AskDefine | Define metropolis

Dictionary Definition



1 a large and densely populated urban area; may include several independent administrative districts; "Ancient Troy was a great city" [syn: city, urban center]
2 people living in a large densely populated municipality; "the city voted for Republicans in 1994" [syn: city]

User Contributed Dictionary



First attested in : from metropolis, from μητρόπολις, from μήτηρ + πόλις.


  • a RP /mɪˈtɹɒpəlɪs/


  1. Any large, busy city, especially as the main city in an area or country or as distinguished from surrounding rural areas.
  2. The see of a metropolitan bishop.
  3. The chief city of a colony, especially in Ancient Greece.

Derived terms

rel-top Derived terms

Related terms


large, busy city
metropolitan bishop’s see
colony’s chief city
  • Finnish: metropolis
  • Russian: столица, метрополия


Extensive Definition

A metropolis (in Greek μήτηρ, mētēr meaning 'mother' and πόλις, pólis meaning 'city/town') is a big city, in most cases with over half a million inhabitants in the city proper, and with a population of at least one million living in its urban agglomeration. Big cities belonging to a larger urban agglomeration, but which are not the core of that agglomeration, are not generally considered a metropolis but a part of it. A metropolis is usually a significant economical, political and cultural center for some country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections and communications. The plural of the word is most commonly metropolises, though metropoleis is sometimes used as well.
In a broader sense, it refers to the city or state of origin of a colony (as of ancient Greece), a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or a large important city.


In the past, metropolis was the designation for a city or state of origin of a colony. Many large cities founded by ancient civilizations have been considered important world metropolises of their times due to their large populations and importance. Examples include Alexandria, Angkor, Antioch, Athens, Babylon, Beirut, Benares, Byblos, Cahokia, Carthage, Constantinople, Corinth, Damascus, Dholavira, Ephesus, Great Zimbabwe, Harappa, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Nanjing, Nineveh, Macchu Picchu, Mohenjo-Daro, Rome, Side, Siracuse, Tenochtitlan, Teotihuacan, Tikal, Tyre, Xian and Ur. Some of these ancient metropolises survived until the modern days and are among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.

Etymology and modern usage

The word comes from the Greek metropolis ("mother city"), which is how the Greek colonies of antiquity referred to their original cities, with whom they retained cultic and political-cultural connections. The word was used in post-classical Latin for the chief city of a province, the seat of the government, and in particular ecclesiastically for the seat or see of a metropolitan bishop to whom suffragan bishops were responsible. This usage equates the province with the diocese or episcopal see.
In modern usage the word is also used for a metropolitan area, a set of adjacent and interconnected cities clustered around a major urban center. In this sense "metropolitan" usually means "spanning the whole metropolis" (as in "metropolitan administration"); or "proper of a metropolis" (as in "metropolitan life", and opposed to "provincial" or "rural").

Global/world city

The concept of a Global city (or a World city) means a city that has a direct and tangible effect on global affairs through socioeconomic, cultural, and/or political means. The term has become increasingly familiar, because of the rise of globalization (i.e., global finance, communications, and travel). An attempt to define and categorize world cities by financial criteria was made by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network (GaWC), based primarily at Loughborough University in England. The study ranked cities based on their provision of "advanced producer services" such as accountancy, advertising, finance and law. The Inventory identifies three levels of world cities and several sub-ranks (See World cities ranking).
A metropolis isn't necessarily a global city, or being one, it could not be among the top ranking due to its standards of living, development, and infrastructures.

Local definitions by country


Statistics Canada defines a census metropolitan area as one or more adjacent municipalities situated around a major urban core where the urban core has a population of at least 100,000.


In India, the Census Commission defines a metropolitan city as one having a population of over 4 million. Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad are the six cities that qualify. Residents of these cities are also entitled to a higher House rent allowance. The figure only applies to the city region and not the conurbation.


The Japanese legal term to (都) is commonly translated as metropolis. Structured like a prefecture instead of a normal city, there is only one to in Japan, namely Tokyo. As of 2008, Japan has 11 other cities with populations greater than one million.

United Kingdom

Various conurbations in the United Kingdom are considered to be metropolitan areas (see Metropolitan county). The term 'Metropolis' itself is rarely used. London is archaically referred to as 'the Metropolis'.

United States

In the United States an incorporated area or group of areas having a population more than 50,000 is required to have a metropolitan planning organization in order to facilitate major infrastructure projects and to ensure financial solubility. Thus, a population of 50,000 or greater has been used as a de facto standard in the United States to define a metropolis. A similar definition is used by the United States Census Bureau. They define a metropolitan statistical area as at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants.


Like in the UK, in French , in Spanish language and Portuguese language, the cognate word métropole (Fr.) / metrópoli (Spa.) / metrópole (Port.), designates the part of a country near or on the European continent; in the case of France, this would mean France without its overseas departments; for Portugal and Spain during the Spanish Empire and Portuguese Empire period, it used to be common to designate Portugal or Spain except its colonies (the Ultramar).

Notes and references

Allen J. Scott (ed.) "Global City Regions: Trends, Theory, Policy," Oxford University Press (2001).

See also

Other city types

Planning Theories

External links

metropolis in Czech: Velkoměsto
metropolis in Danish: Storby
metropolis in German: Metropole
metropolis in Estonian: Suurlinn
metropolis in Esperanto: Metropolo
metropolis in French: Métropole
metropolis in Scottish Gaelic: Àrd-bhaile
metropolis in Italian: Metropoli
metropolis in Latvian: Metropole
metropolis in Dutch: Metropool (stad)
metropolis in Japanese: メトロポリス
metropolis in Norwegian: Metropol
metropolis in Portuguese: Metrópole
metropolis in Russian: Метрополия
metropolis in Slovak: Metropola
metropolis in Slovenian: Velemesto
metropolis in Turkish: Metropol
metropolis in Ukrainian: Метрополія

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Kreis, Stadt, archbishopric, archdiocese, arrondissement, art center, bailiwick, banlieue, bishopric, boom town, borough, bourg, burg, burgh, canton, capital, capital city, city, commune, congressional district, constablewick, conurbation, county, departement, diocese, district, duchy, electoral district, electorate, exurb, exurbia, faubourg, garment center, ghost town, government, greater city, hamlet, hundred, magistracy, manufacturing center, market town, medical center, megalopolis, metropolitan area, municipality, oblast, okrug, outskirts, parish, polis, precinct, principality, province, railroad center, region, riding, sheriffalty, sheriffwick, shipping center, shire, shopping center, shrievalty, soke, spread city, stake, state, suburb, suburbia, territory, tourist center, town, township, trade center, urban center, urban complex, urban sprawl, urbs, village, ville, wapentake, ward
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