New York City, the largest metropolis in the United States

A metropolis is a very large city or urban area which is a significant economic, political and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections and communications. New York City is often cited as the quintessential metropolis, exerting a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment and being widely deemed as the economic and cultural capital of the world.[1][2][3][4][5]

Urban areas of less than one million people are rarely considered metropolises in contemporary contexts. [citation needed] Big cities belonging to a larger urban agglomeration, but which are not the core of that agglomeration, are not generally considered a metropolis but a part of it. The plural of the word is most commonly metropolises.[6]

Originally, a metropolis, literally a "mother city", was the city or state which sent colony out a colony (as of ancient Greece). This was later generalized to a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or any large important city.


In the past, metropolis was the designation for a city or state of origin of a colony. Many large cities founded by ancient civilizations have been considered important world metropolises of their times due to their large populations and importance. Some of these ancient metropolises survived until the modern days and are among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.

Etymology and modern usage

The word comes from the Greek μήτηρ, mētēr meaning "mother" and πόλις, pólis meaning "city"/"town", which is how the Greek colonies of antiquity referred to their original cities, with whom they retained cultic and political-cultural connections. The word was used in post-classical Latin for the chief city of a province, the seat of the government and, in particular, ecclesiastically for the seat or see of a metropolitan bishop to whom suffragan bishops were responsible. This usage equates the province with the diocese or episcopal see.

In modern usage the word has come to refer to a metropolitan area, a set of adjacent and interconnected cities clustered around a major urban center. In this sense metropolitan usually means "spanning the whole metropolis" (as in "metropolitan administration"); or "proper of a metropolis" (as in "metropolitan life", and opposed to "provincial" or "rural").

Global cities

The concept of a Global city (or a World city) means a city that has a direct and tangible effect on global affairs through socioeconomic means. The term has become increasingly familiar, because of the rise of globalization (i.e., global finance, communications, and travel). An attempt to define and categorize world cities by financial criteria was made by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network (GaWC), based primarily at Loughborough University in England. The study ranked cities based on their provision of "advanced producer services" such as accountancy, advertising, finance and law. The Inventory identifies three levels of world cities and several sub-ranks (see World cities ranking).

A metropolis is not necessarily a global city—or, being one, it might not be among the top-ranking—due to its standards of living, development, and infrastructures.

Local definitions by country


In the People's Republic of Bangladesh, there are seven metropolitan areas Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur. Lands are highly priced and residents are considered to have a better urban lifestyle. Special police departments are allotted for the metropolitan cities, and there are city corporations for which mayors are elected for five year regimes. Most of these cities have population density of 35,000/square mile or more. Dhaka is considered a mega city because its population surpasses 10 million.[7]


Statistics Canada defines a census metropolitan area as one or more adjacent municipalities situated around a major urban core where the urban core has a population of at least 100,000.[8] Toronto is Canada's largest metropolis.


Mumbai, Second largest metropolis in the world

In the Republic of India, declared metropolitan cities are Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, and Ahmedabad. Residents of these cities are also entitled to a higher house-rent allowance. The Census Commission defines the qualification for metropolitan city as population more than 4 million, so Nashik, and Surat are qualified to be declared as metropolitan cities.


With the 2001 reform of the Title V of the Constitution of Italy, the Italian republic has provided for the institution of Aree Metropolitane. Aree Metropolitane will be instituted at least for the major conurbations of Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples, but, as of January 2009, it is yet unclear whether the Aree Metropolitane will replace Provinces, or just be added to the older administrative subdivisions.


Skyline of Tokyo

The Japanese legal term to (都) is commonly translated as "metropolis".[9] Structured like a prefecture instead of a normal city, there is only one to in Japan, namely Tokyo. As of 2008, Japan has 11 other cities with populations greater than one million.


In Pakistan declared metropolitan cities are Karachi and Lahore, while the ancient city of Multan and the industral hub of Punjab, Faisalabad, are also considered as metropolitan cities.


With an estimated population of 16.3 Mio. Metro Manila is the most populous metropolitan area in the Philippines and the 11th in the world. Including Metro Manila, the Philippines has twelve metropolitan areas as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Metro Angeles, Metro Bacolod, Metro Baguio, Metro Batangas, Metro Cagayan de Oro, Metro Cebu, Metro Dagupan, Metro Davao, Metro Iloilo-Guimaras, Metro Naga, Metro Olongapo.


The Union of Polish Metropolises (Polish: Unia Metropolii Polskich), established in 1990, is an organization uniting the largest cities in country. Presently twelve cities are members of the organization, of which 11 have more than a quarter million inhabitants. The largest metropolis in Poland, if ranked solely by the number of inhabitants, is Upper Silesian Metropolis with 2 million inhabitants (5 million inhabitants in the Silesian metropolitan area), followed by Warsaw, with 1.7 million inhabitants in city proper, and 2.7 million in Warsaw metropolitan area. Upper Silesian Metropolis is an initiative of recent years, attempt to unite large conurbation/urban area into one official urban unit.

South Africa

In South Africa, a metropolitan municipality or "Category A municipality" is a municipality which executes all the functions of local government for a conurbation. This is by contrast to areas which are primarily rural, where the local government is divided into district municipalities (comparable to a "county" in the US) and local municipalities. There are eight metropolitan municipalities in South Africa.

United Kingdom

Various conurbations in the United Kingdom are considered to be metropolitan areas (see Metropolitan county). The term Metropolis itself is rarely used. London is archaically referred to as "the Metropolis", which is only retained by the London police force, the Metropolitan Police Service. (The chief officer of the Met is formally known as the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.)

United States

In the United States an incorporated area or group of areas having a population more than 50,000 is required to have a metropolitan planning organization in order to facilitate major infrastructure projects and to ensure financial solvency. Thus, a population of 50,000 or greater has been used as a de facto standard in the United States to define a metropolis. A similar definition is used by the United States Census Bureau. They define a metropolitan statistical area as at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants.

Metropolis as a mainland area

Main article: Metropole

In France, Portugal and Spain, metropolis (métropole (Fr.) / metrópole (Port.) / metrópoli (Spa.)) designates the mainland part of a country near or on the European continent; in the case of France, this would mean France without its overseas departments; for Portugal and Spain during the Spanish Empire and Portuguese Empire period, it used to be common to designate Portugal or Spain except its colonies (the Ultramar). In France metropolis is also used to refer to large agglomerations.

See also

Other city types
Planning theories


  1. ^ "Consulate General of Iceland New York Culture". Consulate General of Iceland New York. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  2. ^ "Introduction to Chapter 13: Culture". The Weissman Center for International Business, Baruch College/CUNY 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  3. ^ "Cultural capital of the world". Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. 2000–2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  4. ^ "NYU's Cultural Capital program". New York University. 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  5. ^ "New York, culture capital of the world, 1940–1965 / edited by Leonard Wallock ; essays by Dore Ashton ... [et al.]". NATIONAL LIBRARY OF AUSTRALIA. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  6. ^ Collins English Dictionary at retrieved 14 April 2011
  7. ^ Analysis on Population Growth in Dhaka
  8. ^ Geographic Units: Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) and Census Agglomeration (CA)
  9. ^ "Local Government in Japan" (PDF). Council of Local Authorities for International Relations. p. 41. Retrieved 2007-10-16.