"characteristic of city life, pertaining to cities or towns," 1610s (but rare before 1830s), from Latin urbanus "of or pertaining to a city or city life; in Rome," also "in city fashion, polished, refined, cultivated, courteous," but also sometimes "witty, facetious, bold, impudent;" as a noun, "city dweller," from urbs (genitive urbis) "city, walled town," a word of unknown origin.
The word gradually emerged in this sense as urbane became restricted to manners and styles of expression. In late 20c. American English gradually acquiring a suggestion of "African-American." Urban renewal, euphemistic for "slum clearance," is attested from 1955, American English. Urban sprawl recorded by 1958. Urban legend attested by 1980.