I am in the midst of moving houses. We currently live on a “Lane” and our new house is on a “Drive” which is pretty close to “Forest Park Parkway.” My office is on the corner of “Hanley Road” and “Forsyth Boulevard.” Why do streets have different suffixes and what do they mean? (BTW, street names are called odonyms.)
Odonym suffixes aren’t chosen at random. There are actually conventions used by city planners that set out what suffixes go with what type of street. Let’s look at what the most common suffixes mean:
Avenue: is a street or thoroughfare that is generally wide and that is sometimes lined with shrubs or trees.
Boulevard: usually is a multi-lane, widened street. Often they have a median and landscaping between the curb and the sidewalk. My office is on “Forsyth Boulevard” which is a wide multi-lane street and it has a grassy median with trees through a residential part. I imagine that the part of Forsyth that goes through the commercial area likewise had a planted median back when it was first created over 100 years ago. Parts of the commercial area do have trees planted between the curb and the sidewalk.
Court: this refers to a street with a circular ending or cul-de-sac.
Drive: is a street that is meandering and usually follows the natural landscape like the contours of a hill or stream. My new house is on a “drive” which does curve a bit to follow a hill.
Lane: is a narrow residential street lacking a shoulder or median. Often found in rural areas. The “lane” on which my current house resides definitely fits this definition.
Parkway: is a broad roadway bordered and, often, divided with plantings of trees, bushes, and grass.
Place: usually a residential street, often dead–end.
Road: this is the most generic suffix and merely means a way that connects two points whose primary function is transit.
Stravenue: not a common suffix, and mainly found in Tucson, AZ, a “stravenue” is a diagonal street that runs between a street and avenue.
Street: like “road” this is also very generic, but while a road’s primary purpose is transit, “street” connotates a more urban road that also serves a social function. A good example are all the “Main Streets” in the U.S. Typically there are buildings on both sides and “streets” often run perpendicular to “avenues.”
Terrace: typically a residential road following the top of slope.
Way: is a small street that can be any type of road or street but usually is a minor street off a more major one.
As noted in Smithsonian Magazine, real estate developers have eroded street naming conventions for marketing purposes. For example, an “avenue” sounds more grand than “street” or “road.” The real estate site Trulia notes how various suffixes correspond to home values:
Finally, this article in the NY Times discusses how street names correspond to house values.