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I want to describe two types of cities: one city is crowded, i.e., has a lot of population in a small area, while the other city is the opposite - it is uncrowded. For reasons of style, I want to use another antonym that does not contain the root "crowded". Any ideas?

Maybe the word "crowded" is unfit in this context. If so, what other words should I use?

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    Sparsely populated? Deserted? A ghost town? Just how uncrowded is it? – snailplane Nov 20 '13 at 7:08
  • And do tell us why uncrowded is unsuitable. – Jim Nov 20 '13 at 7:54
  • @Jim I feel the word crowded is suitable to describe smaller places such as streets and markets. When it comes to describe a town, city or country (larger areas), we probably prefer using the word 'dense'. Correct me if I'm missing something. – Maulik V Nov 20 '13 at 9:07
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    @Maulik - The word crowded works as a fine adjective for a city, although I'll grant you that "a crowded city" is probably often interpreted to mean "a city with crowded streets and marketplaces." As for dense, I would never say, "a dense city," although I might say "a densely populated city." – J.R. Nov 20 '13 at 9:35
  • @Jim uncrowded is suitable, but, for reasons of style, I prefer to use a word of a different root. It sounds a little better to not use two words with the same root too closely. – Erel Segal-Halevi Nov 20 '13 at 10:25
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To describe a city in this context, I would prefer this:

New York City is very densely populated.
Athens is sparsely populated.

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  • "Very" is not normally used with strong adjectives or adverbs. You can say: "Very hot", but not usually "very boiling." – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 9:15
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    @Mari-LouA - Perhaps there's some truth to that, but "very densely populated" sounds quite natural to my ear. Moreover, that exact phrase is found in many books. – J.R. Nov 20 '13 at 9:18
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    One upvote from me then! – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 9:27
  • @Mari-LouA Although I don't think your example perfectly matches this sentence, you touch on a good point. When writing English, you can often go through and replace "very something" with a more descriptive adjective to improve the quality of the writing. Some examples: very hot becomes scorching, very cold becomes frigid, very tired becomes exhausted, etc. It can make your writing much more interesting. Err.. I mean, it can make it enthralling. :) – Gray Nov 20 '13 at 13:31
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    The intensifier very can only modify words that are gradable, and since boiling isn't, *very boiling doesn't work (except in an informal sense, the same way someone might say a woman is very pregnant). Phrases like very densely and very sparsely are fine. (Personally, I like very. I think it's got a worse reputation than it deserves!) – snailplane Nov 20 '13 at 22:41
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It has a high population ---> a low population

A busy city ----> a quiet city

A crowded street ---> an empty street

The city centre is crowded ---> the city centre is uncrowded

The city centre is chaotic ---> the city centre is calm

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You can use any of the following words or phrases:

Canary Wharf on Christmas Day was completely deserted.

I went out of my hotel at 3am and the streets were empty.

The town I grew up in is very sleepy compared with the hustle and bustle of central Manhattan.

After the zombies came, Moscow felt vacant and deserted - a mere shadow of the once proud city I had grown to love.

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    These phrases sound too strong. The uncrowded city I refer to is not "deserted", "empty", "sleepy" or "vacant". It has a healthy amount of population, like a village or a suburban region, but it not crowded like a big city. – Erel Segal-Halevi Nov 20 '13 at 7:13
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    @ErelSegalHalevi: "sleepy" does not mean "deserted". It just means that it is not noisy and crowded. – Matt Nov 20 '13 at 7:15
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    You can also say "felt deserted" which does not mean there is nobody there - merely that there is very few people there. I.e. it is uncrowded. – Matt Nov 20 '13 at 7:16
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    @ErelSegalHalevi: A "sleepy village" is a village that is peaceful and quiet. It does not mean that the people there are sleepy, or that they are docile. Indeed, as anyone that has lived in a sleepy village will tell you, often the residents can be anything but sleepy and docile! – Matt Nov 20 '13 at 7:19
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    I would agree with @Jim that an apt opposite of sleepy is bustling, but I also agree with Matt that sleepy has a strong connotation of being uncrowded. I suppose Denise awoke in the sleepy, crowded city is possible, but that does have a rather oxymoronic feel to it. – J.R. Nov 20 '13 at 9:22
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If you were talking about an apartment instead of a city, I would suggest roomy or spatial as antonyms for crowded. However, I don't think either one of those words works very well when describing a more sparsely populated city.

What I think you could use, though, (at least in some contexts) is the term breathing room:

Tokyo is a crowded city. Nagano has a lot more breathing room.

TFD lists “sufficient room for easy breathing or movement” as a definition of breathing room, with this example usage: “moved to the country to find breathing room.” A related expression is elbow room.

In a more formal context, a related term is population density (the population of a city divided by its area). Crowded cities have a high population density, while "uncrowded" cities have a relatively low population density.

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