The name comes from a French language term for a tenant farm which paid the landlord with a share of the produce (sharecropping), as this was the main activity of the area in the early 19th century. The name is prononced locally "MET-uh-ree" or "Met'ree".
The first development of the area was along Metairie Ridge, a winding bit of naturally higher land formed by an old bayou levee. Housing developents near the ridge were first developed in the 1920s; this area is now known as "Old Metairie". Most of the rest of Metairie was not developed until after World War II.
Metairie Cemetery is not located in the town of Metairie, but rather within the city of New Orleans on Metairie Road.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 60.2 km² (23.3 mi²). 60.1 km² (23.2 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.22% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 146,136 people, 63,741 households, and 39,073 families residing in the town. The population density is 2,431.0/km² (6,296.7/mi²). There are 67,225 housing units at an average density of 1,118.3/km² (2,896.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the town is 86.53% White, 6.83% African American, 0.27% Native American, 2.77% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.91% from other races, and 1.68% from two or more races. 7.25% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 63,741 households out of which 25.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.1% are married couples living together, 11.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 38.7% are non-families. 32.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.28 and the average family size is 2.93.
In the town the population is spread out with 20.6% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 88.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town is $41,265, and the median income for a family is $52,555. Males have a median income of $37,371 versus $27,057 for females. The per capita income for the town is $24,771. 8.9% of the population and 6.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 11.2% are under the age of 18 and 7.2% are 65 or older.