only dozens of suburbs in Oregon, but Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia River. (And some unincorporated area in both states.)

    Even more confusing is the practice of railroads of naming siding or switching facilities and the surrounding neighborhood take on that name as well, e.g. "Metzger," which is an ill-defined area around a rail siding in unincorporated area of greater Portland, presumably named for early settlers in the ares.

    The best generic term I can think of is "area," although it is best to be specific and use the appropriate term for the political entity involved. "Borough" is seldom used in the U.S., with New York City being the notable place where it applies.

    I've never heard "city parts" or "city district" but sometimes "district" is appropriate, e.g. the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. See also "suburbs" in the WRD.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Do not use the term "borough" unless you are talking about a governmentally defined portion of a city in which the "borough" performs a governmental function, and is actually called a "borough". For example, "Lambeth" is a borough of London, but "the West End" would NOT be a borough. Furthermore, in the United States "borough" is only used in New York City, and it is really synonymous there with "county"; in several other states the term "borough" means "an incorporated municipality that is smaller than a full city"; one might speak of "the borough of Lodi, New Jersey" but not "the borough of the Loop in Chicago."

    For divisions of a city that are not defined in law, I would use "neighborhood" or "area" or "district" or "section": the Trastevere district of Rome; the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. For definitions that do exist in law, I would use the term the law uses: e.g., the Fourth Ward of Houston.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Even "district" can sound too "formal," as if were a bureaucratic/administrative/governmental term. On the other hand, you often hear words like "the garment district," referring to an activity or business that is characteristic of a certain area or that traditionally took place in that part of the city. I think neighborhood is an excellent choice, but it might sound odd if it refers to a fairly large area. "Section" is an acceptable choice, if a bit dry.
     

    Chapman

    Senior Member
    English Australia
    Hello, I'm wondering about another word that we use in Australia, then. Could "shire" be the same as "borough" or "county"? My city is divided into different shires with its own local government and mayor. Thanks in advance.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Those in the UK can talk about shires; we don't have them here in the US. I think probably the rough US equivalent is county.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Hello, I'm wondering about another word that we use in Australia, then. Could "shire" be the same as "borough" or "county"? My city is divided into different shires with its own local government and mayor. Thanks in advance.
    I don't think this sounds like "county". A county usually (but not always) encompasses several cities. You are talking about units that are smaller than the city itself. I believe it's rare that a city spans multiple counties in the U.S. I can't think of an example. The Los Angeles metropolitan area includes several counties, but the city of Los Angeles is entirely within the County of Los Angeles.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    It is worth noting that in North American English, identifying an area as a "suburb" of City X means that it is not part of City X. See the following cite from Wikipedia's article "Suburb":

    A suburb is a residential area, either existing as part of a city (as in Australia and New Zealand, and generally in the United Kingdom) or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city (as in the United States and Canada).
     

    Chapman

    Senior Member
    English Australia
    Well, thanks everyone! It seems the only thing we know for sure is that words can mean so MANY different things, depending on where you are. :)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I believe it's rare that a city spans multiple counties in the U.S. I can't think of an example.
    I live in one. There are five counties, divisions of the state, in New York City. They are also the five boroughs of the city. (Some have different names; the borough of Manhattan, where I live, is New York County.)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I live in one. There are five counties, divisions of the state, in New York City. They are also the five boroughs of the city. (Some have different names; the borough of Manhattan, where I live, is New York County.)
    Does the mayor of New York City actually control the other boroughs as well? He is also the mayor of Queens, etc.? The county governments are subordinate to the city government? If so, I think this might be unique to New York.
     
