Street, Lane, Drive, Road and Way

Posted by Paxtar on 4 September 2016 in English (English)

Cleared entry.

Comment from Reece202 on 4 September 2016 at 20:35

I think it really depends on the location whether the street suffixes mean anything

There are some cities where all of the north/south roads are one type, and the east/west ones are different, e.g. N/S are all Streets, E/W are all Roads; but other places are more random. I particularly like Tucson's (AZ, USA) system; Streets are E/W, Avenues are N/S, and Stravenues are on the diagonal to the others.

When you get out into the suburbs, especially the American winding-labyrinth style ones, it's definitely just the 'what ever sounds nice' system.

Hide this comment

Comment from TRJ on 4 September 2016 at 20:49

Hey Paxtar,

Historically a street was a paved road/way. In the netherlands a street (straat) was usually found in cities, but could also a be paved road between cities (which were very rare in for example the 17th century as most roads were usually dirt roads), I'm not quite sure if this is the same for English speaking countries.

Lanes were roads that were lined with trees or had a line of tress between both halves of the road. These could be paved (usually in the nicer parts of cities) or just hardened dirt roads (usually in the countryside).

I currently live along a "drive" (or dreef in dutch), these roads were used to bring cattle from farms or village greens in villages or small towns to (common) meadows. Due to progressing urbanisation some of these roads that used to end in grasslands are now in the middle residential areas. Drives are thus found at the edge of villages or towns or, if these places grew significantly, in new residential areas (and not in lets say pre 1900's neighbourhoods).

Way (in english at least) sem to be applicable from an alley-like to major roads.

Road also seems a rather general term for anything that is accessible by cars.

Esplanades or promenades are wide open street alongside rivers and beaches and are usually only accessible to pedestrians and the occasional cyclist and are often bordered on one side by fancy shops, hotels or resorts and are plces were people gather to "be seen".

Rows are streets lined with townhouses and/or rowhouses and are usually (both not exclusively) found in areas that were built during or after the industrial revolution.

Terraces are the quite similar to rows, in that they are lined with rowhouses. The difference is that rows contain houses that may vary in architectural style and also in hight and width. Terraces are lined with houses with a similar or even one facade, for example Place the Vosgues in Paris, or the Royal Crescent in Bath (both early, but very beautiful examples of terraced housing).

Closes or cul-de-sacs are usually small residential roads with a dead end

Alleys are usually service roads that do not contain adresses themselves.

Gate is usually a road that really had a gate in centuries past or (in a modern era) serves as the entrance road to a neighbourhood/area.

Boulevards are a French invention, interestingly boulevard has the same etymological origin as bulwark, both from the middle dutch "bolwerc", and were originally used to describe the flat area of a rampart. The first parisian boulevards were built on the location of Louis XIII's demolished city walls. As more cities in europe dismantled their walls boulevards became an early example of ringroads that encircled the city. These often very wide and beautiful roads, became very popular and the name boulevard became applicable to any large, wide and often treelined road in cities. These roads were often used as a major thoroughfare in the city or as a centre of leisure (used in the same way as a promenade and often alongside hotels, theatres and casinos). In modern American speech a boulevard is an important multilane arterial thoroughfare.

Avenues (as a name for roads) are applied to long often completely straight roads that radiate from the center of cities to the boulevards or other ringroads. Just like boulevards, avenues are a quite recent invention. The famous avenues in Paris were built after the old medieval parts of Paris were largely razed to the ground. This was not necessarily done to improve the flow of traffic, but because the narrow winding medieval streets were a deathtrap for the police and army. More than once the, often rebellious, Parisians blockaded these old streets with furniture and other stuff and ambushed goverment forces. The nice wide and straight avenues allowed for the deployment of artillery to blow any blockades to tiny bits and also provided little cover for retreating rebels. In american cities with a grid system there are sometimes conventions that avenues run parallel to one another, while roads named "street" run at 90 degrees to them across the avenues.

Hope this helpes,


Hide this comment

Comment from Yuanls on 4 September 2016 at 21:20

In Britain I haven't really seen a distinct pattern, but there are specific trends. A good tip for studying street names is to find a fair sized settlement and look for areas exclusively built in a time period. Look for features related to road naming and road layout. This will help you to determine what an archetypal region looks like. Having an old map collection is useful :)

Most roads that lead to distant settlements, e.g. London Road and Bristol road end in the suffix 'road'. These are the oldest main roads; a fair portion are trunk roads on OSM. Other roads tend to be newer, residential constructs built during the 20th century.

Lanes are also quite old, but lanes are more of a generic type of road. There are a higher proportion of rural roads named lanes than in urban situations. Lanes inside towns and cities are mostly from rural and old roads that have been absorbed as the city expanded. You can identify an old lane by looking at the prefix-an old road normally is slightly abstract and generic e.g. Leaf Lane, Dark Lane, Watery Lane. The naming normally relates to the road's former conditions in times bygone, e.g. a road with many trees, a road with low visibility, a muddy road.

I believe streets, and avenues are more modern, Although streets can be old. Most streets in the city centre, followed by a noun, normally have a historic background. E.g. Smith Street, Priory Street, Tower Street, High Street. The oldest street I know of is Watling Street. Although a Roman Road, its name dates to the middle ages. If there is not a clear reason why a street or avenue is named that way, the route is probably a residential road laid in the 20th century.

