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Access to water has long been a major factor in city placement and growth, and despite exceptions enabled by the advent of rail transport in the nineteenth century, through the present most of the world's urban population lives near the coast or on a river.
The vast majority of cities have a central area containing buildings with special economic, political, and religious significance.
The word city and the related civilization come, via Old French, from the Latin root civitas, originally meaning citizenship or community member and eventually coming to correspond with urbs, meaning city in a more physical sense.
Town siting has varied through history according to natural, technological, economic, and military contexts.
Cities typically have public spaces where anyone can go.
These include privately owned spaces open to the public as well as forms of public land such as public domain and the commons.
This has profound consequences for global sustainability.
Cities serve as administrative, commercial, religious, and cultural hubs for their larger surrounding areas.
A typical city has professional administrators, regulations, and some form of taxation (food and other necessities or means to trade for them) to feed the government workers.
Archaeologists refer to this area by the Greek term temenos or if fortified as a citadel.
Today cities have a city center or downtown, sometimes coincident with a central business district.
Urban-type settlement extends far beyond the traditional boundaries of the city proper Decentralization and dispersal of city functions (commercial, industrial, residential, cultural, political) has transformed the very meaning of the term and has challenged geographers seeking to classify territories according to an urban-rural binary.