Community is a set of people (or agents in a more abstract sense) with some shared element. Also a community is a group of people or things that live in the same area. The substance of shared element varies widely, from a situation to interest to lives and values. The term is widely used to evoke sense of collectivity.
The origin of the word community comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. Community literally means to give among each other. Community could be defined as a group of people who share gifts which they provide to all.
When there is a clearly shared-interest (economic or otherwise) among a set of people, the people collectively might be called community. Patients of a serious disease who wish the development of a safer, cheaper, and comfortable treatment, may be referred to as a community in this sense.
In a stricter use of the term, community is a group of people who interact with each other.
A virtual community is a group of people exchanging messages or other types of information and is a community in this sense. Here, the members usually share an interest.
A group of people living in a small local area, such as a dormitory, neighborhood, district, town, city, is often called a community. This is usually a mixture of shared-interest and actual interaction.
Community can be defined using different patterns. A community can be large or small; local, national, international; real or virtual; cooperative or competitive; formal or informal.
An even narrower definition of community has to do with the nature of interaction. In community, interaction is informal and spontaneous rather than procedurally formalized (such as in bureaucracy), an end in itself rather than goal-oriented (such as in interest group or advocacy group). The members form tight-knit web-like structure of relations rather than a hierarchical one. It is relatively popular among social theorists (such as Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Ferdinand Tonnies) to conceptualize community in this way especially in contrast to modernity.
When people describe a group as a community, it typically implies or evokes some sense of harmonious, egalitarian social form sharing their values and lives. The image is most clear in history, though there are numerous objections that such an idealistic community is hardly a historical reality. A relatively isolated small village in pre-modern society is often called community.
For example, in the United States, services provided by non-profits, corporations, and others to increase welfare of some of the local citizens are often called community services, even when it is offered for a limited segment of them. Here, the service is for the community in a sense it pursues the egalitarian goal and make the local society more like a community.
In Wales and Scotland, communities are the lowest tier of local government, equivalent to civil parishes in England.