Question about English: difference between avenue and street?

As a non-native English speaker, I’m a bit confused by 道 (for which one of the synonyms is street) and 通り (for which the primary meaning is avenue, and street one of the synonyms).

I’m not familiar at all with the subtle differences between street, road, way, avenue, etc. But if I google them it does seem street and avenue are similar, only that they’re perpendicular to each other. Is that correct? If so, how can 道 mean street but not avenue?

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As a native English speaker, it didn’t occur to me that there was a difference between any of those words until I read this post. I’m not sure if that’s how most people see it or if I’ve just gone my whole life not picking up on something that everyone else noticed.

I asked my best friend with a ridiculous vocabulary, and he says an avenue is a type of street defined by having trees alongside it and usually being pretty broad. He also said this was probably not common knowledge.


Same in Portuguese. Avenue, which is literally translated as “Avenida” is usually broader than a regular street, which many times has only one way. Hope this is clear.

“C.R.A.P. sinks”

Meaning court, road, avenue, place run north to south, the rest east to west :slight_smile: (at least in the Sunshine State :sunglasses:)

This was extremely useful before Google maps :joy:

Ah but I just realized it can also just mean the noun avenue :thinking: (like in Avenue Q)


Just a quick glance at the neighborhood where I grew up suggests that this doesn’t seem to hold there. What’s the basis for that?


yeah it’s actually different by municipality. Where I grew up avenues were n/s but then where I went to college avenues were e/w and streets were now n/s. I think streets e/w is more common, but regardless the only real rule is they are perpendicular to each other.

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There’s a city like that in my county, which is why it ends up more of a rule of thumb. I don’t know what the basis is, but it’s helpful whenever my phone is dead. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I see roads crossing roads and whatnot where I grew up. And that’s when you can even tell what’s N-S or E-W in the web of streets.

Rural New England, if anyone was wondering.

Most of these roads have been there for a long, long time.


That’s good to know! I’ll change my post to be more specific.


Here in Australia, the word “avenue” tends to conjure mental images of roads lined with trees. We certainly don’t have this system with streets perpendicular to avenues.

Reckon for a question like this, though. Google Image Search will get you a long way towards understanding the general differences. And the results for “avenue” certainly seem to show a lot more trees than those for “street”, so maybe there’s something to my mental images…

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Here in the UK the only real difference is that Avenues are tree lined roads - we don’t really have many cities laid out in grids.

Streets are generally roads in towns or cities, and road is the generals term for things vehicles drive on.

Hmm, I don’t think of them as any different in day to day life. I usually think of them in context of place names (i.e. “Park St.”, “Brooklyn Ave.”, etc.). It sounds like 道 and 通り would be similar in that, for practical use, their only distinguishing feature is which street names they happen to be a part of?

“Avenue”, though, in literature, does have a slightly different feel, I guess. “Walking down the avenue” gives a different feeling than “walking down the street”. “Avenue” just has a more specific feeling of trees and spaciousness and brightness than “street” does for me.

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There are some subtle differences in the English language.

  1. Way and avenue aren’t usually used in a generic manner. You’ll have named streets like Park Avenue or East Way, but you wouldn’t give directions like “turn right at the first avenue you come across” or say “look both ways before crossing the way.” Street and road would work in both of those examples.

  2. “Dirt road” is practically a set phrase. I’ve never heard “dirt street”, “dirt way”, or “dirt path” for describing a road that’s unpaved.

There’s probably more, but that’s off the top of my head.


I think this is a good example of how interchangeable 通り can be. It gets translated as street, but it’s only for pedestrian traffic. So “avenue” may seem more appropriate in terms of what it’s used for (as in “it’s a small avenue for shopping” vs “it’s a closed street for shopping”).

In the midwest, a dirt road was also called a gravel road.

They may run in specific directions within cities, but once you get to the suburbs any synonym for “street” is just a way to sound fancier. At least, that’s how it is where I live.


That. It sounds less boring if everything isn’t called “X street” and “Y avenue”. Boulevard has typically meant a big wide main artery road, but it could also mean whoever named it thought that sounded cooler.

I’ve lived in places with grids where “streets” and “avenues” were the same thing, but N-S, E-W as previously mentioned, but that’s a local thing some city planner came up with for that area, not a general rule in English.

Unrelated to your actual point, but I swear I’ve seen cars trying to get through that street. It’s… not smart to get your car stuck in that mess, but I don’t think it’s outright prohibited. (Or maybe I’m thinking of the next street over)

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I doubt very much this aligns with proper definitions, but the nuance I associate with them is that avenues are smaller – maybe suburban streets, maybe even walking paths.

Those are also “streets,” but additionally “street” could cover a major, traffic-congested thoroughfare with multiple lanes in either direction. And I would not call a something that large or busy an “avenue.”


In Canada they run perpendicular to each other and I would probably say in general avenues are east-west.