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I am looking for the correct/common way to call the single spaces which are generally clearly visibile in parking lots as you can see from the picture:

enter image description here

I would probably call them "parking slots," but I am not sure if that is correct and I could not find any reference apart from this one, which clearly refers to a different context.

According to the Collins Dictionary a parking bay is:

a space in a car park designed to be large enough to park a vehicle in

Any reference to American English or British English would be appreciated.

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Interesting, excuse me but I am not familiar with that terminology. Would "parking slot" sound inappropriate? – Saturana Mar 22 at 11:34
They aren't slots: the original meaning of a slot is a rectangular section cut out of something (eg some wood). The word "slot" is also used to refer to "time slots", ie a pre-defined time period in which something may or may not occur. It's not used to refer to parking spaces: in fact, if you were talking about "parking slots", the listener would most likely assume you were talking about time periods in which someone might be able to park a parking space (or bay). Eg "I've booked a parking slot for my car, on sunday in bay 45." – Max Williams Mar 22 at 11:57
@Max Williams - thanks for clarifying, it was just the idea of "slot" meaning space cut out of something that made me think about it as a possible candidate. – Saturana Mar 22 at 12:03
I've always heard spot here in Kentucky. As in, 'that jerk took the spot I was waiting for'., or 'I parked in handicap spot and got a $250 ticket' – Dan Shaffer Mar 23 at 14:53
In a parking lot, I park in a parking spot. At home, I park in a driveway (and conversely I drive on the parkway, but that's a separate topic). – Silkster Mar 23 at 19:48

11 Answers 11

up vote 35 down vote accepted

In American English, we generally call them parking spots. Occasionally we refer to them as parking spaces, but parking spot is what I hear most commonly.

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Just to add: so far as I know, the two terms are interchangeable in American English, and I don't think there is a particular regional preference for either one. – Michael Seifert Mar 22 at 14:38
Also, to add for AmE, neither 'parking bay' or 'parking slot' are ever used. They might be understood, but they would sound very strange. – Mitch Mar 22 at 16:38
If you check the Ngrams for "parking spot" and "parking space," the "space" variant outperforms the "spot" variant in both American and British English: books.google.com/ngrams/…. It's also worth pointing out that there may be different preferences for calling parking areas on streets "spots" or "spaces" versus parking areas in parking lots. – Silenus Mar 22 at 16:40
In the mid-Atlantic region of the USA, I hear "parking space" used almost exclusively, and particularly when referring to a car location delineated by lines in a marked parking lot. When I hear "parking spot", it almost always refers to a place where a car can be parked that is not in a marked parking lot, for example when parallel parking one might say, "Oh there's a spot over there". I have no idea if that's local or nationwide (I don't get out of the area much). – Todd Wilcox Mar 22 at 18:14
Just to add something related, but not asked for by the OP - in Br Eng it's never a 'Parking Lot' - it's a 'Car Park'. – peterG Mar 23 at 17:48

Reading all the comments and answers so far it seems to me that both US and UK usages are actually pretty similar.

A parking 'space' is the usual term for a formally delineated 'space-to-park-a-car' (e.g. in a car park/parking lot). It can be impersonal and classificatory.

A parking 'spot', on the other hand, is rather like a picnic spot - namely somewhere you find for the purpose of parking (or picnicking) irrespective of whether or not it is formally set aside for the purpose. It is not (yet!) typically impersonal and classificatory.

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Parking space need not be formally delineated -- when parking on the street, any suitably large gap between cars would be a parking space. – Dave Mar 22 at 22:05
@Dave - agreed. The OP asked for the name when formally delineated. – Dan Mar 22 at 23:28
This is the correct answer. Basically, you find a parking space in a parking lot, while you find a parking spot along the street (although, as usual with language, there's overlap, especially in spoken usage). – Marthaª Mar 23 at 16:43
Some streets have markings to delineate explicit parking spaces, often in 1-1 correspondence with parking meters. The lack of such marking may correlate to the use of "spot" rather than "space". Parking lots/garages generally have explicit spaces marked, thus have no "spots". – Monty Harder Mar 23 at 21:54

In British English they are commonly known as Parking spots. We get headlines about parking spots selling for hundreds of thousands of pounds, and colleagues who complain that somebody has nicked their parking spot.

Here's some google hits for parking spot.

In more formal British English these are also described as parking spaces. This is the term suggested by Longman's Dictionary:

Use parking space or parking place when you mean 'a place in a street, car park etc where a vehicle can be left'

There's a parking space (NOT a parking) in front of that house.

