One of our readers asked us the other day, What’s the difference between an Ave, Rd, St, Ln, Dr, Way, Pl, Blvd etc. and how is it decided which road is what?

There are many acceptable definitions for these, this is just one set, it is highly likely you have seen something different. Different places will have different rules on what’s what or no rules at all. There are literally dozens of right answers to this. Almost all of these should really be affixed with “is usually” but because of how long this has gotten, I can’t include every exception and variation.

  • A road has no special qualifiers. It connects point a to point b.
  • A street connects buildings together, usually in a city, usually east to west, opposite of avenue.
  • An avenue runs north south. Avenues and streets may be used interchangeably for directions, usually has median.
  • A boulevard is a street with trees down the middle or on both sides
  • A lane is a narrow street usually lacking a median.
  • A drive is a private, winding road.
  • A way is a small out of the way road.
  • A court usually ends in a cul-de-sac or similar little loop.
  • A plaza or square is usually a wide open space, but in modern definitions, one of the above probably fits better for a plaza as a road.
  • A terrace is a raised flat area around a building. When used for a road it probably better fits one of the above.
  • In UK, a close is similar to a court, a short road serving a few houses, may have cul-de-sac.
  • A run is usually located near a stream or other small body of water.
  • A place is similar to a court, or close, usually a short skinny dead end road, with or without cul-de-sac, sometimes p shaped
  • A bay is a small road where both ends link to the same connecting road.
  • A crescent is a windy S like shape, or just a crescent shape, for the record, above definition of bay was also given to me for crescent.
  • A trail is usually in or near a wooded area.
  • A mews is an old British way of saying row of stables, more modernly separate houses surrounding a courtyard.
    • A highway is a major public road, usually connecting multiple cities.
    • A motorway is similar to a highway, with the term more common in New Zealand, the UK, and Australia, no stopping, no pedestrian or animal traffic allowed.
    • An interstate is a highway system connecting usually connecting multiple states, although some exist with no connections.
    • A turnpike is part of a highway, and usually has a toll, often located close to a city or commercial area.
    • A freeway is part of a highway with 2 or more lanes on each side, no tolls, sometimes termed expressway, no intersections or cross streets.
    • A parkway is a major public road, usually decorated, sometimes part of a highway, has traffic lights.
    • A causeway combines roads and bridges, usually to cross a body of water.
    • A circuit and speedway are used interchangeably, usually refers to a racing course, practically probably something above.
    • As the name implies, garden is usually a well decorated small road, but probably better fits an above.
    • A view is usually on a raised area of land, a hill or something similar.
    • A byway is a minor road, usually a bit out of the way and not following main roads.
    • A cove is a narrow road, can be sheltered, usually near a larger body of water or mountains
    • A row is a street with a continuous line of close together houses on one or both sides, usually serving a specific function like a frat.
    • A beltway is a highway surrounding an urban area.
    • A quay is a concrete platform running along water.
    • A crossing is where two roads meet
    • An Alley is a narrow path or road between buildings, sometimes connects streets, not always drivable.
    • A point is usually dead ends at a hill.
    • A pike usually a toll road.
  • An esplanade is long open, level area, usually a walking path near the ocean.
  • A square is an open area where multiple streets meet, guess how its usually shaped.
  • A landing is usually near a dock or port, historically where boats drop goods.
  • A walk is historically a walking path or sidewalk, probably became a road later in its history.
  • A grove is thickly sheltered by trees.
  • A copse is a small grove.
  • A driveway is almost always private, short, leading to a single residence or a few related ones.
  • A laneway is uncommon, usually down a country road, itself a public road leading to multiple private driveways.
  • A trace is beaten path.
  • A circle usually circles around an area, but sometimes is like a “square”, an open place intersected by multiple roads.
  • A channel is usually near a water channel, the water itself connecting two larger bodies of water.
  • A grange historically would have been a farmhouse or collection of houses on a farm, the road probably runs through what used to be a farm.
  • A park originally meaning an enclosed space, came to refer to an enclosed area of nature in a city, usually a well decorated road.
  • A mill is probably near an old flour mill or other mill.
  • A spur is similar to a byway, a smaller road branching off from a major road.
  • A bypass passes around a populated area to divert traffic.
  • A roundabout or traffic circle circles around a traffic island with multiple connecting routes, a roundabout is usually smaller, with less room for crossing and passing, and safer.
  • A wynd is a narrow lane between houses, similar to an alley, more common in UK.
  • A parade is wider than average road historically used as a parade ground.
  • A chase was historically used as private hunting grounds.
  • A branch divides a road or area into multiple subdivisions.

Everything I found here is either rephrased from an urban planning textbook, Wikipedia, or Google’s define function, I never claimed to be an expert on anything, what I gave here is essentially the most common occurring definition I could find, but many are used interchangeably, how a word is used in vernacular does not change an accepted definition.

These aren’t hard and fast rules. Most cities and such redefine them their own way about what road can be called what.

Why you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

Parkway originally referred to the decorations along that particular road, not the state of the cars on it, its similarities to a park being obvious. Driveways were originally much longer than they are now, so you actually would drive on them.

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Last Update: February 23, 2023

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