AskDefine | Define alley

Dictionary Definition



1 a narrow street with walls on both sides [syn: alleyway, back street]
2 a lane down which a bowling ball is rolled toward pins [syn: bowling alley, skittle alley]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A narrow street, especially one through the middle of a block giving access to the rear of lots or buildings.
    The parking lot to my friend's apartment building is in the alley.
  2. The area between the outfielders, the gap.
    He hit one deep into the alley.
  3. italbrac bowling Establishment where bowling is played; bowling alley.

Derived terms


See also

Extensive Definition

An alley or alleyway is a narrow, pedestrian lane found in urban areas which usually run between or behind buildings. In older cities and towns in Europe, alleys are often what is left of a medieval street network, or a right of way or ancient footpath in an urban setting. In older urban development, alleys were built to allow for deliveries such as coal to the rear of houses. Alleys may be paved, or simply dirt tracks. Blind alleys have no outlet at one end.

Modern planning

Many modern urban developments do not incorporate alleys. Installation of gates to restrict alleyway access have significantly reduced burglary rates. On blocks where gates are not installed, residents sometimes erect home-made barricades at alley entrances.
Andrés Duany, American architect and urban planner has long espoused the use of alleys as leading to a better integration of automobile and foot traffic in a neighborhood.
In some modern urban developments, a service road may be built to allow for waste collection, or rear access for fire engines and parking. Such roads are not alleys as they are too wide.

Other terms

Alleys which are narrow pavements between/behind buildings can be known as snickets, ginnels, jennels or alleyways. This has led to the portmanteau word Snickelway, originally in York, though the term has become more widespread. In Sussex the term twitten is commonly used whilst in Liverpool the term entry or jigger is more common. The word jitty is also often used in Derbyshire and Leicestershire. In Nottinghamshire twichell is a common name. In Scotland the terms Close, Wynd and Pend are commonplace. Jennel is local to Sheffield. In Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast, and the surrounding areas, certain alleys are known as Entries, as in Pogue's Entry, Antrim, and Calton Entry, Glasgow.
In Australia and Canada the terms lane, laneway and serviceway are also used.
In the United States and Canada alleys are sometimes known as rear lanes or back lanes because they are at the back of buildings.


Reduced usage of alleys can result in their decline. Under use, poor maintenance, poor night time illumination and narrow width may contribute to an increase in anti-social or illegal activities.

Use by automobiles

Many alleys, particularly 19th century ones, are wide enough to support automobile traffic. Such alleys are used in residential areas to gain access to garages that were built behind houses after the rise of the automobile. Others can be found in older industrial areas. Because alleys are narrow and have only enough room for one vehicle to pass at a time, many alleys are one-way only. An alley serving the main entrance of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings, or carrying significant traffic, may be given a separate street name.

Other languages

"Alley" is of French origin, meaning a way to go, and has been adapted in English as above. It is also used in parts of Europe such as Germany, Croatia and Serbia as a name for a boulevard, an avenue or a parkway (such as Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin and Bologna Alley in Zagreb.
alley in Danish: Stræde (gade)
alley in German: Gasse
alley in Italian: Vicolo
alley in Dutch: Steeg
alley in Swedish: Gränd

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Autobahn, US highway, access, aisle, alleyway, ambulatory, aperture, arcade, arterial, arterial highway, arterial street, artery, autoroute, autostrada, avenue, belt highway, blind alley, boulevard, bypass, byway, camino real, carriageway, causeway, causey, channel, chaussee, circumferential, cloister, close, colonnade, communication, conduit, connection, corduroy road, corridor, county road, court, covered way, crescent, cul-de-sac, dead-end street, defile, dike, dirt road, drive, driveway, exit, expressway, ferry, ford, freeway, gallery, gravel road, highroad, highway, highways and byways, inlet, interchange, intersection, interstate highway, junction, lane, local road, main drag, main road, mews, motorway, opening, outlet, overpass, parkway, pass, passage, passageway, pave, paved road, pike, place, plank road, portico, primary highway, private road, railroad tunnel, right-of-way, ring road, road, roadbed, roadway, route nationale, row, royal road, secondary road, speedway, state highway, street, superhighway, terrace, thoroughfare, through street, thruway, toll road, township road, traject, trajet, tunnel, turnpike, underpass, wynd
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