The word metropolis comes from the Greek metropolis, “mother city,” from metropolein, “to mother (cities),” from me-, “mother” + tropein, “to throw or project.” Megalopolis can be traced to the Ancient Greek words megas for “great” and polis for “city.” From there, it came to mean a rapidly expanding metropolitan area.Why do we have two words for a big city metropolis and megalopolis? Megalopolis is a neologism or compound word, first constructed in the late 19th century. There was no equivalent term before then to describe the sprawling urban agglomerations that have become commonplace in the industrialized world. Pronouncing it “meg-a-pol-ibos” is how it’s spelled in Greek; it’s also how the word appears in an early 20th century American publication. The plural for megapolisches is megapolischeses.
1. Megalopolis and Metropolis:
There is a lot of difference between Megalopolis and Metropolis. The two words are derived from the Greek word megalopolis, which actually means ‘a great city’ or the more accurate and correct definition of ‘the largest city in a region’. As opposed to metropolis, the word megalopolis can be used for both cities and regions. Whereas metropolis is only used to describe a large city and not an entire size.
The word ‘metropolis’ is a bit older than the word megalopolis, as it was first used in 1535. Unlike megalopolis, metropolis has the meaning of ‘mother city’ or a place where something started. In this regard, the word is used to refer to Rome as the mother city of Christianity or Athens as the mother city of Science and Philosophy. The word metropolis can also be used in other contexts like: film industry (the Hollywood cinema), computer industry (MS Windows) etc. Whereas the word megalopolis can be used for both cities and regions.
The main difference between metropolis and megalopolis is that while in metropolis, it refers to the largest city of a particular region but in megalopolis it refers to the largest city of an entire region. The main difference between metropolis and megapolis is that historical megapolis is an ancient Greek word which means ‘the great city’ or a place where something started whereas megalopolis is a new term for a modern city known only after 1920’s by Greek scholars such as George Dyer, Walter Pohl, Adriaan Blaauw etc.
Metropolis is used only in the context of a city and not in the context of a region or state. If we have to find a proper word to describe something like ‘the largest city of an entire region’ or ‘the mother city’ then we can use megalopolis. Whereas other related words are polypolis, megapolis, polypolis and many more. Megalopolis can also be used as an adjective to describe something huge or great. The word ‘metropolis’ is rarely used as an adjective except when used in Greek mythology to describe the queen of all cities (city in Greece which was built by King Cecrops). Megalopolis is said to be derived from Greek mythology. Sometimes it is used as a noun.
The word ‘metropolis’ is not the only synonymous word that can be used to describe ‘the largest city or the mother city’. Other words can be used like ‘city’, city state, state, region or metropolis…etc. The word ‘metropolis’ is not very popular in today’s world due to its usage in older years. Other synonyms for megalopolis are: πόλις, γηραιός, μεγάλος, καπνιστός etc.
There are many misconceptions by foreigners that when the word ‘megalopolis’ is used then it refers to an entire state or region and not a city like other countries around the world. The reality is that any city or region in the world can be called a megalopolis as there is no established definition for such terms. Also, cities and regions all over the world have together spoken as megapolis to describe ‘the largest city of a region’. Other countries like India, China and Japan have also spoken about their “mega cities”. Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chandigarh etc have collectively turned into “mega cities” whereas Dubai has also been termed “Mega City”. The word ‘megalopolis’ is applicable only to the largest cities in a particular region.
The word megalopolis is more commonly used in today’s world owing to its recent usage and because of its popularity. However, there are some places which still prefer the word metropolis and they are few in number only. People still use metropolis when they want to describe a city which is the biggest city of a region but megalopolis is preferred over metropolis as it has more meaning especially in terms of size.
While describing the largest city or state, people also use another term ‘mega state’. This term is also used to describe a state which has a tremendous population and is the largest in size. The term was popularized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was referring to California as it was the largest state in the US. Mega cities are also called global cities or super cities, as they have grown to become very important from an economical point of view.