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A hamlet is a small human settlement. In different jurisdictions and geographies, hamlets may be the size of a town, village or parish, be considered a smaller settlement or subdivision of a larger, or be treated as a satellite entity to a larger settlement. The word and concept of a hamlet have roots in the Anglo-Norman settlement of England, where the old French hamlet came to apply to small human settlements. In British geography, a hamlet is considered smaller than a village and distinctly without a church.
The word comes from Anglo-Norman hamelet(t)e, corresponding to Old French hamelet, the diminutive of Old French hamel. This, in turn, is a diminutive of Old French ham, possibly borrowed from (West Germanic) Franconian languages. Compare with modern French hameau, Dutch heem, German Heim, Old English hām and Modern English home.
In Australia a hamlet is a small village. Officially, a hamlet differs from a village in having no commercial premises, but has residences and may have community buildings such as churches and public halls.
- Northwest Territories had 11 hamlets, each of which had a population of less than 900 people as of the 2016 census;
- Nunavut had 24 hamlets, with populations ranging from 129 to 2,842 as of the 2016 census; and
- Yukon had two hamlets, both of which had a population of less than 450 people as of the 2016 census.
In Canada's provinces, hamlets are usually small unincorporated communities within a larger municipality (similar to civil townships in the United States), such as many communities within the single-tier municipalities of Ontario or within Alberta's specialized and rural municipalities.
Canada's two largest hamlets—Fort McMurray (formerly incorporated as a city) and Sherwood Park—are located in Alberta. They each have populations, within their main urban area, in excess of 60,000—well in excess of the 10,000-person threshold that can choose to incorporate as a city in Alberta. As such, these two hamlets have been further designated by the Province of Alberta as urban service areas. An urban service area is recognized as equivalent to a city for the purposes of provincial and federal program delivery and grant eligibility.
During the 18th century, for rich or noble people, it was up-to-date to create their own hameau (hamlet) in their gardens. They were a group of some houses or farms with rustic appearance, but in fact were very comfortable. The best known is the Hameau de la Reine built by the queen Marie-Antoinette in the park of the Château de Versailles. Or the Hameau de Chantilly built by Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé in Chantilly, Oise.
Lieu-dit (local name) is another name for hamlet. The difference is that a hamlet is permanently inhabited, but a lieu-dit is not (in winter for example, or when the lieu-dit is only an important road crossing).
In Germany hamlets are called Weiler (German: [ˈva͡ɪlɐ]). They are often part of bigger villages and municipalities. Most German hamlets are situated in Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. In the low Saxon dialect of northwestern Germany hamlets are called Bauernschaft.
In different states of India, there are different words for hamlet. In Haryana and Rajasthan it is called "dhani" (Hindi: ढाणी ḍhāṇī) or "Thok". In Gujarat a hamlet is called a "nesada", which are more prevalent in the Gir forest. In Maharashtra it's called a "pada". In southern Bihar, especially in the Magadh division, a hamlet is called a "bigha".
In Pakistan a hamlet is called a gron (pronounced as grona with some nasalisation at the end).
In Poland a hamlet is called osada, and is legally a small rural settlement, especially differing by type of buildings or inhabited by population connected with some place or workplace (like mill hamlet, forest hamlet, fishermen hamlet, railway hamlet, State Agricultural Farm hamlet). It can be independent settlement, or a part of other settlement, like village.
In Romania hamlets are called cătunuri (singular: cătun), and they represent villages that contain several houses at most. They are legally considered villages, and statistically, they are placed in the same category. Like villages, they do not have a separate administration, and thus are not an administrative division, but are part of a parent commune.
In the four national languages hamlets are known as Weiler (German), hameaux (French), frazioni (Italian) and fracziun (Romansh). A hamlet is always part of a larger municipality or may be shared between two municipalities. The difference between a hamlet and a village is that typically a hamlet lacks a compact core settlement and lacks a central building such as a church or inn. However, some hamlets (Kirchwiler) may have grown up as an unplanned settlement around a church. There is no population limit that defines a hamlet and some hamlets have a larger population than some of the smallest municipalities. Generally there are no street names in a hamlet; rather, addresses are given by hamlet name and a number. House numbers might start at one side of the hamlet and continue to the other side or may have no clear organization.
A hamlet may form or have formed a Bürgergemeinde (legal place of citizenship regardless of where a person was born or currently lives) and may own common property for the Bürgergemeinde.
In the United Kingdom, the word hamlet (having the French origin given at the top of this article), means a house or village without a church, although hamlets are recognised as part of land use planning policies and administration. In modern usage it generally refers to a secondary settlement in a civil parish, after the main settlement (if any). Hamlets may have been formed around a single source of economic activity such as a farm, mill, mine or harbour that employed its working population. Some hamlets, particularly those that have a medieval church, may be the result of the depopulation of a village; an example of such a hamlet is Graby.
The term hamlet was used in some parts of the country, notably Wales, to denote a geographical subdivision of a parish (which might or might not contain a settlement). Elsewhere, these subdivisions were called "townships" or "tithings".
In the Scottish Highlands the term clachan, of Gaelic derivation, may be preferred to the term hamlet. Also found in Scotland more generally is fermtoun used in the specific case of a settlement of agricultural workers' homes.
In Northern Ireland the common Irish place name element baile is sometimes considered equivalent to the term hamlet in English, although baile would actually have referred to what is known in English today as a townland: that is to say, a geographical locality rather than a small village.
In Mississippi, a 2009 state law (§ 17-27-5) set aside the term "municipal historical hamlet" to designate any former city, town or village with a current population of less than six hundred (600) inhabitants that lost its charter before 1945. The first such designation was applied to the town of Bogue Chitto, Lincoln County, Mississippi.
In New York, hamlets are unincorporated settlements within towns. Hamlets are usually not legal entities and have no local government or official boundaries. Their approximate locations will often be noted on road signs, however.
A hamlet usually depends upon the town that contains it for municipal services and government; the town can define a "special use district" (a type of local entity designed to provide a specific service, such as water, sewer, or lighting) to provide only that hamlet with services. A hamlet could be described as the rural or suburban equivalent of a neighborhood in a city or village. The area of a hamlet may not be exactly defined; it may be designated by the Census Bureau, or it may rely on some other form of border (such as a ZIP code, school district or fire district for more urbanized areas; rural hamlets are typically only demarcated by speed zones on the roads serving them). Others, such as Forestville, New York, will be the remnants of former villages, with borders coextant with the previously defined borders of the defunct or dissolved village. Some hamlets proximate to urban areas are sometimes continuous with their cities and appear to be neighborhoods, but they still are under the jurisdiction of the town. Some hamlets, such as Levittown in the Town of Hempstead, with a population of over 50,000, are more populous than some incorporated cities in the state.
In Oregon, specifically in Clackamas County, a hamlet is a form of local government for small communities, which allows the citizens therein to organize and co-ordinate community activities. Hamlets do not provide services such as utilities or fire protection, and do not have the authority to levy taxes or fees. There are four hamlets in Oregon: Beavercreek, Mulino, Molalla Prairie, and Stafford.
- T. F. Hoad, English Etymology, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-19-283098-8.
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