You could think of this space as landlocked by surrounding buildings, exposed to the environment vertically but having no (intended) connections to paths or streets. The only ways to enter and exit would be from doors and access ways of previously mentioned buildings.

Researching this term is difficult as it contradicts the definition of an alley(way), which was my initial term.

Further Information:

This is mostly a space behind or within clusters of buildings in which an open air area is shared as a means of transportation, excluded from the access and view of pedestrians/civilians/shoppers (unintended persons), typically requiring either security credentials or permission of some kind.

This is in the context of the modern world, I have experienced it behind small business malls and between clusters of laboratories, but am unaware of a way to specifically refer to this space.

To clarify even further, this isn't as literal as being completely blocked off on all sides by adjoining buildings. Natural terrain, fences, and infrastructure could block access to it as well.

Context Within Story:

It is assumed to be used by workers and business owners, connecting the back of their store fronts in a semi-communal way to assumedly transport goods and workers. The character uses this as a means to get access to an illicit marketplace, initially entering from a legitimate store front.

Appended Progress:

Passageway and Courtyard have been brought up, and both are in the general direction of what I am trying to convey. Passageway seems off to me as it is too linear/restrictive in direction, and courtyard is off in the sense that it is too public (and perhaps large).

Something like a "hidden/private court" offers a more complete picture in my mind, but is too romantic/classical in contrast to the setting and lowly premise.

  • 2
    An alley is an alley. Of course, there are also blind alleys.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13 at 21:18
  • 1
    alleys are connected to streets. Spaces between buildings not connected to streets are not alleys. What do you mean by "connecting the back of their storefronts"? Do you mean passageways that run horizontally along the back of the building?
    – Lambie
    Jun 13 at 21:25
  • 1
    Courtyard (or court) might be the correct term (as it has to be a secluded open-air area based on your context). They are not usually alley-like but some of them are, like the courtyard of Kaapelitehdas in Helsinki, Finland.
    – ermanen
    Jun 13 at 21:54
  • 1
    Other possibilities would be a walled garden, enclosure, and enclave, all by looking through my Roget's College Thesaurus.
    – Steve
    Jun 13 at 22:19
  • 1
    A courtyard doesn't have to be public. Jun 14 at 7:13

2 Answers 2


These places in the UK are usually known as "yards":


1.a. A comparatively small uncultivated area attached to a house or other building or enclosed by it; esp. such an area surrounded by walls or buildings within the precincts of a house, castle, inn

1842 C. Dickens Amer. Notes I. viii. 279 A long row of small houses fronting on the street, and opening at the back upon a common yard.

1908 E. Fowler Between Trent & Ancholme 20 The small yard between the stables.

4.a. An enclosure set apart for the growing, rearing, breeding, or storing of something or the carrying on of some work or business.

  • Yards have thing built around them; he's looking to connect structures.
    – Lambie
    Jun 20 at 21:13
  • @Lambie The OP did say "Natural terrain, fences, and infrastructure could block access to it as well." An enclosed area around a few small businesses is a "yard" See OED 4a above.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 20 at 23:42

If it is a yard rather than an alley, a non-publicly accessed courtyard may be referred to in Scotland (and other places, according to the Cambridge definition) as a court

an area or a short road that is not covered by a roof and is mostly or completely surrounded by buildings

Such an area may also be referred to as a precinct.

Merriam Webster
2a : an enclosure bounded by the walls of a building —often used in plural

Loosely defined alternatives to alley are ginnel, vennel, snicket and tenfoot.

None is so precisely defined that we can say if they connect to the public street (as may be more frequently the case) or not, but it is also possible to describe an alley with non-public access in these ways.

Northern English
A narrow passage between buildings; an alley.

Scots language Centre
A narrow alley or lane between houses

Lexico snicket
A narrow passage between houses; an alleyway.

tenfoot (plural tenfoots) (UK, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Hull) A ten-foot-wide alleyway, usually behind one's house.
The term is often used to refer to an alleyway which is not actually ten foot wide.

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