The very first thing to know is that our highways aren’t just categorized at random. Together Phil Edwards at Vox points the end in this super-informative video, there are strong naming conventions administer what counts as a street versus an avenue, and beyond—and in fact, countless of these guidelines aren’t just nationwide, yet international.
You are watching: How do streets get their names
For instance: a roadway is anything that connects two points, when a way is a small side street off of a road. Roadways are public ways that have structures on both sides, follow to Edwards, and they have tendency to operation perpendicular come avenues.
So those an avenue, you can ask? It’s characterized as a big of road that has actually trees and also buildings top top both sides. Traditionally opportunities were quite grand, however that association has eroded over time, as the Smithsonian newspaper points out, thanks in part to euphemistic real estate developers trying to make smaller roads seem more impressive. Climate there space boulevards, which room even more comprehensive streets lined with trees ~ above both sides, plus a typical in the middle.
Other fun facts: lanes space narrow roads in countryside areas, if drives space longer, winding roadways whose shape are frequently influenced through lakes, forests, and also other natural features. Terraces monitor the top of a slope, places are roads with dead-ends, and also courts space loops without a thruway.
And that doesn’t end there. We haven’t even talked around highways matches interstates, freeways versus beltways…or what on planet an esplanade is. If to brush up on roadway trivia is up her alley—that’s a little pathway between buildings, through the way—Edwards offers a an excellent (if contempt dizzying) overview.ODONYMS ARE…ODD
Now that we’ve identified just exactly how roads work, it’s on to the next question: just how are streets named?
The first surprising thing we found is the there’s an yes, really word because that the name offered to a street: odonym. And as the Washington write-up points out, odonyms aren’t purely functional. They’re additionally fascinating markers that “encode the society and geography of America,” reflecting regional landmarks, communities, and other local traditions.
A selection of the most popular U.S. Street names reveal some pretty broad trends that chop up again and again. Those incorporate references come nature, compass directions, surnames of famed individuals (presidents room a renowned choice, especially George Washington), or descriptors, frequently of herbal features.
And what around the brand-new streets that room being built? Generally, it’s increase to actual estate developers—with oversight from their cities—to provide newly built roadways your names. Local engineering and also public works departments are likewise given veto power. Because that cities prefer Washington D.C., i m sorry has an extremely established street-naming conventions, any kind of proposed name that deviates indigenous local traditions could very well it is in rejected.
Still, the hasn’t prevented some pretty weird odonyms native cropping up about the country. Los Angeles has a Colon Street, and also Longmont, Colorado has actually a 100 Year Party Court (it most likely helps to know that the town is a regional craft brewery hub). Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is home to the uninspiring Duh Drive, and San Francisco has a Fella Place.
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Then there’s good ol’ Goodenough Street in Boston. We can’t assist thinking that that one was named at the finish of a very long workday.