Urban heavy rail system (metro / subway / underground)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by vince, Jul 7, 2014.

  1. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Hello everyone,

    Is there a word for urban heavy rail systems in your language? Such as "metro", "subway", "underground", "urban train", etc?

    To be clear, "urban heavy rail systems" are intracity trains that run very frequently (at least every 15 minutes even on weekends), are completely separated from road traffic by either being underground or elevated, and have high capacity. They're different from light rail / streetcars that are lower capacity and may cross roads requiring cars to stop for them, and they are also different from commuter rail systems in that commuter rail systems don't run all day and are generally very infrequent (once every half hour or hour), often share train tracks with freight trains, and go from the city to far suburbs and generally more expensive.

    Does/do the word(s) in your language depend on whether the train is above ground or underground, and are there words specific to a city? I'm curious as to what languages whose native region don't contain such urban trains call these trains.

    In English, the word used depends on the city. You generally don't call the NYC subway the "Underground", nor would you call the Washington Metro train the "subway". Some cities that have a mixture of heavy rail and light rail systems use the same word for both, e.g. the Boston "T".
  2. ilocas2 Senior Member


    metro - most used, in spoken language it's by far the most used word
    podzemní dráha (there is abbreviation podzemka) - underground track
    there is also slang name krtek (mole), but it's not much frequent

    In Czech Republic it's only in Prague, most of it is under the ground, some sections are above the ground.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  3. ESustad Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    English - (Minnesota)
    In the US, the names vary according to city/system. Here in Washington, it's the Metro. In New York, it's the subway. In Boston, it's the T. In Chicago, it's the El.
  4. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Swedish: tunnelbana (tunnel way). It can be used about any subway/underground/metro system wherever in the world it is (or we use the "native" name). The only city in Sweden with a tunnelbana is Stockholm and it part underground, part above ground. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_metro
  5. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:

    Metro: «Μετρό» [me'tro] (neut.) < Fr. "chemin de fer Metropolitain"

    Subway, Underground:

    (1) «Υπόγειος» [i'poʝi.os] (masc.) < Classical adj. «ὑπόγειος, -ος, -ον» hŭpógeiŏs (masc. & fem.), hŭpógeiŏn (neut.) --> underground, subterraneous < compound; prefix, preposition and adv. «ὑπό» hūpó --> under, underneath, below, down (to), by, because of (PIE *upo-, below, under cf Skt. उप (upa), above, below; Lat. sub) + Classical fem. noun «γῆ» gê --> earth (with unknown etymology).

    (2) «Ηλεκτρικός» [ilektri'kos] (masc.) < Modern Gr. adj. (1766) calqued from the Eng. electric < Classical neut. adj. «ἤλεκτρος, -ος, ἤλεκτρον» ḗlĕktrŏs (masc. & fem.), ḗlĕktrŏn (neut.) --> of golden colour mixed with silver, amber (with obscure etymology).

    Both (1) and (2) are masculine because they are nominalised adj. that used to qualify the masc. noun «σιδηρόδρομος» [siði'roðromos] --> railroad a modern construction (1833) calqued from the Fr. "chemin de fer".

    Urban: «Αστικός» [asti'kos] (masc.) < Classical adj. «ἀστικός, -κὴ, -κόν» ăstīkós (masc.), ăstīkḕ (fem.), ăstīkón (neut.) --> of a town < Classical 3rd declension neut. noun «ἄστῠ» ástŭ --> town (PIE *ueh₂stu-, town cf Skt. वास्तु (vAstu), dwelling place, perhaps Hitt. ḫuiš-, to live).

    Suburban: «Προαστιακός» [pro.asti.a'kos] (masc.) < Classical adj. «προαστιακός, -κὴ, -κόν» prŏăstĭākós (masc.), prŏăstĭākḕ (fem.), prŏăstĭākón (neut.) --> suburban < compound; prefix, preposition and adv. «πρό» pró --> forth, forward, before, for (PIE *pro, forward cf Skt. प्र (pra), before, forward) + Classical 3rd declension neut. noun «ἄστῠ» ástŭ (see above)
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  6. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Why μετρό? I should expect μητρό (< μητρόπολις mētrópolis < μήτηρ, gen. μητρός).

