‘Town' vs 'Township': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on June 20, 2023

Are you looking for the difference between 'town' vs. 'township?' If so, you are in the right place!

Here is the short answer:

  • 'Town' is a noun for a settled area that is smaller than a city but larger than a village. 
  • 'Township' is a noun for a district, jurisdiction, or area with a local government. 

That is the simple answer, but reading the rest of this guide with definitions, pronunciations, and sample sentences will help you gain a deeper understanding of these terms.

What is the Difference Between 'Town' vs. 'Township?'

A 'town' can be unincorporated or unrecognized as a legal jurisdiction. However, a 'township' has a recognized government. On land surveys, a 'township' may be a 36-mile tract of land within another jurisdiction.

  • So, one of the major differences is that a 'town' may or may not have an official government.
  • A 'township' is a recognized area or legal district with a government.

When to Use 'Town' vs. 'Township'

Knowing when to use these terms can be confusing because they are so similar. So, how do you know when to use 'town' vs. 'township?'

  • Use 'town' to describe a community that is larger than a village but smaller than a city.

For example, you could say:

The small town we live in is close-knit. We all work together and help each other. 

  • Use 'town' to reference the people who live in an area.

For example, I might say:

The entire town attended the fundraiser event. It was amazing to see everyone come together to help their neighbor.

  • Use 'township' to refer to a 36-mile tract of land on a survey.

For example, someone might say:

Many states are broken up into townships that are 6x6 miles. 

Generally, you can use the term 'town' to refer to a 'township,' but using the term 'township' for a 'town' is awkward. So, if you are unsure, you should use the former term instead of the latter.

Definition of 'Town': What Does 'Town' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of 'town' is:

  • A densely populated area that is larger than a village and smaller than a city.

It can also mean:

  • An area that is distinguishable from other areas surrounding it.
  • A densely populated urban area.
  • An English village that has a market or regular fairs.
  • A reference to all of the inhabitants that live in an area.
  • A New England community that governs itself through routine meetings.
  • A community in New England with its own government.

Synonyms of 'Town'

  • Metropolis
  • Municipality
  • Suburb
  • Borough
  • Burg

Phrases and Terms with 'Town'

  • Townhall
  • Town center
  • Hometown
  • Hometown hero
  • Town meeting
  • Midtown
  • Downtown
  • Lincoln town car

Definition of 'Township': What Does 'Township' Mean?

The same dictionary defines a 'township' as:

  • A government in some northern states with a board or a chief administrative officer.

It can also mean:

  • An unorganized area in Vermont, Maine, or New Hampshire.
  • An electoral district in the southern United States.
  • An area in South Africa segregated by apartheid for occupation by non-Europeans.
  • An ancient English administration of a division of a parish.

Synonyms of 'Township'

  • Municipality
  • Jurisdiction
  • Settlement

Phrases and Terms with 'Township'

  • Local township
  • Township schools
  • Township officials
  • Incorporated township
  • Township jurisdiction

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Town' vs. 'Township'

Now that you understand the meanings of 'town' and 'township,' let's look at the pronunciations. Knowing how to properly say these terms will make you more confident to use them in spoken and written communications.

So, how do you pronounce 'town' vs. 'township?'

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'town':


  • To properly pronounce 'township' use this phonetic spelling:


Sample Sentences Using 'Town' vs. 'Township'

Finally, here are some sample sentences using 'town' and 'township.' Read them to ensure you know how to use these terms.


  • The whole town showed up to watch the show, but the performer turned out to be a fraud.
  • Have you been to Eagle Lake? It is a small town between two larger cities. It is the perfect place to get away for a few days.
  • Do you prefer to live in a large, densely populated city or a small town where everyone knows each other?
  • Will you be driving to the airport? Or, would you like me to book a town car for you, so you don't have to worry about parking in the busy airport parking lot?
  • When we went to town, we bought all of your favorite foods.
  • Welcome to our little town. We are so happy that you came to visit. If you need anything while you are here, please do not hesitate to ask.
  • I love our little town, but it is unincorporated. So, our government is not official. We hope that will change by the end of the year.
  • You know you have reached our town when you see the large governor's mansion on the hill.


  • The Woodlands is a suburb of Houston and one of the most prominent townships in Texas. It is our favorite place to watch concerts or have drinks with our friends.
  • Are you going to run to be on the township board? If you want to make a bigger difference in the community, it might be a good idea.
  • In the north, there are states that are broken down into townships.
  • Each township is 36 square miles.
  • Some townships have one chief administrative officer who acts as a mayor or final decision-maker for the area.
  • You should look into the laws in a township before you purchase a home there. Otherwise, you may be stuck living in a place with laws you disagree with.
  • Many northern states are broken down into dozens of small districts known as townships.

Final Advice on the Difference Between 'Town' and 'Township'

You should have a clear understanding of the difference between 'town' vs. 'township,' but let's do a recap of these terms. 

  • A 'town' is a populated area that is smaller than a city but larger than a village. 
  • A 'township' is an area of land that is 36 square miles or an area that is self-governed. 

Remembering these terms' differences can be challenging because they are so similar. So, if you get mixed up in the future, come back here for a quick review of this lesson.

You can also read the other confusing word guides here to familiarize yourself with many commonly mistaken and misused English terms.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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