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noun (1)

al·​ley ˈa-lē How to pronounce alley (audio)
plural alleys
: a garden or park walk bordered by trees or bushes
: a grassed enclosure for bowling or skittles
: a hardwood lane for bowling
also : a room or building housing a group of such lanes
: the space on each side of a tennis doubles court between the sideline and the service sideline
: an area in a baseball outfield between two outfielders when they are in normal positions
hit a line drive into the alley
: a narrow street
especially : a thoroughfare through the middle of a block giving access to the rear of lots or buildings
: an extensive region where destructive natural phenomena of a specified type (such as tornadoes) occur often or are likely to occur
The most obvious tornado alley extends from the plains of northwest Texas eastward into north Texas and then northward across Oklahoma, Kansas, and eastern Nebraska.Tom Konvicka


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noun (2)

plural alleys
: a playing marble
especially : one of superior quality
up one's alley or less commonly down one's alley
: suited to one's own tastes or abilities
a job that's right up her alley

Examples of alley in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The firearm was taken from an unlocked car a few days before the incident and the teenager later found the gun in an alley. Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY, 10 May 2024 While walking down the St. Thomas alley that the Mamas & the Papas would later immortalize in song, debris from a construction site hit Elliot on the head and knocked her unconscious. Lindsay Zoladz, New York Times, 9 May 2024 Wake Me Most Wickedly is an outright invigorating yarn, a tale of back alley wheeling and dealing and daring rooftop escapes. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 9 May 2024 American Found Dead, Tortured in Mexico Cemetery Had Ankle Tied to Tree, Boyfriend Is Charged with Murder The twin baby boys were found dumped in a trash bin in an alley in Stickney, Ill., where a waste management worker spotted them in the front lift bucket of her garbage truck. Kimberlee Speakman, Peoplemag, 8 May 2024 One of Cincinnati's many quirks is our presence of public stairways and alleys. Erin Couch, The Enquirer, 6 May 2024 The boy who’d grown up on an unpaved alley in a New Orleans neighborhood so rough it was called The Battlefield now owned properties not just in New York, but in Accra, Ghana, and Las Vegas. Larry Tye, Fortune, 4 May 2024 In Kyoto, a famous geisha district recently decided to close some private-property alleys. Akaya McGill, Fortune, 30 Apr. 2024 My favorite was Koroni, where everything from the flowerpots to the electricity meters in the lopsided alleys had been painted in bright colors. Rachel Howard, Travel + Leisure, 26 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alley.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English, from Anglo-French alee, from aler to go

Noun (2)

by shortening and alteration from alabaster

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1720, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of alley was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near alley

Cite this Entry

“Alley.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural alleys
: a garden or park walk bordered by trees or bushes
: a narrow wooden floor on which balls are rolled in bowling
also : a room or building housing a number of such alleys
: a narrow street or passageway between buildings

More from Merriam-Webster on alley

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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