    In French it is written le métro < métropolitain, by the way.
  7. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm not asking about these terms unless you can use "Υπόγειος" to mean underground railway. In fact the word New Yorkers and a few other American cities use, "subway", used to refer to underpasses and underground pedestrian walkways, and this is what the word continues to mean in the UK.
  8. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    I don't know why we use the French pronunciation and not the Greek one, we've been calling the subway, «μετρό» [me'tro] since...ever.
    Yes thanks, I forgot the accent aigu ;)
    Indeed with «υπόγειος» [i'poʝi.os] (masc.) we name the underground railway. Masculine because railway is masculine.
    On the other hand the underground pedestrian walkway is «υπόγεια διάβαση» [i'poʝi.a ði'avasi] (both feminine). Feminine because walkway («διάβαση» [ði'avasi]) is a feminine noun.
    The masculine «υπόγειος» [i'poʝi.os] 99 out of 100 times refers to the underground railway.
  9. Словеса Senior Member

    All over Russia, they are called «метро» (exactly like in Greek). The stress is on the last syllable because the word is borrowed from French. We have metro only in major cities, I don't remember how many, but the word, I believe, must be the same all over Russia, even where there is no metro. The word does not depend on whether the tracks are above the ground or under the ground (in Moscow, parts of metro are on the ground), but it depends on technology in use. In Moscow, there is also monorail (called the same in Russian, «монорельс», the trains use a single elevated track made of concrete). The period of metro trains is about 2 — 4 minutes, on weekends it's enough, but peak hours can be a problem. Cannot say what is the period for monorail trains. Metro does not run all day, it's closed at night.
  10. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    By "all day", I meant daylight hours. There aren't many metro systems in the world that are 24 hours, I know that NYC is one of the special few.
  11. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    There is also a colloquial term подзéмка ("podzémka"), which can be translated as "underground" ("under" + the root for "ground/earth/land" + auxilary noun suffix).
    And the most official term is "метрополитéн" ("metropolitén").
  12. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I think that Vancouver, Canada uses the term "SkyTrain" (the official name of their underground/elevated rail system).

    On the west coast of the US, I don't know if there is any *city* rail system that fits the OP's requirement about not crossing roads: most larger cities have some combination of underground, street-level and (sometimes) elevated rails.

    The San Francisco (CA) area has an underground/elevated rail system called BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), which most people simply refer to as "BART", but it seems closer to the OP's definition of "commuter rail" since it connects a large number of cities, and only has a few stops in each city.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2014
  13. Словеса Senior Member

    "Podzemka" I heard only in relation to NYC. As for the second word, I agree, though I have never heard this word used colloquially either, only in some official papers and announcements. ;-)
  14. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    SkyTrain is technically not an urban heavy rail system, it's somewhere between light and heavy rail. Urban transportation geeks squabble over what exactly BART is, because its physical construction is that of a heavy rail system but its fare structure and schedule is more like a commuter rail except for where all the lines meet in SF. Then you've got San Francisco's Muni Metro, which, despite its name, is not a heavy rail system but an underground light rail / streetcar. If I'm not mistaken, people in the Bay Area don't call BART or Muni "the subway" or "the metro", do they?

    The Los Angeles Metro's Red and Purple lines meet the requirements of urban heavy rail. The other lines are light rail with the exception of the Silver and Orange lines which aren't even rail systems at all. If I'm not mistaken, the public simply calls the whole system "the metro" or "Metro Rail" without distinguishing the Red and Purple lines.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2014
  15. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    People might sometimes say "the subway" to distinguish underground transportation from street-level, but otherwise it doesn't seem very common.

    What you say about BART seems to apply to Caltrain (another SF area system) as well: large train cars and traditional tracks, but primarily used for inter-city transport, with about one stop per city.
  16. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    As far as I know, we use "le métro" in all cases.
  17. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Although the formal name for London's underground rail system is the Underground, it's popular name is the Tube. Even in the documentation, and on the website, of London Transport (I can't get used to the new name: Transport for London), the Underground is frequently called the Tube.

  18. YellowOnline

    YellowOnline Senior Member

    Berlin, Germany
    Dutch - Belgium
    Dutch: (de) metro (from French)
    German: (die) U-bahn (< (die) Untergrundbahn ≈ (the) underground rail)

Share This Page