Most British roads that end in 'drive', 'way' or 'rise' are constructs of the modern era, after the 1960s. 'Drive' and 'rise' appear mainly in residential areas and are not particularly long. Ways can be of any size. Some modern bypasses or main roads end in 'way', as do roads found among drives and rises. The naming of these roads tends to have little relation to its former surroundings, unless if the land was previously used by for example a factory or railway. Routes are sometimes named after local figures.

So in conclusion:

  1. Apple Street might be an old road in the town centre, with a link to apples.

  2. Otherwise it would be found in the suburbs among roads like Pear Street and Orange street (they did this in the late 19th century).

  3. I imagine Apple Lane is a lane named after a distinctive tree or an orchard near the route. It might be still in place or otherwise not.

  4. Apple drive is new residential road built after 1970.

  5. Apple Way would be the same as the one above. Come on, who names a major road 'Apple'?

Of course , I'm only talking about England here. What happens in other countries?

Hide this comment

Comment from kingfries on 5 September 2016 at 14:12

Can only talk about the german way of naming things here,streets are usually named in this defined way: ,,Straße'' is just any street, e.g. Kirchstraße (church street), Bahnhofstraße (Station Street), Martin-Luther-Straße etc. ,,Weg'' (Way) is usually a small residential street, often narrow and found more commonly in small towns, ,,Gasse'' (Alley) is, well, an alley, these are found in the historic districts of towns and are often named after the kind of people who lived there ,Bäckergasse'' (Baker Alley) would be where historically a lot of bakers lived or ,,Judengasse'' would be where in the medieval times a lot of jewish people lived etc. ,,Allee'' (Avenue) is usually a long road outside of the center of a town, with huge e.g. oaks lining the way, this is in general only used for such roads, Boulevards aren't common here, although in northern germany ,,XY-Damm'' (XY-Dam) seems to be used instead of Boulevard. Another thing that can be commonly observed is that a lot of areas outside the core are named after a ,theme', there might be an area full of 1880s-1920s residential houses named Wilhelm, Jakob, Gustav etc. -Straße, further out can be newer 1980s suburban houses with the streets named after fruits, in the next res. area streets are named after flowers, and so on. Further out in the newest residential areas, streets are often named after local politicians, and national heros like people who tried to fight against nazism(west) or communism(east). A small niche are simply streets with only single names without any addition (Reeperbahn, Domplatte, Freiheit) that are simply known as this for historical reasons. So, thats how roads are called in germany.

Hide this comment

Comment from Easky30 on 5 September 2016 at 14:37

This is the model I use for the Gobras City Suburbs.

Here in Blanchardstown you have boulevards equal to drives & avenues. the lesser known suffixes such as lawns & groves are usually dead ends. Where I live now on Long Island, NY Boulevards are usually main roads with some having service roads. Streets are generally located in the city or the center of small towns.

I personally like drive as a main road connecting all the smaller ones in the Gobras City suburbs that I draw. I am constantly looking for more suffixes so I appreciate the list Wangi put together.

Hide this comment

Comment from tparigo on 5 September 2016 at 14:42


Well in France (and in French) there are no real rules about that : there are very narrow "boulevards" or "avenues" and very wide "rues" (streets).

Historically, boulevards were designed on the former city walls location, so they are supposed to surround the city core (mostly true in Paris, Bruxelles or Bordeaux, half true in Nice or Lyon, mostly false in Marseille).

Avenues were roads leading to XXX (the word avenue comes from the verb advenire in Latin). So they are supposed to go from the city core to the outside. You can also use “route”, “chaussée” or “cours” instead of avenue.

At the end, you can use : rue, boulevard, avenue, cours, chaussée, allée(s) almost wherever you want.

Some names have a specific signification. “Quai” must be used only along water (ports, rivers, lakes…); “Impasse” on dead-end roads, “Promenade” along natural or urban panorama (seaside, city walls…).

Hide this comment

Comment from Paxtar on 5 September 2016 at 18:56

From the above, I get the impression that historically the naming of streets made more sense, but that with time, usage has become somewhat blurred. More in some places than others. It is something I had not considered, and something that adds another layer of information to a map, especially in older cities.

I have been working on trying to automate naming of streets in my territory, and will try to figure out how to incorporate some level of history to the process.

I really enjoyed reading the comments! I am always amazed at how much I learn about the real world, while working on a fictional one. Thank you.

Hide this comment

Comment from Demuth on 8 September 2016 at 19:10

These are wonderful explanations of the differences between the various kinds of streets - I had only the vaguest intuition of the differences!

One thing though - I think the word "gate" for a street is not because there was a gate there. Rather it comes from the same origin as the Scandinavian word for street: "gata," "gade" and "gate" (depending on your country, and I think the Finnish "kaatu" is actually from the same origin). I guess the Angles and Saxons brought it or the Vikings. It's just another word for street.

Hide this comment

Leave a comment

Parsed with Markdown

  • Headings

    # Heading
    ## Subheading

  • Unordered list

    * First item
    * Second item

  • Ordered list

    1. First item
    2. Second item

  • Link

  • Image

    ![Alt text](URL)

Login to leave a comment