The One Minute Geographer: And the Biggest City is…?

Jim Fonseca
4 min readApr 19, 2024
Map from Yellow circles added by the author.

Three guys in a bar are arguing over what is the biggest city in Ohio. Which of the three ‘Big Cs’ is it — Cincinnati, Cleveland or Columbus?

Tony says “It’s Cincinnati, I heard it last week on the news.” Jack says “You’re full of crap, I read it in the paper, it’s Columbus.” Bob pulls out his phone and punches some stuff in. “You’re both wrong. It’s Cleveland. Right here on the internet, so we know that’s true.”

All three can be correct depending on what you mean by “city.” If you mean how many legal residents live in a city — those folks who live within the city limits and are eligible to vote for Mayor — Columbus, the state capital, is the largest city in Ohio by far. The City of Columbus has almost three times the population of the City of Cincinnati:

Columbus. Photo by Grzegorczyk1 on Wikimedia Commons

But we all know a city has suburbs. The size of downtown and the number of buildings and their heights reflects urban ‘size’ as much or more than the number of legal residents. Now it’s Cincinnati that can hold up that foam “We’re #1” finger:

“But wait!” Jack says, “You can’t count all those folks in Cincinnati who live over the river in Kentucky and some in…



Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.