Apple belongs to the category of Fruit.

What category do street, road, and avenue belong to?

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    The fact that RegDwight has come up with an answer in this case ("thoroughfare") does not mean that a question of this form will always have an answer. – Colin Fine May 18 '11 at 11:57
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    Are you referring to the designations used as part of an address, or to describe the objects themselves? It seems to me that there should be a word for the part of an address that follows the street/road name (e.g., "123 Main Street") – JeffSahol May 18 '11 at 14:59

There are categories, and categories of categories, and so on, and any of these categories may or may not have labels already in the language, as Colin pointed out. If a set of words has a word for that set, that word is called a hypernym.

And the semantic category depends on the particular collection you want to name (the collection may not be coherent).

But for these three words, I find that the best encompassing hypernym is

road or roadway,

even though 'road' is one of the things you want as a subcategory, it works as a generalization of them all, a large two-way ...thing... to travel on. (A word that is its own hypernym is an autohyponym or autohypernym). It doesn't have to be paved but a 'path' is too small to be included. I'm not sure about 'alley'. 'Boulevard', 'interstate', 'route', 'lane' are all kinds of roads.

'Street' could be a hypernym by the same reasoning, but as a native speaker, it does not feel like a generalization as much as 'road' does.

The hypernym for these, whether it is 'road' or 'thoroughfare' or something else, is not the same as a word for road names, that is, the things we attach to the name of a road when we say "Go two blocks, turn left at X". These are called odonyms (looked it up just now in Street or road names in Wikipedia). At the end they give a list of such names/odonyms which names you'll notice are not all acceptable as a kind of road (despite the fact that it is acceptable as the name of a road, e.g. 'close', 'mews', 'gate' passage', 'trail').

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    Though this answer may be the underdog, I'm in full agreement. To be fair, the definitions of road and thoroughfare are mutually inclusive, each using the other word as a base. While I don't think it would ever be inaccurate to say a boulevard is a type of thoroughfare, for instance, to me it seems that road lends itself more categorically useful. Wikipedia also collects types of roads. – HaL May 18 '11 at 13:46
  • But if you had a box on a form to select road/ave/st etc - what would you title it? – mgb May 18 '11 at 15:05
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    @Martin: not odonym, for sure. – Mitch May 18 '11 at 15:31
  • Incidentally, the phenomenon wherein the same name is used for a class and for one of its subclasses is a type of synechdoche. – phenry May 18 '11 at 16:35
  • @Martin: If you had a box on a form to select such an item, you would undoubtedly leave some option out. (For example, how would you put in El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA, The Crescent, Berkeley, CA, or Shunpike in Millbrook, NY?) – Peter Shor May 18 '11 at 18:42

How about thoroughfare?

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    To me, a thoroughfare is something that goes from one point to another. That is, a dead-end street or a cul-de-sac would not be a thoroughfare. I am assuming the OP wants a category that includes dead-end streets, but I could be wrong. Comparing the definitions in American dictionaries (1a: a street open at both ends from Merriam-Webster online) with those from British dictionaries (On road signs, no thoroughfare means no entry or do not go in, from Cambridge Dictionaries online), I think this differs on opposite sides of the pond. – Peter Shor May 18 '11 at 13:47
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    @Peter Shor: In the UK, we have No Entry if you're not allowed [to drive] in. If a road doesn't actually connect back to other roads on the main network (effectively, doesn't go anywhere), the sign is No Through Way. Sometimes Cul-de-sac, but that's only used for very short roads that don't even connect to other "dead ends". – FumbleFingers Jan 15 '12 at 3:37

Says WordNet:

[bloom@cat-in-the-hat ~]$ wn avenue -hypen

Synonyms/Hypernyms (Ordered by Estimated Frequency) of noun avenue

2 senses of avenue                                                      

[Skipping sense 1 because it's not the word sense we're interested in.]

Sense 2
avenue, boulevard
       => street
           => thoroughfare
               => road, route
                   => way
                       => artifact, artefact
                           => whole, unit
                               => object, physical object
                                   => physical entity
                                       => entity
  • This is a really good answer; my own immediate thought upon reading the question was to check what WordNet said its hypernyms were. – tchrist Jan 15 '12 at 15:50

If the poster is asking what to call that part of a street name, there are three terms I am familiar with: - street (type) suffix (United States Postal Service: https://www.usps.com/send/official-abbreviations.htm; English Wikipedia article on street names) - street type designation (English Wikipedia article on street names) - generic street name (English Wikipedia article on street names)

On a form, the following terms might be used to generate the desired address given:

[house number] 732 [direction] N. [specific street name] Capitol [type] St. [quadrant] NW [secondary unit] Ste. 100 [locality] Washington [state] DC [postal code] 20401 [country] U.S.A.

In cases like The Embarcadero, there may be no street type suffix at all, only a specific street name.

In El Camino Real, the actual street type designation (camino, "road") appears in the middle of the specific street name (el . . . real, "the royal . . ."), but the entire street name might well be considered a stand-alone (suffix-less) specific street name for the purposes of a form.

Benjamin Silver Spring, MD

  • Welcome to EL&U. The original question asks for a hypernym for road, street, and so on, but your answer does not seem to attempt to answer it. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. I encourage you to take the site tour and visit the help center for guidance. – choster Jun 5 '14 at 15:32

I'd say these ones:

  • These are also roads, avenues, streets. – Thursagen May 18 '11 at 10:47
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    A way isn't supposed to be just a street, it can be anything you go through. Same goes for the other two terms. – Alenanno May 18 '11 at 11:15

I would call this infrastructure.


In the specific context of mail addressing, the United States Postal Service lists about a hundred of these, and calls them 'street suffixes'.



As a civil engineer, the technical hypernym is highway:

any public road or waterway; any main or ordinary route, track, or course


I've just checked documentation supplied by the Universal Postal Union [based in Switzerland - no surprise there - but covering addresses for the whole planet], and they, like the USPS, use 'street'. E.g., the first field in their STREET file is STR_ID - 'Street identifier'.

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