A village is a human settlement commonly found in rural areas. It is usually larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town or city. Villages have been the normal unit of community living in most areas of the world throughout its history, up until the Industrial revolution and the ongoing process of urbanization. In many U.S. states, a village is a type of municipal government (see below).
Although many types and organizational patterns of village life have existed, the typical village was small, consisting of perhaps 5 to 30 families. Homes were situated together for sociability and defense, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed.
In England the main historical distinction between a hamlet and a village is that the latter will have a church, and will therefore usually have been the worship centre of a parish. A village is traditionally distinguished from a town in that a village lacks a regular market.
There is much dispute over which is the largest village in England. Places claiming to be the largest include Cranleigh in Surrey, Cottingham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, both Haddenham and Wendover in Buckinghamshire, Braunton in Devon, Birchington in Kent, Horsforth in West Yorkshire, Street in Somerset, Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, Ruskington in Lincolnshire and Kidlington in Oxfordshire.
In twenty U.S. states, the term "village" refers to a specific form of incorporated municipal government, similar to a city but with less authority and geographic scope. However, this is a generality; in many states, there are villages that are an order of magnitude larger than the smallest cities in the state. The distinction is not necessarily based on population, but on the relative powers granted to the different types of municipalities and correspondingly, different obligations to provide specific services to residents.
New York state
In New York state, a village is an incorporated area, usually, but not always, within a single town. The town and village may be coterminous. There are villages which span the boundaries of more than one town (several examples can be found in Westchester County). Some villages even straddle county borders.
In many states, the term "village" is used to refer to a relatively small unincorporated community, similar to a hamlet in New York state. This informal usage may be found even in states that have villages as an incorporated municipality, although such usage might be considered incorrect and confusing.