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What's another word for traffic in a rural preindustrial or medieval type environment?

Traffic just feels so modern to me, cars and trucks, and doesn't seem to fit in a time and place where there are no automobiles.

What would a better word to describe the traffic of horses and wagons, or something along those lines?

  • If you mean traffic in the sense of vehicles competing for space on the roads, there wasn't much in the way of roads in rural preindustrial or medieval environments. There were some well-worn paths but generally, if there was another vehicle "in the way", you just aimed in a slightly different direction, not that there were that many vehicles going from the same place, to the same place, or vice versa, at the same time. If you mean traffic in the generic sense of the overall movement of vehicles, I'm not sure there was enough that someone would have recognized the need for a word. – fixer1234 Feb 27 '17 at 5:57
  • Guess I'm thinking more in the generic sense, as oppose to competition. A single horse or wagon could be referred to as traffic, but feels like overkill. – GRW Feb 27 '17 at 6:03
  • Maybe the road was full... google.com/… – Jim Feb 27 '17 at 6:07
  • @Clare, I also though of preindustrial cities, but the question is specific about rural. – fixer1234 Feb 27 '17 at 6:07
  • Do you want a word we could use today to talk about movement of people and vehicles in thoses days (say in a History essay) or a word that people would use in those days (say for a period novel)? Same question for you "road" question. – Jacinto Feb 27 '17 at 8:05
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The oldest meaning of traffic (trade, commerce, business) has been with us since the 15th century, but it has only signified "people and vehicles coming and going" since the 1820s. Thus the OP would be quite correct to assume a person from the medieval ages would not have used the word "traffic" to suggest a flow of vehicles and people. With the guidance of etymonline, may I suggest the following alternatives:

  • The streets were busy

busy
Old English bisig "careful, anxious," later "continually employed or occupied,"

  • The lanes bustled
  • The bustle of the city

bustle
"be active," 1570s (bustling "noisy or excited activity" is from early 15c.),

  • The way was crowded

crowded Old English crudan "to press, crush."

Dictionary.com dates crowded between 1605-1615

Way is an archaic term for road, derived from Old English weg (ca. 500-1100). In fact, portweg meant "the way to town" or "public road"

  • Really like 'bustle', gives the impression of activity without the modern feel I get from 'traffic'. – GRW Mar 2 '17 at 20:56
  • @GRW thank you for accepting the answer, and I'm delighted you like the suggestion bustle. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '17 at 20:59

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