Alley



a passage, as through a continuous row of houses, permitting access from the street to backyards, garages, etc.
a narrow back street.
a walk, as in a garden, enclosed with hedges or shrubbery.
Bowling.

a long, narrow, wooden lane or floor along which the ball is rolled.
(often plural) a building for bowling.
.

Tennis. the space on each side of a tennis court between the doubles sideline and the service or singles sideline.
Rare. an aisle.
up / down one’s alley, Informal. in keeping with or satisfying one’s abilities, interests, or tastes:
If you like science fiction, this book will be right up your alley.
a choice, large playing marble.
Contemporary Examples

On Oct. 29, Jose Cortez, 32, was found in an alley off of East Third Street.
Will L.A.’s Skid Row Stabber Get Sprung? Christine Pelisek September 6, 2012

“I am a bad person,” she tells him, before recounting her story of how she ended up unconscious in an alley.
‘Nymphomaniac,’ Lars von Trier’s Icy Orgy of Sex and Self-Loathing, Bows At Sundance Marlow Stern January 22, 2014

Nearby in an alley is writing that says: “Revolutionary Gays Everywhere.”
Smiling Under a Cloud of Tear Gas: Elif Shafak on Istanbul’s Streets Elif Shafak June 10, 2013

She recalls wandering off by herself one night from a restaurant in Morocco, making friends with a mysterious girl in the alley.
Alyse Nelson: A Life Less Ordinary Abigail Pesta June 5, 2012

When Al arrived, Andy was back out in the alley again, having a deep and heated conversation with a chainlink fence.
Chefs on Drugs Jason Sheehan July 20, 2009

Historical Examples

At last I had to keep her away from the alley altogether, it affected her so.
The Turn of the Tide Eleanor H. Porter

They have moved from the alley; the surroundings were not such as they liked.
Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden

They slinked down the alley and seeing a light in the back room of a store, Fenn stopped and went up to peer in.
In the Heart of a Fool William Allen White

Then but a few moments to reach Gerty’s alley, and Gerty’s window.
St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls, Vol. V, August, 1878, No 10. Various

A hundred yards up the alley he found Lasky in the shadow of a telephone pole.
The Mucker Edgar Rice Burroughs

noun
a narrow lane or passage, esp one between or behind buildings
See bowling alley
(tennis, mainly US) the space between the singles and doubles sidelines
a walk in a park or garden, esp one lined with trees or bushes
up one’s alley, down one’s alley, See street (sense 10)
noun
a large playing marble
n.

mid-14c., “passage in a house; open passage between buildings; walkway in a garden,” from Old French alee (13c., Modern French allée) “a path, passage, way, corridor,” also “a going,” from fem. of ale, past participle of aler “to go,” which ultimately may be a contraction of Latin ambulare “to walk,” or from Gallo-Romance allari, a back-formation from Latin allatus “having been brought to” [Barnhart]. Cf. sense evolution of gate. Applied by c.1500 to “long narrow enclosure for playing at bowls, skittles, etc.” Used in place names from c.1500.

The word is applied in American English to what in London is called a mews, and also is used there especially of a back-lane parallel to a main street (1729). To be up someone’s alley “in someone’s neighborhood” (literally or figuratively) is from 1931; alley-cat attested by 1890.

Related Terms

back alley

Related Terms

tin pan alley
In addition to the idiom beginning with
alley
also see:

blind alley
right up one’s alley

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