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The 10 Biggest Cities In Tennessee

Nashville is the capital and largest city in the US state of Tennessee.

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State of Tennessee

Tennessee is a US state located in the country’s southeastern region. It encompasses an area of 109,247 square km, making it the country’s 36th most extensive state. With a population of approximately 6,715,984, it is the 16th most populous US state. Tennessee is subdivided into 95 counties and contains 346 municipalities, which are designated as cities or towns. Just over 56% of the state’s population resides in these municipalities.

The Five Most Populated Cities in Tennessee

1. Nashville

Nashville is the most populous city in Tennessee and the 24th largest in the the country. The city, which is also the state capital, had an estimated population of 667,560 in 2017. It is located along the Cumberland River and serves as the county seat of Davidson County. The city was founded in 1779 and named after Francis Nash, a general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Today, Nashville is a hub for music, publishing, healthcare, transportation, banking, and education within the state. Several institutions of higher education, including Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, and Belmont University, are located in Nashville.

2. Memphis

With a population of 652,236, Memphis is the second most populous city in Tennessee, and ranks as the 25th largest in the country. Memphis is located along the Mississippi River, in the southwestern part of Shelby County, where it serves as the county seat. Historically, the city played a significant role in the American civil rights movement. For example, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr occurred in Memphis in 1968. Today, the city is a center for education, art, entertainment, commerce, and media. FedEx is the largest employer in the city, and the Memphis International Airport is the world’s second busiest cargo airport. Memphis barbecue has become world renowned, and the city hosts an annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which is the largest pork barbecue contest in the world and attracts thousands of visitors.

3. Knoxville

Knoxville has a population of 186,239 and is Tennessee’s third largest city. It also serves as the county seat of Knox County. The city, which was first settled in 1786, was the state’s first capital. Knoxville is one of the gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The headquarters of several regional and national corporate companies are located within the city. Knoxville is also home to the main campus of the University of Tennessee.

4. Chattanooga

Chattanooga is the fourth most populous city of Tennessee, with a population of 177,571. The city is located in Hamilton County, within southeastern Tennessee, and is situated along the Tennessee River. Chattanooga is a transit hub and is served by numerous highways and railroads. Surrounded by ridges and mountains, the city offers a number of outdoor activities to residents and visitors. In fact, the Chattanooga has been nicknamed "Scenic City." American bandleader and composer Glenn Miller’s song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" has made the city known around the world.

5. Clarksville

With a population of approximately 150,287, Clarksville is Tennessee’s fifth biggest city. It also serves as the county seat of Montgomery County. Clarksville was established in 1785 and later incorporated in 1807. Austin Peay State University is based in Clarksville.

Legal Requirements to Be a Tennessee Municipality

Although some municipalities in the state are referred to as "cities" while others are called "towns," the terms do not have any legal significance in the state. Municipalities with at least 1,500 residents are required to incorporate, either under the city manager-commission or the mayor-alderman charters. At least 5,000 residents are needed for a city to form under a modified city manager-council charter.

The 10 Biggest Cities in Tennessee by Population

RankCityCountyPopulation
1NashvilleDavidson667,560
2MemphisShelby652,236
3KnoxvilleKnox186,239
4ChattanoogaHamilton177,571
5ClarksvilleMontgomery150,287
6MurfreesboroRutherford131,947
7FranklinWilliamson74,794
8JacksonMadison67,005
9Johnson CityWashington66,677
10BartlettShelby58,622

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