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I've always been fascinated by these two words, as they seem to have the exact opposite meaning as expected. Is it because of the etymology? Or perhaps the meanings were switched at some point in time?

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Excellent question and a fun thing to confuse people who are new to English with. –  Darryl Hein Feb 13 '11 at 3:06
    
Wonderful question –  Arjun J Rao Feb 13 '11 at 4:42
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I, for one, am always sober on a highway –  Dancrumb Feb 23 '11 at 1:35
    
Give points to George Carlin for the question. –  Bruce James Mar 11 '13 at 18:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 26 down vote accepted

A parkway is supposed to be a pleasant scenic place, like a park.

A driveway is probably the only place on your personal property that you can actually drive.

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A place you "drive into", per se. –  Justin L. Feb 13 '11 at 4:48

Parkway:

"The first parkways in America were developed in the 19th Century by Frederick Law Olmsted as segregated roads for pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and carriages." They had "large landscaped central medians" and "often act as the approach to a large city park." Only later was the term extended. (Wikipedia)

Merriam Webster defines "parkway" as "a broad landscaped thoroughfare."

The verb to "park" originally meant

"To put strips of lawn down the centre or along the side of (a street, the main streets of a city)." (OED)

So a Parkway was a "way," or thoroughfare, that was "parked," or landscaped.


Driveway:

"a private road giving access from a public way to a building on abutting grounds." 1871. (M-W)

"Also, a private carriageway for a motor vehicle alongside, in front of, or leading to a house, garage, or other building; a drive." (OED).

So a driveway originally was a path that you drove on. Many older houses in the US still have such a driveway - you know, the circular kind that you actually have to drive on to get to the front door (see http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/images/335/bbb1759a.jpg ) Only in modern times, when everyone owned a car, even in cities, and needed a place to store it, did the driveway become a place to "park your car."

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As a tributary to Brooklyn's Prospect Park, designers Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux designed both Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway specifically to lead to the park for a leisurely day and for the pleasure of it to begin before you got there. The were designed with care and beauty to compliment their masterpiece which they personally preferred to their other masterpiece Central Park. –  Bill Mulcahy Jul 10 at 19:16

protected by tchrist Jul 10 at 19:24

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