In AE, a porch is apparently just about the same structure as a veranda, i.e. an open or enclosed gallery or room attached to the outside of a building.



Besides, a porch (or veranda) can apparently also be designated in some parts of the U.S. alternately as a "(sun) deck", a "gallery", "a "lanai", a "terrace", and a "piazza".

Are any of these regional usages widespread enough to have gotten to flood into mainstream AE?

Also -- in dialectal AE -- can a large outback or outfront balcony, i.e. a platform that projects from the wall of a building and is surrounded by a railing, a balustrade, or a parapet (like of those found attached to hotel suites, or serving as restaurant dining area) be referred to alternately as a "terrace", a "gallery", and a "patio"?


  • 5
    A patio is out back, porches are out front. Both are on the ground. A balcony is raised, and usually has no ground access.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:07
  • 8
    @Oldcat: where I grew up, we had a back porch.
    – GEdgar
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:14
  • 3
    Nourished Gourmet, please do not make long series of minor edits, or you risk turning your question (and all of its answers) into Community Wiki. Proofread your posts before hitting the submit button, and consolidate multiple changes as much as possible. See here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11740/… Mar 6, 2014 at 22:28
  • 2
    I count roughly 9 small questions from 3 question types in this question. I don't suppose you'd mind simplifying a little? What are you actually trying to understand? Otherwise I am afraid this is pushing Too Broad.
    – MrHen
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:37
  • 4
    I think NG has exactly what he is looking for here: a number of English speakers who use the same words differently. Porches, to me, are built off of a house, usually roofed, with columns, narrower than a deck, with railings. Front, back, or side (we had a Queel Anne where the front porch wrapped around the side. We had a veranda in the back. Today, we have a deck and a sunroom on our house - our sunroom is roofed but walled in glass. A screened-in porch, to me, is not a sunroom. And, NG, Lanai is an imported word (from Hawaii), piazza is imported from Italy. Use of these is very restricted. Mar 6, 2014 at 23:25

2 Answers 2


As a native Mid-Atlantic English speaker, here is how I distinguish them:

A porch is in front of a door, usually a front door. It usually runs narrowly along the front of the house. If you say "back porch," I'll assume it's a small porch in front of the back door, smaller than a deck or patio.

A deck is a wooden structure, usually large enough to spend time and socialize on. It's usually on the back of a house, at ground level or a few feet above. You could call this a "sun deck," I suppose, but it would sound strange to my ears. Just "deck."

A patio is like a deck, but it's made of stone or concrete and may be a short distance away from the house.

A balcony projects out from a building on a floor above the ground floor. At a pinch, a large wooden balcony might be called a deck, but never a patio or porch or gallery.

A gallery is similar to a balcony, but instead of being ouside a building, is inside a large indoor space, like a theater or atrium. This is a much less common word.

Lanai, terrace, and piazza are not idiomatic in my dialect, at least. If you said you had drinks on the lanai, I'd assume you were in Hawaii. If you said you had drinks on the terrace, I'd assume you were in England. If you said you had drinks on the piazza, I'd assume you were in Italy. Ditto with "veranda" and the American South.

  • So what would you call something similar to a balcony, but on the inside of a smallish space, e.g. a single-floor apartment?
    – einpoklum
    Jul 13, 2014 at 16:55
  • 2
    A piazza is a city sqare in italy. Not really related to these other definitions imho.
    – user118069
    Apr 22, 2015 at 7:03
  • Magnificent answer! Took the words out of my mouth.
    – Dog Lover
    Apr 22, 2015 at 7:07
  • piazza: (New England & Southern Atlantic U.S.) A veranda ahdictionary.com/word/…
    – Elian
    Apr 12, 2016 at 20:29
  • Good answer, I'd add that terrace is often used to describe a raised hardscape, usually bordered with a wall or embankment. Some of these terms of of special interest to builders, inspectors, property appraisers, and home owners associations because they are called out, defined, and restricted in an assortment of regulations. A Florida room is basically a dodge on living space calculations, which are taxed and also capped in many Florida retirement community lots.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 21, 2016 at 23:36

When I was a child, we always spent hours on the piazza, which was a large screened porch on the front of the house. There was another piazza in the back. That was 90 years ago in a neighborhood in Somerville, Massachusetts. With our Boston accents, it was pi azz zah, Weezey

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.