Do You Know The Difference Between Road, Street, Avenue, And Boulevard?

Check your navigational knowledge.

Have you ever wondered why certain roads are called "streets," others are called "avenues," and others are referred to as "boulevards?" Turns out, these thoroughfares are not categorized just on a whim arbitrarily, as you might have thought. Rather, they're organized in terms of function and size. And while we can't guarantee that every city, small town, or neighborhood abides by these terms, you can still enjoy learning this historical knowledge and applying it on your next drive. Or, perhaps, use it as a conversation starter at your next dinner party. If you've never known the difference between road, street, avenue, boulevard, and more directional labels, prepare to become chock-full of GPS know-how.

Mountain Road
Getty Images/Marco Bottigelli

The Difference Between A Road, Street, And Avenue

Here is the difference between these common navigational terms:

  • Road: anything that links two points; the most basic of public ways; there are many types of roads, as described below
  • Street: a public road that connects two points, but also has buildings on both sides of it; these typically run perpendicular to avenues
  • Avenue: public way that also has buildings and/or trees on both sides; these run perpendicular to streets and are traditionally wider

So technically, a street is a road, but a road might not be a street. How's that for confusing? Depending on where you are located, your city's streets might run either north-to-south or east-to-west. There is no end-all decision on that. Avenues cross streets in a perpendicular direction.

Special Types Of Streets And Roads

Now that you know the difference between a street and an avenue, what about boulevards and drives? In general, these are some of the most scenic types of thoroughfares you might see in your town or city. We always knew we had a thing for boulevards, and not just those of broken dreams. These types of street names are more loosely applied in neighborhoods, so take this with a grain of salt (er, cement). Here are how more specialized roads are generally defined:

  • Boulevard: very wide street with buildings and/or trees on both sides, usually with a median in the middle of the lanes
  • Lane: narrow street that may not have a median; opposite of boulevard
  • Drive: long, winding road; often shaped by its surroundings, so it can be positioned to weave along a lake, mountain, or even around a country club golf course
  • Court: road or street that ends in a cul-de-sac or loop
  • Way: small side street connected to a larger road, typically in a residential neighborhood

Now that you're harnessed with a great deal of navigational knowledge, you can feign an air of confidence, even if you're just as directionally challenged as before. That's what we like to call, "faking it until you make it."

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