What's the difference between those terms? Can they be used just about interchangeably?

road: a long, narrow stretch with a leveled or paved surface, made for traveling by motor vehicle, carriage, etc.; street or highway. Random House Kennerman Webster's College Dictionary

pavement: n. (Chiefly AmEng) A hard smooth surface, especially of a public area or thoroughfare, that will bear travel. American Heritage® Dictionary

roadway: n. A road, especially the part over which vehicles travel. American Heritage® Dictionary

chaussée: nf (voie de circulation) road n; (US) pavement n; roadway n

Il y a des nids de poule sur la chaussée, fais attention ! There are potholes on the road [surface], be careful! WordReference

  • I think pavement is mainly : 1. (Civil Engineering) a hard-surfaced path for pedestrians alongside and a little higher than a road. US and Canadian word: sidewalk. thefreedictionary.com/pavement
    – user66974
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:48
  • Where I live, "pavement" is paved with macadam... so if a sidewalk is concrete or stone or dirt, it would not be called "pavement". My dictionary says "pavement" meaning "sidewalk" is a British meaning.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:52
  • I think "pavement" in your definition refers to the surface material used to make roads. aboutcivil.org/types-of-pavements.html, so in that sense it is synonymous with road.
    – user66974
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:56
  • 1
    Chuckhole is effectively unknown in BrE, and even in AmE it's about 50 times less common than the standard pothole. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:13
  • 1
    It varies from region to region, but in the US "pavement" would normally be used to refer to the material (asphalt or concrete) that is used to construct the road surface, while "roadway" would most likely be used to refer to the overall "structure", including curbs, underlayment, and pavement.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 21:37

3 Answers 3


They are not quite the same.

Road refers almost exclusively to something use for the travel of motor vehicles as the definition you quote says.

Pavement is a hard surface, almost always for travel of some kind, but sometimes other things.

For most kinds of road the terms could be used interchangeably, but there are exceptions. Let me give examples to illustrate the difference.

  • A dirt road without a hard surface is a road, but not pavement.
  • A hard surface used for some other purpose, even one related to travel, would be pavement but might not be a road. For example, the hard surface of a parking lot might be pavement, but not road.
  • If a road has an unpaved shoulder or median, you might refer to the whole thing as a road, but only the main paved part as pavement.

Roadway is not common, but I would use it to refer to the parts of a road on which travel actually occurs - so excluding medians or shoulders that might be considered part of a road.


Yes. According to your dictionary, and my own experience: In the US, the three words are synonyms. But, of course, in the UK "pavement" does not mean this.


I think of it like this:

Road: A car travel path that has a name or a designation. Main Street is a "road", and so is Interstate 80. It's more of an abstract concept, referring to the path you take, rather than the physical substance of the road.

Pavement: The material that the road is physically made of, but only if that material was originally laid down as a liquid or semiliquid, like asphalt or concrete. A brick or cobblestone street isn't made of pavement, it's made of individual bricks or stones.

Roadway: I think this word is mostly used in legal statutes. Refers to the place where the travel occurs, like DJClayworth said. It's also material-agnostic, so a roadway can be made of bricks or asphalt equally well.


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