I am struggling with the term neighborhood. I realize that it could be too general for what I want to express.

I want to focus on the actual neighbors and not to the vicinity or residential area. Just the persons.

Is neighborhood the proper term to describe/express that?

Or should I switch to another word, like neighborship? Or something else?


Due to the comments, I assume I am right, that neighborhood is a more general term.

So I also assume that saying

"There is a good community in the neighborhood."

it is clear that I mean the people in the neighborhood, who are the community. But when saying:

"The neighborhood changed over the last decades"

it is not clear, that I meant the people in the neighborhood.

Is that correct?

  • Please give a sentence so we have clear ground on what you are struggling with. Feb 17, 2016 at 15:56
  • 2
    What's your exact context? If you want to focus on the people, rather than the local region (where they live), what's wrong with simply referring to the neighbours? Or, depending on context, perhaps write about the [local] community. Feb 17, 2016 at 15:56
  • Unfortunaly it is not just a sentence, but a whole scientific paper I wrote, and now need to translate to english. It is mostly about interactions and relationships between neighbors, but I need a term to describe and to compare these "neighborhoods"
    – SebBr
    Feb 17, 2016 at 16:19
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    Neighborhood can be a stand-in for the people who inhabit the neighborhood, if used in the correct context. Usage is important, not just word choice. That's why we need more information to answer the question.
    – Era
    Feb 17, 2016 at 16:51
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    Since you say this is a scientific paper, I would advise you to consult with other experts in your field on your wording. There may be terminology specific to your domain for the concepts you describe. They might advise you to adopt formal, neutral language, such as population or cohort in place of the more familiar terms that come loaded with semantic baggage ("neighbor" or "community.")
    – relaxing
    Feb 17, 2016 at 18:36

3 Answers 3


The "neighborhood" can mean the geographical area or the combination of the area and its people. In your context, "The neighborhood changed over the last decades", I would take it to mean that both the people and the physical/geographical area has changed. And typically, I would assume that a change in people had led to a change in the area.

Of course that could mean that the same set of people is in the area and has undergone a change (such as aging or impoverishment or even enrichment) or that there are different neighbors.

To answer your specific question, you can say "the neighbors" - altho that's usually taken to mean the small set of people in properties immediately adjoining yours - or "the people in the neighborhood".


I think you should definitely define your terms or use ones that are usually used in such papers, as relaxing commented.

This is because both neighborhood and community are ambiguous. Both can refer to either the people of a certain geographic region or to the region and the people living there, and the former word can also refer to only the region. I do not suggest using neighborship as (a) it is not apparent what that means, and (b) the suffix -ship is outdated and its use in such words as township does not provide an unambiguous meaning.

As a native speaker of American English, when I hear the word neighborhood I think of a

an inhabited region or subregion that includes its structures (buildings, houses) and the people who live there, including their pets and possessions; and basically anything else found in it, for instance, noise, crime, trash cans and even the trash itself. It can also include things such as the neighborhood watch, the neighborhood association, the management company that runs the neighborhood association, apartment owners, managers and agents. For me, I also think of its geographical characteristics (hills, rivers, mountains, etc),

I would not think of neighborhood as meaning only the people who live in such a region. However, the Oxford English Dictionary gives such a meaning as its first definition of the word:

The people living near to a certain place or within a certain range; neighbours collectively.

I am surprised at this, because, again, this is not how I use the word. But I also do not say near to and generally advise non-native speakers not to do so (we say close to but near; I live near the river.)

Given that neighborhood can mean

1 a populated geographic region
2 the people who inhabit such a region
3 the region but not the people

it is highly ambiguous.

Community can mean

1 a group of people
2 a group of people and the place where they live

See Oxford Dictionary online: A particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants

I recommend that you define your terms and/or use the terms as they are normally used in your academic field.


Its a scientific paper you can and should use whichever term(s) express your information in the clearest way. You should explicitly define exactly what you mean by any terms in your introduction.

As long as you have done that, I would suggest that you could use terms such as neighborhood, immediate neighbors, close neighbors, local community and so on.

Maybe you could ask the editors or reviewers of your paper for comment, if they are experts in the field they will know if there are any terms already accepted for those meanings in that field

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