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Thanks, so parking spot is not only American English. – Saturana Mar 22 at 12:10
@Araucaria - In my UK experience councils and car parking companies don't provide parking 'spots' they provide parking 'spaces'. A parking 'spot' sounds, to my UK ears, like a lucky find. A parking 'spot' may have lines painted around, but probably it doesn't (because that would make it an officially-sanctioned parking 'space')! – Dan Mar 22 at 12:25
"In British English they are commonly known as Parking spots." Yet I've not heard this even once in several decades. Is this hyper-localised? Some particular city, perhaps? They are commonly and formally known as parking spaces as far as I'm concerned! – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 22 at 14:53
@BarryTheHatchet That's a featured/sponsored result. Discounting that, the first three papers are the Mirror, the Mail and the Independent. I'm afraid that on a site for linguists, it doesn't matter whether we like the people who are doing the speaking or writing. No, don't use Ngrams (there's loads of results for parking spot). Use a corpus that includes spoken English. People are obviously more likely to use the formal alternative in writing, so that would be a ridiculous comparison. – Araucaria Mar 22 at 23:08
I agree with @Araucaria that the Daily Mail is a better source for up-to-date usage data than Ngrams, whatever one thinks of its journalistic quality; though Ngrams is still miles better than personal anecdata or a general google count. Searching the Mail for "parking space", "parking spot", and their plurals, I find that space(s) are more common than spot(s) by a factor of about 2 to 1. At the Guardian, space(s) outnumber spot(s) by about 10 to 1. This suggests that both are common, but spaces is more common, and there’s some correlation with style/class/register. – PLL Mar 23 at 11:33

It depends on how precise or pedantic you want to be. In the photo you provided, a single location for a vehicle would commonly be called a parking spot, particularly in the commercial transportation industry where each location is uniquely numbered. I would propose this as the best answer regarding the information you have given.

Another common term for the same thing is a parking space, though you are probably more likely to hear that term regarding locations along a street. Although these may also be numbered, it is not as common.

A parking stall impiles that there is a three-dimensional structure fencing in the location, though this, too, is a generally used term, particularly in an enclosed or walled-in area.

A parking bay is like a stall, but is typically a larger area that may contain multiple spaces or stalls for large vehicles, such as trailers or buses. Access is usually limited by walls or posts, as you would find in a multi-level parking deck or under a roofed area like a bus terminal.

Parking slot would not be incorrect, either. I would say this term should be reserved for locations that tend to be used by uniformly-sized vehicles. It also brings to mind an automated parking system where vehicles may have to be placed by some means other than simply driving into the space.

Parking lane would be for multiple vehicles, usually placed end-to-end in a queue. The last vehicle would be driven into one end of the designated area and the first vehicle would be driven out. Other vehicles in the line would typically have to wait until they are at one end or the other before they could be removed from the lane. Informally, this same term could be used for a line of parking spaces along a street or road where vehicles may parallel-park.

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In my experience, colloquial usage of space vs. spot is exactly opposite yours: a parking spot is any place your car happens to fit, often curbside paralleling the street. A space is a demarcated spot. – Timbo Mar 22 at 18:40
I agree with @user69710. I would also add that I hear "parking space" and "spot" most often. I have (almost?) never heard it termed "parking spot". – Jed Schaaf Mar 22 at 22:05
I've certainly seen "stall" used in cases where there was no physical structure enclosing the space, only the typical line. – Nate Eldredge Mar 23 at 18:38

In American English at least, there is a subtle distinction in connotation between parking spot and parking space: the former is a specific location in the world, the latter indicates the region in which you park.

The unfilled spaces between the paint lines are parking spaces -- read it literally as a space in which you can park. Similarly the gap between two cars at the side of a road into which you could parallel park is a parking space. Parking space is used to indicate these regions into which you maneuver your car in order to park it. "I pulled into the fifth parking space".

Parking spot is used to designate the location at which you parked. In the context of your picture, someone might say "Your car is in parking spot number 5" in order to indicate where in the lot your car is.

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Consider, parking stall


North American A marked-out parking space for a vehicle: a parking stall


A space marked off for parking a motor vehicle


A rectangular space marked off or reserved for parking a car or other vehicle, as in a parking lot.

Random House

(US) Any of the spaces marked off, as in a garage, for parking individual automobiles.

Collins American English Dictionary

I've never used the term 'parking stall' but I understand it to be one of the names for a space marked off for parking a motor vehicle in a garage or parking lot. I would call that a parking space, but of course, a 'parking space' can also be defined as any area where a vehicle can be parked, whether or not it is marked off for the purpose.

So a parking stall will always have white markings at the boundaries. A parking space may be synonymous with 'parking stall' or may be a more general area for parking. (emphasis is mine.) english-test.net

Parking stall sizes are controlled by local zoning and building codes. In most cases and most local building codes, the number of stalls is determined by the square footage of office or retail space.

