City vs. Town vs. Village: How to Describe Places Image

City and town are often used interchangeably, as are town and village. However, there are several distinctions that make these 3 terms unique from one another.

Whether you’re trying to describe the place you live or wondering what to call the fictional setting of your book, there’s a proper term for most settlements.

Learn the difference between cities, towns, and villages below, and see examples to help you understand their distinctions.

Village Definition and Examples

Let’s start with the smallest of the 3 terms. A village is a small community, or an incorporated minor municipality. It is smaller than a town and usually located in a rural area.

village image

The town of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, England. Photo courtesy of Saffron Blaze via Wikimedia Commons.

Examples of villages:

  • Collina, Friulli, Italy
  • Riquewihr, Alsace, France
  • Castle Combe, Wiltshire, England
  • Saldanda, Nepal

Town Definition and Examples

Town defined by Merriam-Webster as “a compactly settled area usually larger than a village but smaller than a city.”

That sounds pretty vague, but it’s important to note that a town is distinguished by defined boundaries and a local government.

Keep in mind that just as there are differences between British and American spelling, there are also slight cultural differences around the world regarding just what constitutes a town or village.

However, you can find some common examples of towns below.

town image

The town of Davos, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Examples of towns:

  • Reading, England
  • Skalica, Slovakia
  • Davos, Switzerland
  • Fátima, Portugal
  • Çeşme, Turkey

City Definition and Examples

According to Merriam-Webster, a city is considered “an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village.” Therefore, to understand the scale of a city, you’ll have to understand how the first two on this list are characterized.

In American English, city is defined as a municipality with its own local government, while the British specify even further that it is “created by charter and usually contains a cathedral.”

city image

City of Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Jim Trodel via Flickr.

Examples of cities:

  • Rome, Italy
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Paris, France
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Albany, New York

Describe Your Setting

Do you live in a city, village, or town? Which word best describes the places you read or write about?

Learn the difference between these 3 terms so you can describe settings more accurately and with greater precision.

Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!


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