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From Middle English rode, rade (ride, journey), from Old English rād (riding, hostile incursion), from Proto-Germanic *raidō (a ride), from Proto-Indo-European *reydʰ- (to ride). Cognate to raid, a doublet acquired from Scots, and West Frisian reed (paved trail/road, driveway).

The current primary meaning of "street, way for traveling" originated relatively late—Shakespeare seemed to expect his audiences to find it unfamiliar—and probably arose through reinterpetation of roadway as a tautological compound.



road (plural roads)

  1. (obsolete) The act of riding on horseback. [9th-17th c.]
  2. (obsolete) A hostile ride against a particular area; a raid. [9th-19th c.]
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, VI.8:
      There dwelt a salvage nation, which did live / Of stealth and spoile, and making nightly rode / Into their neighbours borders […].
  3. (nautical, often in the plural) A partly sheltered area of water near a shore in which vessels may ride at anchor; a roadstead. [from 14th c.]
    • c. 1596-97, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V scene i[1]:
      Antonio: Sweet lady, you have given me life and living; / For here I read for certain that my ships / Are safely come to road.
    • 1630, John Smith, True Travels, in Kupperman 1988, page 38:
      There delivering their fraught, they went to Scandaroone; rather to view what ships was in the Roade, than any thing else […].
  4. A way used for travelling between places, originally one wide enough to allow foot passengers and horses to travel, now (US) usually one surfaced with asphalt or concrete and designed to accommodate many vehicles travelling in both directions. In the UK both senses are heard: a country road is the same as a country lane. [from 16th c.]
    • 1852, Mrs M.A. Thompson, “The Tutor's Daughter”, in Graham's American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion[2], page 266:
      In the lightness of my heart I sang catches of songs as my horse gayly bore me along the well-remembered road.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 1, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I stumbled along through the young pines and huckleberry bushes. Pretty soon I struck into a sort of path that, I cal'lated, might lead to the road I was hunting for.
  5. (figuratively) A path chosen in life or career. [from 17th c.]
    • 1964, Ronald Reagan: A Time for Choosing
      Where, then, is the road to peace?
    • 2012 September 7, Phil McNulty, BBC Sport:
      Hodgson may actually feel England could have scored even more but this was the perfect first step on the road to Rio in 2014 and the ideal platform for the second qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on Tuesday.
  6. An underground tunnel in a mine. [from 18th c.]
  7. (US, rail transport) A railway or (Britain, rail transport) a single railway track. [from 19th c.]
  8. (obsolete) A journey, or stage of a journey.
    • c. 1613, William Shakespeare, Henry VIII, Act IV scene ii[3]:
      At last, with easy roads, he came to Leicester; / Lodg'd in the abbey, where the reverend abbot, / With all his convent, honourably receiv'd him; []
  9. A way or route.
    • (Can we date this quote by Charles Dickens and provide title, author's full name, and other details?), Little Dorrit
      He stirred up his hair with his sprightliest expression, glanced at the little figure again, said ‘Good evening, ma ‘am; don’t come down, Mrs Affery, I know the road to the door,’ and steamed out.
    • 1930, Norman Lindsay, Redheap, Sydney: Ure Smith, published 1965, page 131:
      Hetty and Mrs. Piper watched them with a lynx-eyed understanding and before the ancient was well upon his road his way was blocked by Hetty.

Usage notesEdit

Often used interchangeably with street or other similar words. When usage is distinguished, a road is a route between settlements (reflecting the etymological relation with ride), as in the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh, while a street is a route within a settlement (city or town), strictly speaking paved.


Derived termsEdit

Terms derived from road (noun)



road (not comparable)

  1. (US, Canada, sports, chiefly attributive) At the venue of the opposing team or competitor; on the road.


  • (at the venue of the opposing team or competitor): away (UK)





  1. nominative plural of roog



past participle of roa.


road (not comparable)

  1. amused, entertained


Inflection of road
Indefinite Positive Comparative Superlative2
Common singular road
Neuter singular roat
Plural roade
Definite Positive Comparative Superlative
Masculine singular1 roade
All roade
1) Only used, optionally, to refer to things whose natural gender is masculine.
2) The indefinite superlative forms are only used in the predicative.

Related termsEdit