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When this first appeared, from the mind of Professor John Kasarda of the University of North Carolina in 2000, it looked like one of those words whose life would be short and its death unmourned. But it shows signs of achieving some permanence in the vocabulary of aviation, economics, and urban planning.

The idea behind the term is that major air transport hubs are now linked with levels of economic importance that were once the preserve of major seaports. The jobs directly generated by the airport itself are obviously significant; much more financially important, however, are the firms that relocate near the hub to take advantage of the speed with which passengers and high-value cargo can be flown all over the world.

In several places, new airports are being created explicitly to exploit this, for example the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand and the Dubai World Central airport.

The term is a combination of aero-, in its aircraft sense, with metropolis. There’s some doubt in writers’ minds what the plural should be; both aerotropolises and aerotropoli have appeared; both are ugly, though the latter is to be deprecated because it puts a Latin plural ending on a word of Greek extraction.

A vast assemblage of logistics firms, warehouses, industrial production and other businesses that rely on rapid air delivery, the aerotropolis has been a shimmering vision since county officials proposed it several years ago.

Detroit Free Press, 14 Apr. 2006

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is a prime example of an aerotropolis according to Euromonitor. Around 58,000 people are daily employed at the airport itself, and the surrounding business district stretches for 15 miles and includes the regional head quarters of such firms as Unilever.

Cosmetics International, 8 Sep. 2006

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 21 Oct. 2006

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 21 October 2006.