Is there a better word than 'road' for a preindustrial or medieval environment?

Path seems like something little for foot travel, trail feels better, but still not substantial enough for more than a few horses or wagons.

Don't mean a simple dirt road of wheel ruts, but something that gets more traffic than that, but not the main heavily traveled route.

Thought of 'wagon trail', but still doesn't feel quite right. 'Dirt road' actually feels better, but still doesn't feel right to me.

  • 3
    "road" probably applies to pretty much any defined path with a relatively smooth surface that's routinely used to travel between two points. A "paved road" is one constructed out of paving materials or that has a durable surface applied to it. If you're talking about less than a road but still something defined, recognizable, and routinely used, you're getting into terms like trail or path. You're just spoiled by modern roads. Before modern roads, they were still roads, they just sucked.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 6:26
  • What I'm thinking wouldn't be paved, more of a dirt road with potholes or rutted from wagon travel.
    – GRW
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 6:36
  • 4
    What you're describing is still a road. The adjectives describe its composition (dirt, which would be pretty much any unpaved road unless you are talking about a desert or frozen environment, or specifying some other construction material like "gravel road"), and condition (potholes and ruts). I'm not aware of special terms, other than added descriptors, like "dirt road", or added language to describe its condition ("rutted road"). There is a term "unimproved road", which applies to a road in a "natural" state; it hasn't been graded for water runoff, no surface improvements, etc.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 6:53
  • Road if it's wide enough for wagons, or two horses abreast. We have plenty of such roads hereabouts, which probably see as much horse traffic as vehicles.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 18:40
  • Highway goes back ages, with various spellings. Trace might also work, since it isn't used much anymore.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 4:18

2 Answers 2


The word "way" is a very old one, and can be ambiguous enough in meaning to cover everything from single-person tracks to wide thoroughfares. Incidentally it gives us "waylaid", "wayside", "by the way" and others.

  • I like 'way', and in this particular case I can make it work, although I think it has to be worded appropriately to give the impression of a road or track, instead of a more generic meaning of 'way'.
    – GRW
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:09

Perhaps a track will work for your situation:


  • A rough path or road, typically one beaten by use rather than constructed.

"The North Yorkshire Moors has numerous forest tracks and many minor roads."


  • I like 'track', but for this specific case I think 'way' works better, but I do think that I will make use of 'track' as well for other situations.
    – GRW
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.