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I can't seem to find it in a dictionary, but every once in a while (although rarely) I do seem to come across examples, such as Bartel-Pritchard Square, that seem to indicate the two are synonyms.

Are they? Is it a regional thing (American/British/etc.)? Or is it a misunderstanding of the word?

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    Interesting.. Have you considered the possibility that the particular place you mention has been a "square" historically and at some point a roundabout was placed there in as a part of urban development (for easing the traffic flow, for example) – posdef Aug 16 '15 at 10:39
  • @posdef: I had not! Are you suggesting that's generally the case, or are you just pointing it out for that particular one? (e.g. another example) – Mehrdad Aug 16 '15 at 10:46
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    Square does often awkward duty in English for any open area in a city-scape regardless of shape. We seem to have no more geometrically generic term like German Platz, Czech Náměstí, or Greek Πλατεία. A circular space may be called Circle or (much less frequent) Circus, but even it, as your link demonstrates, can have the label Square applied to it. – Brian Donovan Aug 16 '15 at 10:48
  • Mehrdad: I meant for that specific example, but I think it might be plausible explanation in general. It's partially connected with @BrianDonovan's comment regarding the word "square" having another meaning that has, over the years, diverged from the geometric shape. – posdef Aug 16 '15 at 11:04
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    @BrianDonovan - Actually, "plaza" is fairly generic, but, in the US at least, it tends to be viewed as a pedestrian-only space (with some exceptions, I'm sure). – Hot Licks Aug 16 '15 at 11:09
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A roundabout (mainly BrE) is a traffic circle - a junction of several roads consisting of a central (usually circular) island around which traffic moves in one direction.

A square is an open, typically four-sided, area surrounded by buildings.

Roundabouts exist to help car drivers get around. Squares are public spaces where people/pedestrians congregate (large ones may be called plazas).

Here's Old Street Roundabout in London, which could be transformed into a pedestrian square...

enter image description here

Although because of the shape some people might call this one a "squareabout"1, it's not yet a "square" because pedestrians can't really get to it.


1 There's a Holiday Inn just up the road from me that gives its address as The Squareabout, because it's in the middle of a large and relatively square roundabout.

  • Just so you know, here in Colorado they are only known as roundabouts. Honest. – tchrist Aug 16 '15 at 12:43
  • @tchrist: In the UK we call the big ones gyratories - here are a few references calling my pictured one the Old Street gyratory. – FumbleFingers Aug 16 '15 at 13:45

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