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How common or uncommon are the words village and hamlet in US native parlance? In the small discussion following this comment, one user said that the word village is not a word we use here, but another one said There are villages in the US! I live in one, and it is inside a town.. There is a Wikipedia article Village (United States) that discusses some of the formal issues.

I've always taken village as a translation of the Dutch word dorp, a concentration of human settlement ranging from a few dozen people to a few thousand, in a rural area, not connected to any town or city. Here is a nice example with the village of Rougon in the French Alps (photo from Wikimedia Commons):

Rougon, France

What would such a settlement be called in the US? Do such settlements even exist in North America? Can a place with between 10 and 1000 inhabitants be called a (small) town rather than a village? From this Wikipedia article comes the quote Eighty-nine percent of the cities in Nebraska have fewer than 3,000 people.. Are those really cities?

P.S. I'm pretty sure the word village in the UK and Ireland matches the meaning that I'm thinking of pretty much.

  • Village is usually a bundle of farmsteads, Considering average US farm is easily 200 hectares, bundling more than four farmsteads together is very unpractical as the distance from the house to the fields would be excessive, consume unreasonable amount of time and fuel. It's much better to place the house in the middle of the farm, and then the houses of the next neighbor farm, bordering with yours, are good 4km away... that's no way to form a village. There will be a small town catering to nearby farms, but it won't be agricultural by nature itself. – SF. Jan 26 '13 at 19:50
  • Village economy can also be centered on mining, fishing, tourism, forestry... I would expect fishing villages along the coast, villages mostly focussed on tourism close to popular national parks, etc. – gerrit Jan 26 '13 at 19:57
  • @MετάEd Different question, answer doesn't answer mine. – gerrit Jan 26 '13 at 20:18
  • Related Meta discussion – Mistu4u Jan 27 '13 at 6:32
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    "Eighty-nine percent of the cities in Nebraska have fewer than 3,000 people.. Are those really cities?" Each State has a different legal definition for what a city is. In Nebraska villages are 100-800 people, and cities are 800+ people. – Mark Beadles Jan 28 '13 at 17:54
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The term 'village' is common in some parts of the US, and rare or marked in others. In some States, 'village' is a formal designation for a settlement smaller than a city, for a neighborhood within a city, or for a historical area. In other States village is not formally used, and is simply an informal or quaint term for a small town. So if you ask native speakers from the US about 'village', their answers might vary depending on where they are from, and they might not be aware of different usages in different parts of the country. It's a big place; although the shared language can make it seem smaller there are still distinct regional vocabularies.

The term 'hamlet' is rare throughout the US, except in reference to the Prince of Denmark. There are probably a few places that use that name, but it would carry a markedly antique connotation.

  • It's worth noting that almost no one is aware of or cares about the formal legal designations. Many places are formally a "village" under the state's classification system for municipalities, that its residents would never refer to or think of as such. Other places might be referred to as a village despite not technically being one. – KRyan Jan 3 '15 at 16:24
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Some current uses of the term "village" in the US:

  • In some older cities, at least on the east coast, some areas originally built around a small commercial center and later incorporated into expanding cities are still called villages, and that is part of the locally recognized name. Example: in Rhode Island, Pawtuxet Village is divided between the cities of Warwick and Cranston, and still has a thriving mercantile center.

  • In New England, some old waterfront communities are referred to either informally as villages, or have a historic district with the word "Village" in the formal name. Example: Edgartown Village on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

  • Historical "reconstructions". Example: Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts.

  • A fancy name for a large shopping center. Example: in Baltimore, Maryland, one of the first large regional shopping centers was called Edmondson Village; this name was later extended to include the surrounding neighborhood, but the shopping center came first.

  • +1 And my home town likes to refer to itself as a village because it was named after Goldsmith's "loveliest village on the plains". – StoneyB Jan 26 '13 at 21:25
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    Village is a legal kind of town in many states, also. MI and AK have many villages. – Mark Beadles Jan 28 '13 at 17:51
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For the most part in the US, a large collection of people and buildings is a "city" and a smaller collection is a "town".

As Mark Beadles says, each state has specific legal definitions. These may depend on population and/or on specific formalities about how the place is organized politically. I think every state has a legal definition of "city". Some call other places "villages", "towns", maybe some other terms. While we generally think of a "city" as a place with at least tens of thousands of people, many smaller places are legally considered "cities". I think to most Americans it sounds funny to call a place with 1,000 people a "city", but it's recognized as the technical legal term.

To most Americans, "village" has a certain old-time, quaint connotation. We generally think of a "village" as a picturesque, out-of-date, foreign place. We also talk about primitive people living in a "village" of mud huts or some such primitive accommodations. I grew up near a town that was officially called the "Incorporated Village of Northport", but no one referred to it as a "village", it was always a "town". Some places call themselves a village when they want to bring picturesque images to mind, to attract tourists or shoppers, for example.

  • That was my experience growing up in a capital-V Village, too. Sure, "Village" was in the name, but it wasn't a "village". At least, I don't think any of us thought of it that way. – snailboat Mar 14 '13 at 14:36
  • So the photo in my question does show a village, but such places simply don't exist in the contemporary USA? – gerrit Mar 14 '13 at 14:40
  • @gerrit This might just be my ignorance talking, but I'd call it a town. It doesn't look antiquated enough to be a village. – snailboat Mar 14 '13 at 14:43
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    It's debatable. To me it looks rustic and quaint enough to be called a "village". But if it was in the US, it would likely be called a "town". If we're just talking about the number of buildings and likely population, yes, there are plenty of such places in the US. – Jay Mar 18 '13 at 15:41

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