A vast, sprawling metropolis (Words for describing cities)

skyline of city buildings lit up at sunset
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by Kate Woodford

It’s reckoned that around 55% of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. With this in mind, I thought we’d take a look at the sort of words we use to describe urban and suburban areas. I hope you find it useful.

Let’s start with adjectives relating to size. A word meaning ‘relating to a large city’ is metropolitan. (A metropolis is a very large city.) It ranks as one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the US. A city that is described as sprawling covers a large area, usually in a rather untidy way, with various parts built at different times: Today, it’s a sprawling metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants.

A city – or part of a city – that is smart, with big, expensive houses is often described as affluent: They live in one of the more affluent neighbourhoods. Another adjective used like this is prosperous: He grew up in the relatively prosperous suburb of Hall Green.

The opposite – a poor area of the city – may be described as deprived: The borough includes some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. To describe an area where the buildings are in poor condition and look neglected, you can use the word run-down: She lived in a run-down council estate in the north of the city.

A residential area of a city has only private houses, not buildings such as offices or factories: The neighbourhood is predominantly residential. A built-up area of the town has a lot of buildings, especially houses: They’re talking about bringing the speed limit down in built-up areas.

Even in built-up areas, most of us like to see a little nature. A street that has plenty of trees may be described, approvingly, as tree-lined: He proudly showed me his house, which sits on a quiet, tree-lined street. The adjective leafy describes a place that is pleasant because there are plenty of trees: She grew up in a leafy suburban neighbourhood to the west of the city.

Now let’s think about what is happening in the cities. A part of the city that is very lively, with lots of people and activity may be described as bustling: This was once the city’s bustling marketplace. The adjective vibrant describes an exciting city or neighbourhood which is full of life: The streets of this vibrant city teem with colour and excitement.

Regarding the residents of a city, a place that is cosmopolitan has people from many different parts of the world, in a way that makes it very attractive: New York is a highly cosmopolitan city. A city with many people living in it may be described, formally, as populous: It was at the time Italy’s most populous city.

If you live in a city, do any of the above adjectives describe it? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear!

15 thoughts on “A vast, sprawling metropolis (Words for describing cities)

  1. amossoise

    i ENJOY LEARNING NEW ENGLISH WORDS. ENGLISH IS NOT MY MOTHER TONGUE AND I TRY MY BEST TO IMPROVE MY ENGLISH READING, WRITING AND SPEAING.

      1. Rashmi

        I live in Ranchi in one of populous city of India which is quite leafy with many scenic view points like Patratu which is a valley, and many water falls like Hundru, Dasam and Rani fall and manymore. It’s not a sprawling city but predominantly residential city with vibrant and bustling neighborhood.

  2. Denis

    Brilliant post!
    As far as I’m concerned, Moscow is essentially a hectic, diverse city with all of its hustle and bustle, although you can always take your time and relax beside the fountain in Pushkin Square or stroll along the tree-lined boulevards in Gorky Park – Moscow’s famous central park, which is a very leafy place indeed.

  3. If you ask me, I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s a cosmopolitan and boom city where there are wonderful beaches within a touching distance of restaurants, clubs, bars and suchlike. For that matter, citizens tend to sightsee around the town in order to appreciate the pleasant surroundings as well as lead a different lifestyle. Additionaly, there are a few unmissable landmarks such as Sugar Loaf Cable Car and Christ the Redeemer, they offer any of us an incredible overlook of the city which includes run-down and affluent areas surround them.

    1. I live in a place which there is injustice of economy. the most of the people do not have a formal job also Other ones colect vegetables which were through to the street at the end of the day on sundays. Moreover, there are many people apart of Venezuelans who begs everyday on the streets around my city. I consider this is a deprived city according the words I learned. the run-down area is a miserable life which many people have gotten due to inflation and bad adminstration of politics.

    2. Gustavo Dufrayer

      I was born in Rio and have been living here for 55 years. I totally agree with Mattew’s view of the city.

  4. Kashmir’s capital city is quite sprawling with a mix of affluent and deprived neighborhoods and when it comes to my neighborhood, it’s a leafy place to live in.

    Thanks ma’am for this wonderful post 🙂

  5. Scorpio

    Dublin is the most populous city in Ireland. It is definitely very cosmopolitan. The neighbourhoods Dublin 1 and Dublin 2 are bustling and the are where I live is leafy.

  6. Thy Vanna

    So grabbing all related to one in all. Thank you to learn metropolis, city, run-down area, populous neighborhood, residential area.
    My city is the capital Phnom Penh with its legend of a grandmother dragging a Koki tree (Buddha tree) from the Mekong river to the shore with four statues so as to make a human-built mountain to keep the them for warship

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