Guide To Pavement Maintenance

Parking Stalls in InfraWorks InfraWorks

Stall Parking Animated Version

Waikiki complex charging USD60K for parking stall

The car is not over the line...of the actual, uh, parking stall

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I don't disagree with the use of "stall", however, in my experience (western & mid-western US), that's an infrequently used term, and brings to mind a stable. The horses are kept in stalls. – FreeMan Mar 22 at 14:21
Not sure I understand where you're headed with your comment - neither your answer nor my comment made any mention of "place", "space" or "spot". My comment was simply mentioning that "stall" is something of a less frequently used term, at least in my experience. (Which also includes a fair amount of time spent in Manhattan.) – FreeMan Mar 22 at 15:59
Elian, no one uses 'parking stall' in the US. – Mitch Mar 22 at 16:39
"Stall" would tend to imply a walled-off area large enough for one car/horse/etc. – Jed Schaaf Mar 22 at 20:52
@Mitch: I wouldn't say "no one". I have definitely seen it used in the US, usually in technical or quasi-legal contexts. I agree it is substantially less common than the alternatives. – Nate Eldredge Mar 23 at 18:37

The following check with Google Ngram may help understand where the expressions suggested are more common. Parking spot appears to be much more common in AmE, while parking bay appears to be more common in BrE. Parking space is common both in AmE and BrE:

Parking spot: AmE vs BrE.

Parking space: AmE vs BrE

Parking bay : AmE vs BrE

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Here – Peter Shor Mar 22 at 20:14
... is Google Ngram with "parking place", "parking spot", and "parking place" in AmE and BrE; "parking bay", "parking stall", and "parking slot" are less common than any of these three. – Peter Shor Mar 22 at 20:15

In Australia, it is a parking spot or, simply, a park. Anywhere where there are parking spots is parking, and where the spots are organised it is either a carpark or parking.

A: 'Did you manage to find a parking spot at Doncaster?'
B: 'Yes, but the carpark was very busy.'

A: 'You can come visit me; there's a park out the front.'
B: 'Oh, good! I won't have to pay for parking. I like the parking spot outside your house.'

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I'd say that this is the same in New Zealand as well - it is very common to hear "Just trying to find a park". – Mike Mar 22 at 23:38
After some reflection I (an Australian) can lay out my mental scheme regarding parking: A 'park' is the place where you happen to have been able to park your car, regardless of whether it's marked - or even legal (although not blocking traffic). 'Parking spot' implies a park that's at least arguably legal. 'Parking space' implies a parking spot among other parked cars. And 'parking bay' suggests a marked parking spot on a street or in a carpark. (Naturally, a car's hazard lights magically convert any location - no matter how dangerous - into a parking spot.) – Jeremy Mar 23 at 13:22
Note that to us non-antipodean folks, a "park" is an open space with grass and trees and maybe a playground. Your "there's a park out the front" would never in a million years be interpreted as having anything whatsoever to do with parking a vehicle. – Marthaª Mar 23 at 16:40
It means that to antipodean folks, too. Hence "I found a park near the park." – Jeremy Apr 6 at 20:16
@Jeremy is correct. It's both. – Dog Lover Apr 7 at 12:37

The most common usage I have heard (by far) in American English is "parking space." In my own family, however, we refer to that space as a "park."

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The usual word used on car park signage in the UK is spaces. "Parking bays" is also used in official documents, but I think the original usage of "bays" referred to designated loading/unloading points for buses (i.e. the coach station equivalent of a railway station "platform")

Typical UK car parking signage (showing the number of free spaces near the location of the sign): http://www.sarfend.co.uk/images/southend_parking.jpg

Use of "bays" for "spaces" (both for cars and coaches): http://www.derby.gov.uk/transport-and-streets/public-transport/information-and-advice/

In BrEng a parking spot would usually refer to a general geographical location (e.g. "there are often some empty parking spots on XYZ street") rather than to a marked space for one vehicle. FWIW, "parking spot" is not in http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/)

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British English we would call it a parking space. American English would call it a parking lot (American speakers would be best fully define the word and its usage nuances). If the space is reserved for particular vehicles, it would be a reserved parking space or an allocated parking space.

In British English we do not make any distinction between a gap in a line of cars in a street or a marked area in a car park.

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Sorry, you mean that there is not specific British English definition for a "parking slot"? I am referring to the spaces that are visible in the picture, not to a random space among cars parked in the street. – Saturana Mar 22 at 12:23
No, Americans call the giant concrete slab where all those lines are painted and many many cars can park, the parking lot. As in, the lot of land on which cars park. Each individual car-sized subdivision is known as a parking space or a parking spot. To avoid misleading readers with incorrect information is why we require answers to have references and citations to authority. – Dan Bron Mar 22 at 12:28
Yes, I did mean that. Whether it is a space in a street where you can park your car or a space in a car park, we call it a parking space in British Englsh. – RoDaSm Mar 22 at 12:44
A car park in BrE is a parking lot in AmE (unless it's more than one level, or underground, in which case we're more likely to call it a parking garage). A parking space works in both AmE and BrE, and is not the same thing as a car park or parking lot. – Peter Shor Mar 22 at 15:50
The OP's image does show a parking lot / car park. How else would you call that area reserved specifically for vehicles? But the OP is interested in the name of the small area (enclosure) where motorists can leave their car. – Mari-Lou A Mar 22 at 16:54

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