town vs. city

English translation: 'cathedral city' - but see explanation below

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07:49 Aug 18, 2004
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Other
English term or phrase: town vs. city
What is the actual difference between the two terms? I always thought it is the matter of size, however, it is not necessarily the case in the following text:
The Commission believes that a corresponding requirement could be set at the EU level that would apply to all capital cities and towns and cities of more than 100,000 nhabitants,
covering the 500 largest towns and cities in the EU 25. This point will be the subject of further consultations in 2004, amongst others in the context of a specific working group of
experts and stakeholders.
Jakub Szacki
Poland
Local time: 21:56
English translation:'cathedral city' - but see explanation below
Explanation:
Traditionally, in British Englsih, a city was a town with a cathedral, and all the others were simply towns.

They are all towns, including (in English national eyes) the mother of them all, London Town. I think what most people understand as a city is one with government buildings, a university, maybe a cathedral still, theatres, cultural centres etc.

If a town 'only' serves as a shopping centre, workplace and central point for (primary) schools, local government and transport, it would not be called a city.

So some 'cities' are in fact small in terms of area and population, but have long cultural traditions, and some towns have grown large because of industry and good transport connections without ever developing the 'heart' that makes a true city.

If in doubt, I always write town, but some people occasionally feel I am underrating their 'city', so I try to find out what kind of conurbation it is whenever possible.

I don't think native speakers regard cities as 'finer' or better than towns. There are just different facilities - and a town may be far better and more convenient for shopping than a congested city with narrow streets and nowhere to park your car!

*****
city
· n. (pl. cities)
1 a large town, in particular (Brit.) a town created a city by charter and containing a cathedral. Ø N. Amer. a municipal centre incorporated by the state or province.
2 (the City) the part of London governed by the Lord Mayor and the Corporation. Ø the financial and commercial institutions in this part of London.
– DERIVATIVES cityward adj. & adv. citywards adv.
– ORIGIN ME (orig. denoting a town): from OFr. cite, from L. civitas, from civis ‘citizen’.

*****
town
· n.
1 a built-up area with a name, defined boundaries, and local government, that is larger than a village and generally smaller than a city. Ø Brit. dated the chief city or town of a region.
2 the central part of a neighbourhood, with its business or shopping area.
3 densely populated areas, especially as contrasted with the country or suburbs.
4 the permanent residents of a university town. Often contrasted with gown.
5 N. Amer. another term for township (in sense 3).
– PHRASES go to town informal do something thoroughly or enthusiastically. on the town informal enjoying the nightlife of a city or town.
– DERIVATIVES townish adj. townlet n. townward adj. & adv. townwards adv.
– ORIGIN OE tGn ‘enclosed piece of land, homestead, village’, of Gmc origin.
*****

There are guaranteed other references and opinions, but that is my two penn'orth!
Selected response from:

Christine Andersen
Denmark
Local time: 21:56
Grading comment
Thanks a lot! JS
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +13'cathedral city' - but see explanation below
Christine Andersen
4 +2city is incorporated
danya
4useful ref. for the UK (not for kudos)
DGK T-I


Discussion entries: 2





  

Answers


24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +13
'cathedral city' - but see explanation below


Explanation:
Traditionally, in British Englsih, a city was a town with a cathedral, and all the others were simply towns.

They are all towns, including (in English national eyes) the mother of them all, London Town. I think what most people understand as a city is one with government buildings, a university, maybe a cathedral still, theatres, cultural centres etc.

If a town 'only' serves as a shopping centre, workplace and central point for (primary) schools, local government and transport, it would not be called a city.

So some 'cities' are in fact small in terms of area and population, but have long cultural traditions, and some towns have grown large because of industry and good transport connections without ever developing the 'heart' that makes a true city.

If in doubt, I always write town, but some people occasionally feel I am underrating their 'city', so I try to find out what kind of conurbation it is whenever possible.

I don't think native speakers regard cities as 'finer' or better than towns. There are just different facilities - and a town may be far better and more convenient for shopping than a congested city with narrow streets and nowhere to park your car!

*****
city
· n. (pl. cities)
1 a large town, in particular (Brit.) a town created a city by charter and containing a cathedral. Ø N. Amer. a municipal centre incorporated by the state or province.
2 (the City) the part of London governed by the Lord Mayor and the Corporation. Ø the financial and commercial institutions in this part of London.
– DERIVATIVES cityward adj. & adv. citywards adv.
– ORIGIN ME (orig. denoting a town): from OFr. cite, from L. civitas, from civis ‘citizen’.

