You must have wondered at least once where all these names for our roadways came from. After all, Main Street and Main Avenue could be entirely different roads in entirely different parts of a city. This extraordinary power is controlled just by a small adjustment on the end of the roadway. The freeway, turnpike, landing, terrace, chase, alley, and trail all don’t stand for much in our current busy world. But, as luck would have it, there are actually definitions for most of these terms that really only held true in the early years of road construction. Nowadays, city planners just jam whatever suffix to the roadway that they want with little concern for accuracy.
So What is the Difference an Ave, Rd, St, Ln, Dr, Way, Pl, Blvd, Row, Plz, Ct, Sq, Byp, Xing, and More?
Below you will find the definitions of the most common roadway terms in our transportation system. It is important to note that the definitions presented below are not exactly as clear-cut as you would expect: These days the terms are sometimes used interchangeably with one another, often with no loss in meaning whatsoever. Rules, if any, are entirely dependent on the context and environment in which the words are used (how lovely). There are just far too many exceptions and variations in meaning to conclude that one definition is more “correct” over another. This of course most often leads aimlessly into confusion.
The definitions below are definitely not the “correct” ones, technically speaking- they’re merely the most commonly accepted and most commonly occurring definitions for these particular set of words.
- Road (Rd.) – A road does not have any special meaning attached to it. It’s simply a way from one point A to another point B.
- Street (St.) – A street is a special kind of road in a sense that it should be able to connect two buildings together, oftentimes in an east to west direction. This term is usually used in cities and other urban environments.
- Avenue (Ave.) – Avenues, in contrast to streets, usually run from north to south and have medians.
- Boulevard (Blvd.) – A boulevard is simply a street lined with trees down its middle or sides.
- Lane (Ln.) – A lane is a street that is so small in size that it lacks a median.
- Drive (Dr.) – A drive is a privately-owned, winding road that often leads into a residential property.
Way (Way) – A way, ironically, refers to roads that are “out-of-the-way.”
- Court (Ct.) – Courts are roads that end in cul de sacs or other similar looped areas.
Plaza (Plz) – A plaza, in olden times, referred to a wide, open, public space in the middle of a town or city.
- Terrace (Ter.) – A terrace isn’t any kind of road, but an elevated flat area located around a building.
- Runs (Run) – Runs are strictly located near bodies of water such as streams and lakes.
Place (Pl.) – Place is often used in a similar fashion as “court,” or “close.” It can also sometimes refer to a dead-end road (sometimes P-shaped), with or without a cul de sac.
- Bay (Bay) – A bay is a road whose ends are linked to each other.
- Crescent (Cres.) – A crescent, as the name suggests, is a road that is crescent-shaped. Sometimes also used in place of a “bay.”
Trail (Trl.) – Trails are just roads located in wooded areas.
- Highway (Hwy) – A highway is a major public road/ thoroughfare that connects cities.
Interstate (I) – An interstate connects multiple highways.
- Turnpike (Tpke.) – A turnpike is part of a highway near the city. Tolls are often located here.
- Freeway (Fwy.) – A freeway is another part of a highway that has 2 or more lanes on each side. Also called as an expressway.
- Parkway (Pkwy.) – A parkway is part of a highway where the traffic lights are located.
- Causeway (Cswy.) – A causeway is a connection between a road and a bridge. It is built to allow vehicles to cross over a body of water.
- Circuit and Speedway – Circuit and speedway are used strictly in the field of racing. These are just shorter terms for a racing course.
- Row (Row) – A row is a street lined continuously with houses on one or both sides.
- Beltway (Bltway.) – A beltway is what you would call a road that surrounds a large urban area.
- Crossing (Xing.) – A crossing is merely the intersection where two roads converge or meet.
- Alley (Aly.) – An alley is a small, narrow road (that may or may not be connected to streets or avenues) in between structures like buildings.
- Point (Pt.) – A point is a road that ends in a hill.
- Pike (Pike) – A pike is another term for a toll road.
- Square (Sq.) – A square is an area where multiple streets meet, converging roughly into- you guess it- a square.
- Landing (Lndg) – Landing was used historically used to refer to areas near docks and ports where ships drop goods.
- Driveway (Drwy.) – A driveway is a small private road that leads into a single or multiple residential structures.
- Circle (Cir.) – A circle is just like a square, in the sense that is the meeting point of multiple roads, just shaped in a circle.
- Park (Park) – A park is a public space, often an enclosed area of nature, within a city.
- Bypass (Byp.) – A bypass is a road that passes through a residential or populated area to reroute traffic.
- Drive (Dr.) – A drive is a shorter term for driveway which is appropriate as their meanings are similar as well.
- Chase (Ch.) – A chase is a piece of land used as private hunting grounds.
Hopefully, you can go on living the rest of your life with a clear understanding of the ridiculous nature of our road naming system. We sure will!