The Plural of Metropolis: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

The English language is a complicated mess of words and grammatical concepts stolen from several other languages, which can make it arguably one of the most difficult languages to learn for people who try to understand it, let alone people trying to learn it as a second language.  Many concepts do not seem to follow any general rules, which leads to several common grammar mistakes throughout English. 

One such word that is completely borrowed from the etymological additions that other languages make to English is the word “metropolis.”  This word has a very complicated background and history, and as such, its grammatical forms and pluralization do not follow any typical rules that most words follow.  In this article, let’s explore the proper use of our word of the day metropolis, how to pluralize it, look for its synonyms, and learn its context.  

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What Is the Plural of Megalopolis?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of metropolis is “the chief or capital city of a country, state, or region.”  A secondary definition is listed as the city regarded as a center of a specified activity, e.g., an industrial metropolis.  In short, a metropolis is just a large, populated, important city.  

The word megalopolis is often confused with metropolis; however, the words are slightly different in meaning. A megalopolis is actually a very thickly populated region of cities rather than one large city, and so a megalopolis can contain several cities or even several metropolises.  

The plural of metropolis is actually not totally agreed upon, which is actually a common thing in English with words of ancient Greek origin.  We will explore the full origin of the word metropolis later on in this article, but for now, just know it is almost entirely Greek.  Different suggested plurals for metropolis include the more “English” version, metropolises (which follows a standard pluralization rule), and the more Greek plurals, metropoli and metropolei.  

The dictionary does not actually offer any direct insight into what the “correct” plural should be, and this is in part due to the fact that the dictionary cannot actually be the definitive authority on all facets of language.  Language is heavily influenced by culture, and the modernization of languages such as Latin and Greek into modern English causes several issues in terms of grammar rules.  Therefore, at the end of the day, make sure that you just communicate clearly based on who your audience is.  As long as they understand what you are trying to communicate, everything will be fine.    

What does metropolis mean?

As defined above, a metropolis is usually just a large, populated city.  For example, picture New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington D.C., or other large cities, just to name a few in the United States.  For anyone abroad, picture famous world cities like Shanghai, China, Sydney, Australia, and London, England.

How Do you Spell City in Plural Form?

If you are looking for a more relatable term for metropolis, you may look to the word “city” to communicate your point.  The plural of city is just cities, which is also somewhat irregular but seems to follow a fairly common pluralization rule: when a noun ends in -y, change the -y to an -i and add -es.  Talking about the main city or busy city, or even a megacity, in place of the word metropolis may be more effective, depending on your audience.  

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, the word metropolis entered modern English around the middle of the sixteenth century, originally meaning “seat of a metropolitan bishop” and was used in strictly religious terms.  However, the word came from the Late Latin word “metropolis,” which was a translation from the Greek words “meter” and “polis,” meaning “mother city.”  The word was likely used in Ancient Greece to describe a city-state, a polis city, or a Greek mētropolis. 

It’s important to note that the word “Metropole” is a distinct version as well, meaning the mother state of a colony. 

The vast majority of the English language comes from ancient languages like Latin and Greek, usually by way of more modern European languages like Spanish, Italian, or French.  

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word properly is to learn how to use it in context.  Reading or hearing someone else use the word correctly will cement it in your vocabulary.  Here are some example sentences of the words metropolis (and its plural form) being used in context:

  • “New York City has really solidified itself as a metropolis because of its size, population, and infrastructure; it has more residents than most states in America.”
  • “City centers are often metropolises for different things; some for small business, some for shopping, and some for infrastructure or restaurants.”
  • “The ability of some cities to become a metropolis really highlights a discrepancy between large areas and smaller areas; the larger a city is, the larger it becomes.  Metropolises make it really easy to get larger because people are just drawn to larger and more popular areas.”

Synonyms for Metropolis

Finally, it can be very beneficial to learn what the synonyms for a word are.  Learning words with similar meanings is a great way to really cement a word into your vocabulary.  Here are some common synonyms for the word metropolis:

  • Downtown, a word to describe the city center of a metropolis
  • Capital, a word to describe when a metropolis is also the primary city of a country’s government
  • City, a much more generic term to describe what makes up a metropolis

In Summary

By reading this article, you are fully equipped to use the word metropolis in written or spoken communication.  Good luck!