*****
town
· n.
1 a built-up area with a name, defined boundaries, and local government, that is larger than a village and generally smaller than a city. Ø Brit. dated the chief city or town of a region.
2 the central part of a neighbourhood, with its business or shopping area.
3 densely populated areas, especially as contrasted with the country or suburbs.
4 the permanent residents of a university town. Often contrasted with gown.
5 N. Amer. another term for township (in sense 3).
– PHRASES go to town informal do something thoroughly or enthusiastically. on the town informal enjoying the nightlife of a city or town.
– DERIVATIVES townish adj. townlet n. townward adj. & adv. townwards adv.
– ORIGIN OE tGn ‘enclosed piece of land, homestead, village’, of Gmc origin.
*****

There are guaranteed other references and opinions, but that is my two penn'orth!


    Concise Oxford Dictionary
Christine Andersen
Denmark
Local time: 21:56
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
Grading comment
Thanks a lot! JS

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Margaret Lagoyianni: A very clear and detailed explanation
35 mins

agree  Empty Whiskey Glass
47 mins

agree  RachC
1 hr

agree  Dr Andrew Read: Good explanation - the US difference is important - there they're much more likely to use city about a very small place. In GB EN, the phrase "towns and cities" as in your example is very useful to keep it general.
1 hr

agree  chopra_2002
2 hrs

agree  Jane Gabbutt: I agree, a city to me has always been a town with a cathedral
3 hrs

agree  Julie Roy: just brilliant
5 hrs

agree  Saleh Chowdhury, Ph.D.
5 hrs

agree  Asghar Bhatti
6 hrs

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
9 hrs

agree  Nik-On/Off: Thank you. Now I know what the difference is
10 hrs

agree  DGK T-I: agree Christine & Andrew. In the UK the technical definition depends on whether the royal charter has been conferred(yet),so some places that deserve to be called cities are towns in name,because newer.Also not all langs distinguish city/town (EU doc!)
13 hrs

agree  Paul Dixon: Agree - city has cathedral, town does not. (So you can have large towns and tiny cities like Wells, in Somerset)
1 day 10 hrs
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
city is incorporated


Explanation:
.

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Note added at 13 mins (2004-08-18 08:03:12 GMT)
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from my dic: CITY - (in Britain) a large town that has received this title from the Crown: usually the seat of a bishop
(in the U.S.) an incorporated urban centre with its own government and administration established by state charter
(in Canada) a similar urban municipality incorporated by the provincial government

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 51 mins (2004-08-18 08:41:32 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

i\'m not British, so my view is valuable for its being a reflection of outsider\'s perception :-))))
i perceive city as having longer history behind - Roman pavements and bridges, Gothic spires here and there.... more \"finesse\" about them;
whereas towns are down-to-earth and matter-of-fact places to live in, no charisma or airs to put on :-)

danya
Local time: 22:56
Native speaker of: Native in RussianRussian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  eldira: a town also; see M.Websters definition of a town: "a compactly settled area usually larger than a village but smaller than a city in population and usually incorporated and given definite boundaries and powers by law : a small municipality "
32 mins
  -> thanks

neutral  moken: Hi Danya. Don't forget that this text seems to refer to towns/cities in the European Union. The Canadian or U.S. definition of the term would not seem relevant here. :O) :O)
1 hr
  -> just to make the picture complete

agree  DGK T-I: (UK) technically a city is a city because it has a royal charter conferring the title(I wouldn't use incorporated for this in the UK-as city & town corporations).Eg: Bath is a city & some much larger places are(technically)towns. (Informally-city bigger)
14 hrs
  -> thanks - and thanks for the link in your answer

agree  Christine Andersen: Great to have the outsider's view - I deliberately played on being a British 'insider', but we must remember we are talking to the rest of the world as well!
22 hrs
  -> thank you.
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1 day 16 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
useful ref. for the UK (not for kudos)


Explanation:
Also, an EU document although in English is quite likely to take into account concepts of towns and cities in other member countries, where their languages make the distinction.


    Reference: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/City-status-in-the-...
DGK T-I
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:56
PRO pts in category: 12
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