What’s in a Street Name?

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Have you ever given a thought to the road you live on, or the streets you walk down every day? What gives them their names and makes them what they are? No doubt you’ve seen roads, streets, avenues, lanes and closes all before. But have you considered what these naming conventions mean?

We’ve taken a look, and there is a logic behind the names. Understanding what this is can help you get around places you’re not familiar with. So, here’s the run-down on what’s what.

street name meanings infographic

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What is a Road?

The definition of a road is a thoroughfare, route or way that connects two points. Simple! That’s why we see so many of them around.

What is a Street?

A street is a public road that can be found in a city, town or a village. It typically has houses or other buildings on either one of both sides.

What is a Lane?

Lanes are common in rural areas. They tend to be narrow and are sometimes winding too!

What is an Avenue?

An avenue is a broad road with trees along its sides. It is usually found in a town or city.

What is a Way?

A way is a small side street that turns off another road or street.

What is a Drive?

A drive has a different meaning in the UK and the USA. The UK meaning of drive is a private road which allows access to one or a group of structures. These structures are privately owned by an individual or group.

In the USA, a drive is a road that’s defined by a nearby geographical feature, like a mountain or lake.

What is a Crescent?

A crescent is a street or terrace of houses that forms an arc. Both ends of a crescent usually join the same main road.

What is a Close or Place?

A close or a place is a residential street that doesn’t have through access for vehicles. Another name for this type of road is a cul-de-sac.

What is a Court?

A court is much like a close or place in that it’s also a dead end with no through access. However, a court is so-called because it is a circle or loop shape, rather than straight.

What is an Alley?

An alley is a small pathway between buildings. It may or may not be possible to drive down an alley.

What is a Wynd?

A wynd is a narrow street or alley that turns off a main street. These are common in Scotland and Wales.

What is an Esplanade?

An esplanade is a road that runs by the sea. It is also known as a promenade.

What is a Mews?

A mews is a row of houses that have been converted from stables. Houses built to look like stables can also be called a mews.

What is a Terrace?

A terrace is a residential street that follows the top of a slope. This is not to be confused with a terraced house or terraced housing which is a row of houses sharing side walls. A terrace doesn’t need to feature terraced housing to be a terrace!

Now, that covers all the basics! What else is there to know about streets?

Street Facts You Didn’t Know!

  • The Steepest Street: The world’s steepest street is Baldwin Street, Dunedin NZ. It slopes with a gradient of 35%.
  • The Shortest Street Name: Pretty snappy, the shortest street name we could find is ‘Hide’, in the London E6 area.
  • The Longest Street: The Pan American Highway is about as long as it gets. It’s approx 48,000km long and connects 20 countries from Argentina to North America.
  • The Highest Road: The Trans-Himalayan road is 5,582m high. There are higher roads in Chile, but they are either no longer usable, or only accessible by 4WD.
  • The Lowest Road: A road by the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan is at 418m below sea level.
  • The Widest Road: The Katy Freeway, or Interstate 10 in Texas USA is 26 lanes wide and 219,000 vehicles per day traverse the road. Putting both sides together, all lanes in total are around 50m wide!
  • The Fastest Road: 65% of the autobahn has NO SPEED LIMIT AT ALL so we’d class this as the fastest road! The highest SET speed limit is Texas State Highway 130 at 85mph.

Street Name Statistics


The most common street names in the United States, are:

  • Second or 2nd (10,866)
  • Third (10,131)
  • First (9,898)


The reason for “Second” and “Third” streets being more common than “First” is that some cities do not have “First” streets — naming them “Main” or “Front” (in communities with river, lake or railroad line frontage) instead, or renaming them after historical figures.

The most common street names in the UK are:

  • High Street
  • Church Lane
  • Station Road

Interestingly, Main Street is more common in Scotland than High Street and Church Lane is almost unheard of in Scotland AND Wales.

So now you know a lot more about the streets and roads around you. Perhaps you’ve learned something you didn’t know about the place you live or somewhere you like to visit. Keeping an eye on the names as you’re out on a walk could be a fun and educational game to play with kids, or might be enough to stop you hitting a dead end when you’re trying to get somewhere. What you do with your newly found street knowledge is up to you!