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    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    Off the top of my head, I'd say London is the only British city with its own boroughs. Outside London - even if they do inside - MPs do not represent "boroughs". When I hear "borough", I think of local government. I certainly wouldn't say "Which borough does he live in?" unless, perhaps, I were a local government employee enquiring for some administrative purpose. I'd say "Which part of London does he live in?" or "Where abouts in London does he live?"
    "Borough" seems to have fallen into disuse - at least outside London. West Bromwich was a borough but now it isn't. A borough wasn't/isn't necessarily part of a city.
    No one says "city part". You could say "Which part of the city does he live in?", but this would be using the word "part" in its normal sense - it wouldn't have a special meaning pertaining to cities.
    A suburb in BE is a part of the city. "He lives in the suburbs." Suburbs aren't always on the outskirts. The phrase "inner-city suburb" in BE usually conjures up images of poor housing, unemployment, and general grottiness.
    You can say "He lives in the Hockley area of Birmingham." "District" sounds a bit formal to me. I suppose you could say "The police are searching the district/area." But this wouldn't be a named suburb. Again, I wouldn't say "Which district does he live in?" There's the Theatre District in New York (or should that be Theater District?) but a similar name applied to somewhere in GB would sound odd to me.
    "Quarter" sounds contintental to me. There's the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, but this sounds like an artificial name made up for tourists.
    Many county names in GB end in "shire" - Lincolnshire. "Shire" on its own is archaic.
     
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    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I think neighborhood would work in many cases. Besides the usual "my neighborhood" (meaning "the houses on the one or two streets right around my house"), neighborhood is also sometimes used to designate a specific or fairly specific district in a city. Indianapolis, for example, has the Fountain Square neighborhood, the Cottage Homes neighborhood, the Holy Cross neighborhood, and many more. There are also some "districts" as well, e.g., the Wholesale District. I don't think district works well as a general term, though.
     
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    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Neighbourhood" is used in BE as well, although we wouldn't give a neighbourhood a name like Fountain Square neighbourhood. There's the organisation Neighbourhood Watch, where people living in a smallish number of houses combine to protect themselves from burglars etc. You could say "He keeps the whole neighbourhood awake at night with his loud music."
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    We use neighborhood that way, too, but some cities do have recognized, long-established neighborhoods that have specific names (usually with a strong historical basis, such as the name of the founder, the name the area went by when it was a separate town, or the name of the parish), and in those cities, neighborhood has two meanings.
     
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    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    Chicagoland (the metropolitan area) has multiple counties, but the actual city of Chicago is almost exclusively in Cook County, I believe.
    Wikipedia claims that a small part of Chicago lies in DuPage County. I didn't know that, nor can I find a map that shows it (I was born there), but in no sense can Chicago be said to "have" counties, although it apparently lies in parts of two.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Don't forget that the "rules" for categorising whether a part of the country is a town or a city varies from country to country and ...?? When I was young the town where I lived was "upgraded" from a town to a city. This hardly ever happened back then but these days the upgrade seems to happen fairly often.

    What the point is, and what the reasons are, for an upgrade is unknown to me: and it leaves me cold anyway.

    GF..

    One needs to do "some research" to find out why a piece of land is denominated a city, town, village a hamlet, or whatever.
    The same sort of problem exists for a "bit/district" of whatever.
    Just lines on a map or what the locals call it, etc..

    Now why is this place a city? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Asaph. History and the law???
     

    djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    I think it depends on the city so described. One would not describe the suburbs and boroughs of London as being destricts. However I was brought up in Coventry (the midlands of England) the different regions within Coventry were called districts. Thus Coundon, Styvechal, Radford, Stoke are all districts of Coventry they were not called suburbs. I think this is the case with other towns in the Midlands.
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    I was brought up in Birmingham, which is near Coventry. We didn't speak of districts. We said "Great Barr is a suburb of Birmingham". I suppose "district" wouldn't have been wrong. It's just that we didn't say it. But even in Coventry people live in the suburbs and not in the districts.
    (In GB a town is a city if it's received its city charter from the monarch. Derby was an ordinary town but is now a city. It's not the case, as some people still believe, that a city needs a cathedral. Some cities, e.g. Hereford, are knows as "cathedral cities" because they're most famous for their cathedrals.)
     
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