Metropolitan
Posted: 07 November 2017 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Metropolitan France is a phrase means European France, ie France without her overseas regions, departments and collectivities. I’ve been familiar with this phrase for a long time but only recently wondered how this gels with the other meanings of metropolitan, which further made me think of what the etymology might be.

What is the connection with words in which metro- connotes measurement, such as metronome and metrology? Was it a measurement of the city?

It turns out that metropolitan, metropolis etc derive from the Greek meter meaning “mother”, not the Greek metron meaning “measure”. Unexpected! The metropolis is the mother city.

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Posted: 07 November 2017 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Definition from my dictionary app:

relating to or denoting the parent state of a colony or dependency: metropolitan Spain.

From Collins English Dictionary:

designating or of a mother country as distinguished from a colony, territory, etc.

[ Edited: 07 November 2017 08:34 PM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 08 November 2017 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, a metropolis, in Greek, was originally a mother city, the chief city of a country or province. And a metropolitan was an archibishop, the bishop resident in a metropolis who oversaw other, outlying bishops. (At least that’s the use of the word in relation to the Western church. The Orthodox church has a slightly different sense of metropolitan.) English use of metropolitan, as the title of a bishop, dates to the early fifteenth century; metropolis, as the seat of such a bishop, comes about a century later.

By the late sixteenth century, metropolis had shifted to also refer to a big city in general, and that sense of the adjective metropolitan was in place in the eighteenth.

The use of metropolitan to refer to a mother country in opposition to outlying territories and colonies, as in metropolitan France, appears at the beginning of the nineteenth. The firs cite in the OED is from Thomas Jefferson. I would imagine this was a deliberate reaching back to the original sense in Greek, as educated men of the day, like Jefferson, would have been conversant in that tongue.

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Posted: 08 November 2017 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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To connect the dots here, it appears that the root that usually appears in English as matr- had the form you would expect in ancient Doric Greek, ματέρ- , μάτηρ, but in Attic and Ionic was μητέρ- , μήτηρ (acc. to OED).  I’m not aware of other, unrelated English words in which the -e- form appears, but I may be overlooking some.

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