Speaking about someone from a rural area, should we rather say "he's living in village" or "he's living on country"?

Country as a word has other meanings, such as the entity including the whole territory, so I'm cautious when this word is concerned. But that's only my feeling, and I'm not a native speaker.

  • Perhaps something like live in a rural area?
    – knut
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 19:52

4 Answers 4


Where I'm from, in the central U.S....

He lives in the country.

This means he lives outside of all city limits. His nearest neighbor is possibly a mile away.

He lives in a village.

This would be unusual in the U.S., where the word "village" is rarely used. You might get some funny looks, but would probably be understood to mean he lives in a small town; or perhaps in an old/Victorian neighborhood of a larger city.

He lives on the outskirts.

This would mean he lives in, or very near the city, but near the city's edge. He will have neighbors, and there will be a few stores near by, but it's not a particularly urban area.

He lives in the suburbs.

Similar to outskirts; perhaps slightly more urban connotations.

  • 1
    Are there no villages in the US?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 23:05
  • 1
    @gerrit: I don't actually know how to answer that question, because I don't know what you mean by "village", because it's not a word we use here. One neighborhood of Manhattan (New York) is often called "the Village". But "village" is not a word used in the U.S. to describe cities. We generally say city or town.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 23:07
  • 1
    There are villages in the US! I live in one, and it is inside a town. I think there are many other villages in the northeast USA and village is a normal word for me. It means about the same as "small town" to me.
    – aedia λ
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 5:59
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    To grossly contradict @aediaλ, there are no human settlements in the US that correspond to the canonical definitions of 'village' or 'hamlet'. The words are not rare in American English, they're just used for other kinds of thinly related things.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 22:59
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    The folks here who say "village is not used in the US" are substituting their own local usage for the country as a whole. In parts of the US village is an uncommon word. In other parts of the US village is an everyday word. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Village_(United_States)#Formal_usage for a list of States where "village" might be more commonly used. It is true that even among these States, the usage has different denotations. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 17:44

One would live in the country in distinction to the city, regardless of the specific political entity inhabited. The country and the city may be seen as opposite ends of an axis representing the spectrum of urbanization, with the suburbs occupying a midpoint.

This sense of "country" is not related to the meaning of "country" as a national polity. Which sense is intended by the speaker must be taken from context:

  • Do you live in the country? — Do you live outside of an urbanized area?
  • Do you live in this country? — Do you live here in Canada, or in some other country?

Asking if someone lives in a village changes the character of the question. One is no longer asking about a relative level of urbanization, but if someone lives in a specific type of political entity. This is particularly the case with "village," which is a relatively rare designation for a U.S. municipality (New York is the only state where it is commonly used). It would be common in many parts of the country, however, for a local to ask if someone lived in the "city" as opposed to the "county"; someone with a Baltimore, Maryland mailing address might live in the City of Baltimore or in the County of Baltimore, and pay different taxes and receive different public services as a result.


There is an odd (to me, anyway) tendency in the US to use "village" to denote an area of a city. More recently, it's a marketing ploy to make somewhere sound more appealing, I would suggest. I live not far from a "village" which is nothing more than a new shopping development and devoid of homes. A few miles away is another "village" which is a housing development and devoid of shops.

In British-English, however, it denotes a small cluster of dwellings in the country/countryside which, although possibly self-sufficient (general store, post-office and eleven pubs, etc) is obviously not a town. I spent most of my life living in villages and never grasped the cut-off points where a hamlet becomes a village and a village becomes a town - or a when a town becomes a city, for that matter.

Over in the UK, if someone lives "in a village", they live in the country. Living in the country doesn't necessarily denote they also live in a village as they might live in an isolated home or farm.

I had never heard the Australian definition of "on country" before. Duly noted, but I suspect this might be unique.


In Australia, the term "on country" has a very specific meaning. Indigenous Australians have a special relationship with the land, regarding it as a living entity that needs special nourishment and care, and with which they have a special bond. They would never think of living and working "in the country", just as you wouldn't live within a living being -- they live and work "on country". Various indigenous programs -- like the "Working on Country Programme" reflect this usage.

  • Welcome to ELL! This is a nice addition to the existing answers. It might be helpful to show how it's used in a complete example sentence. I found one in this article: vice.com/en_us/article/…. It seems like there might be a choice between living "in the country" and "on country". A person could choose not to follow traditional customs but still live in a rural area. What would be the term for that?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 3:37
  • Correct! The usage "on country" is specific to indigenous peoples. The normal non-indigenous usage is "in the country". We could easily have someone saying something like "I live in the country in the middle of New South Wales, and I was very pleased when the local mob gave me an official welcome onto country". Note the use "onto" in this case -- this is a form implying a change of state (from "off country" to "on country".
    – Warren Ham
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 3:26
  • Was too slow in my edit -- a addition to my comment... The word "mob" I used is probably more common than "tribe", but has a similar meaning. And a comment about the word "village" ... Australia really doesn't use the word much -- we tend to have the range 'city -- town -- small town'. "Village" to an Australian sounds English -- i.e. a small town in England.
    – Warren Ham
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 3:45
  • That's really interesting information - you should edit it into your answer. Comments tend to get overlooked (and you can't go back and revise them later :) )
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 12:40

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