Zachary Berry
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What’s the Difference Between a Street and an Avenue?

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Why do the roads we live on all have different suffixes?

What makes your street, well, a street?
Photo: Joe Mabel

Take a moment to think of the name of the road you live on. Or is it even a road? Perhaps it’s a “lane” instead, or a “boulevard,” or an “avenue.”

In the United States alone, there are a total of 156 street suffixes, each recognized by the United States Postal Service. This list ranges anywhere from “Alley” to “Way,” and everything in between.

But is there a difference between all of these suffixes? While the naming scheme might seem arbitrary at first, there may be more meaning behind it then you might realize.

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Phil Edwards from Vox recently created a video describing the differences between the suffixes used to distinguish roadways across the country. While the video doesn’t go into the history of all 156 street suffixes, it does discuss some of the most common ones and what their meanings are.

Road Any path that connects two points.
Street A road that has buildings on both sides. Usually runs east to west in cities, perpendicular of an avenue.
Avenue A road that has buildings on both sides. Usually runs north to south in cities, perpendicular of a street.
Way A small side street branching off of a road.
Drive A long, winding road that is shaped by the surrounding environment.
Lane A narrow road lacking a median.
Boulevard A wide street that is separated by a median. It usually has trees running down the sides or within the median.
Place A small road that leads to a dead end.
Court A small road that leads to a loop or cul-de-sac.
Terrace A road that follows to the top of a slope.
Plaza An open public space surrounded by other roads and businesses.
Square Another name for a Plaza


Furthermore, Edwards goes on to explain the differences between the various names used by highways and other major roads.

Highway A major public road that connects multiple cities.
Interstate A federally-funded network of roads. Usually runs between states, but not always.
Freeway A highway that includes two or more lanes on each side. Usually does not include any tolls.
Turnpike A part of a highway that usually includes tollbooths.
Beltway A highway that surrounds a city.
Parkway A decorated public road, usually surrounded by trees and other foliage.
Causeway A raised road that runs over waterways or swampland.
Junction The point where two major road cross.


If you would like to watch the Vox video for yourself you can do so below:

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It’s important to note that urban areas usually follow these naming rules more so than suburban or rural areas. Still, the next time you’re on your way home, check to see if the road you live on matches this naming scheme.

Source: Vox