Recently, I've come across these two words:

  1. a drive-up machine/restaurant
  2. a drive-through restaurant

I'm wondering if there's any difference in the meaning. I found that the word drive-up is actually linked to a drive-up machine (ATM). So I thought maybe the first word is more related to machines and the second one is understood as some kind of 'booth' where a person serves you.

  • This really depends on how you think about your interaction the thing. Do you drive up to it or do you drive through. In the restaurant you never leave your car so it's more of a "drive through" situation. If you drive "up to it" and get out of your car to use it and then get back in and drive away it's more of a "drive up" situation. – Jim Dec 20 '15 at 19:20
  • In many cases they are synonymous. However, drive up is beginning to be used to refer to businesses which will take phone orders and then deliver your pizza or whatever to your car when you drive up and park in a designated parking space. – Hot Licks Sep 29 '16 at 2:21
  • I believe that the physical environment and the degree of vehicle management designed into it have an effect on the choice of term. A "drive through" will have queue management arrangements supported by kerbs, signage and painted lines. A "drive up" would be more likely to have a pull-in or lay-by next to it's customer service point. I might be wrong but that's how it reads to me. – BoldBen May 25 at 19:09

They're likely equivalent today; possibly, "drive-up" refers to something you drive up to, then back out of, like Sonic (https://www.sonicdrivein.com/), which halfheartedly works an old drive-in schtick.

  • 1
    Sonic, as you see in your link, calls itself a "drive-in," which is what its paradigm actually is. I think that the difference between "drive-through" and "drive-up" relates to how many points there are in the process. Banks are "drive-up" because you only stop at one point, the ATM or the human teller. Restaurants are "drive-through" because you make a stop at the menu/speaker, one at the cashier, and sometimes a third at the pick-up. Some restaurants only have one point, because you have to pre-order online or by phone, so those places may call it a "drive-up" (i.e. Pizza Hut near me.) – Steven Littman Dec 20 '15 at 14:54
  • I suggest consulting and linking dictionary definitions: drive-through and drive-up do seem indeed to be interchangeably defined in The Free Dictionary (which samples multiple established dictionaries), as adjectives; only the former is also defined as noun. – Brian Donovan Dec 20 '15 at 16:41

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