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According to toponymist George R. Stewart, the use of the suffix -ville for settlements in the United States did not begin until after the American Revolution. Previously, town-names did not usually use suffixes unless named after European towns in which case the name was borrowed wholly. When a suffix was needed, -town (or the word Town) was typically added (as in Charleston, South Carolina, originally Charles Town). In the middle of the 18th century the suffixes -borough (-boro) and -burgh (-burg) began to become popular. The use of -town (-ton) also increased, in part due to the increasing use of personal names for new settlements. Thus the settlement founded by William Trent became known as Trenton. These three suffixes, -town/-ton, -borough/-boro, and -burgh/-burg became popular before the Revolution, while -ville was almost completely unused until afterward. Its post-revolutionary popularity, along with the decline in the use of -town, was due in part to the pro-French sentiments which spread through the country after the war. The founding of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1780, for example, used not only the French suffix but the name of the French king. The popularity of -ville was most popular in the southern and western (Appalachian) regions of the new country, and less popular in New England.

A few -ville names pre-date the revolution, but most of them are named after European settlements or dukedoms. For example, Granville, Massachusetts was named for the Earl of Granville (he was named himself after Granville, Manche (Normandy)). After the revolution and the decline in the use of -borough and -town, the two suffixes -ville and -burgh/-burg became by far the most popular for many decades. A difference between the usage of the two is that -burgh/-burg was almost always appended to a personal name while -ville was appended to any word. Some personal names became associated with one suffix or another. For example, Williamstown and Williamsburg are both more common than Williamsville; Georgetown is far more common than Georgeville.

By the middle of the 19th century the -ville suffix began to lose its popularity, with newly popular suffixes with -wood, -hurst, -mere, -dale, and others taking over.[1]


As in the United States, -ville may also be a suffix that is part of a city's or a town's actual name. This usage exists in both English and French; examples include Brockville and Belleville in Ontario, Blainville, Drummondville, Victoriaville and Louiseville in Quebec, Wolfville in Nova Scotia and Parksville in British Columbia. In Quebec, it may also be used as a prefix, as in Ville-Marie or Villeroy.

Ville, as a suffix or prefix within a geographic name, may also sometimes denote an unincorporated neighbourhood within a larger city, such as Ville-Émard, Davisville or Africville.

  1. ^ This section on the history of -ville from Stewart, George R. (1967) Names on the Land. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company; pages 193–197, 272.

RFC discussion: November 2009–February 2015[edit]

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The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for cleanup (permalink).

This discussion is no longer live and is left here as an archive. Please do not modify this conversation, but feel free to discuss its conclusions.

Usage notes are too long. Maybe worthwhile in the etymology, but shorter. Mglovesfun (talk) 21:12, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Seems to have been taken care of. - -sche (discuss) 03:08, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Oh, yes, by me last year. - -sche (discuss) 03:09, 13 February 2015 (UTC)