CITY ( in French Cite, ultimately from the Latin atrium). Certain large and ancient towns both in England and in other countries are called cities, and they are supposed to rank before other towns. On what the distinction is founded is not well ascertained. The word seems to be one of common use, or at most to be used in the letters and charters of kings as a complimentary or honorary name, rather than as be tokening the possession of any social privileges which may not and in fact do not belong to other ancient anrl incorpo rated places which are still known only by the name of towns or boroughs. Richelet (Dictionnstire) says that the French word cite is only used in general when we speak of places where there are two towns, an old town and another which has been built since ; and he adds that " la cite de Paris" means old Paris.
Sir William Blackstone, following Coke (1 Inst. 109 b), says, " A city is a town incorporated, which is or hath been the see of a bishop." (Comm. hatred., sec. iv.) But Westminster is a city, though it is not incorporated. Thetford is a town, though incorporated, and once the seat of a bishop. Whether Westminster owes its
designation to the circumstance that it had a bishop for a few years of the reign of Henry VIII., and in the reign of Edward 'VI., may be doubted. But there are, besides Thetford, many places which were once the seats of bishops, as Sher burn, and Dorchester in Oxfordshire, which are never called cities. On the whole, we can rather say that certain of our ancient towns are called cities, and their inhabitants citizens, than show why this distinction prevails and what are the criteria by which theyare distinguished from other towns. These ancient towns tare those in which the cathedral of a bishop is found; to which are to be added Bath and Coventry, which, respectively with Wells and Lichfield, occur in the designation of the bishop in whose dio cese they are situated ; and Westminster, which in this respect stands alone.
In the United States of North America the name City is usually given to large towns, as New York, Philadelphia, and others.