This context comes from the movie "Se7en" by David Fincher.

Lab report came up from downtown. They did a quickie on Doe's clothing and nails.

Is "up" an adverb which means:

ADV 4. to a more central or a more northerly place; " was transferred up to headquarters"; "up to Canada for a vacation" (Princetown WordNet 3.0)

Also if this is the case I assume that "downtown" must mean:

the lower part of a city, esp the main commercial area (Collins English Dictionary)

...whether it is "the business center of a city or town." or not.

  • 1
    'Downtown' just means the central business district of a city, and there is no implication of being physically lower in altitude, or to the south of some other place. Whatever the direction of travel, you go 'up' from downtown to some other part of the town or city (up is the opposite of down). Mar 17 at 20:07
  • When you say that there is no implication, you mean the context from the movie right? Otherwise, how would you explain this definition from Merriam-Webster? ": the lower part of a city or town" Mar 17 at 20:16
  • Merriam-Webster says 'the lower part or business center of a city or town'. Mar 17 at 20:20
  • @Michael Harvey: If "downtown" means "city center" you can surely travel "down" meaning south from "downtown". I'm I correct? Mar 18 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


'Downtown' means the central part of a city. It would seem that the lab that processed the report is located there. It is very common for organisations that have sites across multiple locations to refer to each site by its location.

'Came up' can have a few different meanings. If the lab weren't located somewhere else, it could mean that it came up from a lower floor, but that isn't relevant here. It could mean that the lab is located south of the current location, so it 'came up' in a northerly direction. The phrase can also mean that something emerged or became available - for example, we might say "the lab came up with these results..." meaning they produced them.

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    I think you got it right. I'm kinda annoyed with myself that I didn't realize it on my own and wasted your time. What I failed to realize is that "downtown" in this film is located in the "south" even though (judging by your comments) this sense of the word is obsolete, and that "up" means north, which is where the character speaking that line is. It was very simple and I probably got confused because of the reasons, for what it's worth, I listed below in the reply to Jay Mar 18 at 17:34

Your definition says "northerly", but I think that "up" simply contrasts with "down" in "downtown". In New York, for example, someone could say that sentence even in lower Brooklyn, which is south of the city's downtown.

When discussing police matters, "downtown" often refers to a more central police office, which is usually located in a city's downtown. Forensics laboratories are often contained in such offices, and that appears to be the case here.

(By the way, I don't know what "Farlex clipart collection" is, but it doesn't sound like a dictionary. People on ELL tend to use one of the major online dictionaries, which are mostly of high quality and easy to link to.)

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    I replaced "farlex clipart collection" with the accurate source the OP must have inadvertently copied the accompanying images.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 17 at 21:59

As others have noted, "downtown" means the central business district of a city. The definition you cite saying it can mean "the lower part of a city" ... I've never heard the word used that way. Perhaps that is an obsolete or specialized meaning. But in normal conversation, "downdown" means "where the stores are".

I read once many years ago that this definition came from New York City, where the main streets are all numbered -- First Avenue, Second Avenue, etc -- and at one time the business district was the lower numbers. I don't know if that's true and I don't think it's true today, so maybe useless tidbit.

"Up" CAN mean to a more northerly place to a place of higher elevation. But that's unlikely to be the meaning here. Usually in this context one would say that the report "came in". Like, "The lab report just came in from the downtown office". Perhaps they are using "up" here as the opposite of the "down" in "downtown": it "came up from downtown". This isn't a common usage anywhere I've lived, but it might be in this particular city. Any place I've lived, we call the business district "downtown", but no one talks about going "down" there or going "up" from there. Anyone else on here heard this usage?

  • I read that definition for "downtown" as well quite recently. You got it a little wrong. "downtown" came from the fact the district was located south of the residential area of Manhattan which is called Upper Manhattan for similar reasons. The term "downtown" meaning "city center" comes from the fact that this south district of Manhattan was the center of business activity. The term "uptown" also originated because of the location of the "residential" area of Manhattan. What is confusing to one like me who is learning English as a second language are the adverbs like up and down... Mar 18 at 17:37
  • "up" meaning - to a more central or a more northerly place; "was transferred up to headquarters" "down" meaning- away from a more important place: down from London. So if the report "came up" from downtown, it seems to me that it came to a more central place. But its downtown which is the more central place. Mar 18 at 17:38
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    @StaticBounce People sometimes use "up" to refer to something moving from a place of lower authority to a place of higher authority. Like, "The employee suggestions go from the field offices up to corporate headquarters." Or, "Jack moved up from factory manager to an executive office." (Though in that last case, it could be ambiguous as executive offices are often on higher floors in the building.) Perhaps that is the intended meaning here.
    – Jay
    Mar 18 at 18:16
  • @StaticBounce Years ago I came across a source that said uptown/downtown came from street numbers. I can't find that source now (in an admittedly brief search because I don't care very much!), so I just throw it out there for discussion and amusement. I can't vouch for it.
    – Jay
    Mar 18 at 18:18
  • That last comment was very informative for me. Thanks:) Mar 19 at 19:05

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