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As shown in the title. What is the difference between Road, Avenue, and Street?

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    In the US the main difference is the name that is displayed on the road/street signs. (I don't think I've ever heard of "avenue signs".) It's fairly common, eg, for "streets" to run east/west and "avenues" to run north/south (or vice-versa). And a "road" is apt to simply be a "street" that was there before most of the surrounding roadways. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '15 at 19:45
  • And New Jersey has it's "pikes", and in the US Southeast there are a scattering of "traces". Don't think I've ever seen a roadway labeled as a "path", but it wouldn't surprise me. And of course "drives", "parkways", et al. Sometimes the name will give you a clue as to the width/grandness of the roadway, but not very reliably. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '15 at 20:21
  • I always felt it is a shame that the Somerset settlements of Street and Rode aren't a bit closer together. Then one might have addresses like Rode Street, Street and Street Road, Rode. – Brian Hooper Feb 21 '18 at 14:01
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"A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle."

"A street is a paved public thoroughfare in a built environment. It is a public parcel of land adjoining buildings in an urban context, on which people may freely assemble, interact, and move about."

"In landscaping, an avenue or allée is traditionally a straight route with a line of trees or large shrubs running along each side, which is used, as its French source venir ("to come") indicates, to emphasize the "coming to," or arrival at a landscape or architectural feature. In most cases, the trees planted in an avenue will be all of the same species or cultivar, so as to give uniform appearance along the full length of the avenue."

These descriptions came from https://en.wikipedia.org by searching for "road", "street", and "avenue" - I would have posted direct links to each of these, but need more rep in order to post more than 2 links in an answer. I just found this site today.

So from these descriptions - a road is an improved path between two points whether in areas outside settlements, in the suburbs, or in urban areas, while a street is a paved public path within a built up area, and an avenue is a road or street with trees planted along both sides, generally of the same species for uniformity.

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    True, but these definitions are not followed when naming new streets in America. Street, avenue, and "drive" are applied seemingly randomly. At least in Dallas, though, "circles" generally do follow a circular path. – kevin cline Jan 24 '14 at 0:07
  • In general, at least where I live, a street is narrower than a road and typically has no center line, while a road has a center line and may be divided with a median in some parts and often connects rural areas (used interchangeably with "drive"), while an avenue is divided by a median for much of it's length (and often remains within the urban region of a municipality). – Caleb Xu Jan 24 '14 at 2:52
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    @CalebXu - I live on 4th Avenue, and the only thing dividing the center of it is potholes. And I could take you out in the country a few miles from here and show you "streets" and "avenues" that only run between cow pastures and corn fields. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '15 at 19:49
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Where I live (Tulsa, OK, American Midlands) there isn't a difference. They are used interchangeably.

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    I'm sure you don't mean that a thoroughfare called say, "Mason Road" can be referred to as "Mason Street"! Surely those naming the thing must have had a reason for choosing one over another? That reason is the difference between them. It may simply come down to perceptions: Laburnum Avenue may sound better for a residential street than Laburnum Road, even if there are no laburnum trees at all. – Andrew Leach Jan 23 '14 at 18:35
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    It means that the names for street types are used indiscriminately and that people don't pay any attention to them, don't generally use them, or often get them wrong. In a situation like that, just the proper names are used - Go till you pass Morgan, then turn onto Ten Mile and go all the way to Main. – John Lawler Jan 23 '14 at 18:46
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    @AndrewLeach - Well here we have a grid system. The typical default title is "Street" (eg: 26th Street). The numbered streets are a mile for every 10, which means that sometimes you will have two with the same number. The second one gets "Place", and the (rare) third one gets "Avenue". So an "Avenue" is no different than a street, just a rarer name to use. We don't use "road", but some other nearby towns do, and it doesn't appear to mean anything special for them either. Its just another name for a street. – T.E.D. Jan 23 '14 at 20:34
  • So there is a difference. The first one is never Avenue. – Andrew Leach Jan 23 '14 at 22:04
  • In Calgary Alberta, also on a grid system, the Streets run N-S and the Avenues run E-W. The east-west routes are also traditionally had a wider right-of-way, hence no doubt the reason for choosing the names this way around instead of the other. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 23 '14 at 22:17
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In addition to the other good answers here I would add that in some cities these terms are used in a standard manner to indicate direction. In Seattle, where I live, every "Avenue" runs north-south and every "Street" runs east-west. However, that's just Seattle. There are cities where this rules is reversed, and also where there is no standard rule for associating a name with a direction.

  • True. And the same designations are applied to widely separated segments of roadway that happen to be approximately aligned. If you are at 1000 South 17th Avenue, it is unlikely that you can reach 3200 North 17th avenue by driving north on 17th avenue. – kevin cline Jan 24 '14 at 0:10
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In the UK, a road is a general, unspecific term. A street implies an urban (in a town) road. An avenue technically means that it has rows of trees on both sides, but is also used to imply that it's rural - for example the cliche "[Acacia Avenue]"1

  • And there are a vast number of exceptions to all that! What the Romans called 'Watling Street' running from London to North Wales, is, for the part of it which is in London, now known as Edgware Road. So there's a double contradiction for starters. – WS2 Jan 23 '14 at 22:01
  • Getting further afield, when I took a tour of the underground excavation of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, you could see the remnants of an ancient roadway. The guide explained that people met along the wall to "do business" and it became known as... Wall Street. – Arbalest Nov 13 '14 at 15:00
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Road is the only one of these words in common use outside a town. Within a town or city, use varies by location and tends to have many exceptions, some of which have to do with changing character of surrounding neighborhoods.

Washington, DC, for example, uses (in the main) numbered streets running north-south, and lettered streets east-west. After exhausting the alphabet, the lettered streets continue with two-syllable names in alphabetical order [Adams Street, Bryant, etc.], then three-syllable [Albemarle Street, Brandywine], and finally trees. The original plan was for diagonal avenues named after the states, and most of these are broad, important thoroughfares, such as Pennsylvania Avenue, where the White House is. There are, however, exceptions: Idaho Avenue is a narrow, local residential street. There are also a handful of roads, that do not conform to the grid plan, and which are relics of paths from before that part of the city was urbanized, or which connected Civil War fortifications. Some of these are heavily trafficked and some not.

In contrast, in Berkeley, California, there are parallel small residential streets named Magnolia Street and Pine Avenue, and the choice seems to have been made totally arbitrarily.

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