“Halfway” and Other Ways

background image 138

The noun way constitutes the second half of many compound words. Almost all of them, like halfway, are closed, but a couple retain a hyphen or are open.

Way, from the Old English term weg (the German cognate retains that spelling), means “path” or “course of travel,” and by extension it refers to a course or habit of life, as well as the manner in which something occurs. (The adverbial form—as in “way back” in the sense of “a long time ago” rather than “the return path”—is an alteration of away.)

Some -way compounds allude to various types of courses for vehicles: byway, cartway, causeway, driveway, expressway, freeway, motorway, parkway, and speedway; each course has a distinct function. (The humorous question about why cars drive on parkways and park on driveways is easily answered: The park in parkway refers to an area kept in or near a native state, not the action of parking; the verb park, by the way, apparently derives from the onetime practice of storing a military vehicle or other equipment in an area called a military park. And the typical truncated parking space in front of a house’s garage is a far cry from the original driveway, an extended approach along which one would drive to reach a house located on a country estate.)

Ways intended generally for foot traffic include alleyways, archways, breezeways, doorways, entryways, gangways, gateways, hallways, hatchways, passageways, pathways, stairways, and walkways. (“Gangway!” became a shouted warning to clear the passage to the gangway, an opening in the deck rail to allow crew or passengers to embark or debark, and gateway is also used in promotional literature to refer to a city or town that is the jumping-off point for a scenic or recreation destination or alludes to something that serves as an introduction to the use of something else, such as a gateway drug.)

Broadway was once a generic term for a wide avenue that passed between parallel lines of buildings; it was traditionally often employed as a proper name referring to such a thoroughfare in a particular city or town. A flyway is a migration route for birds, and a spillway is a watercourse from one body of water to another, as from a reservoir to a river.

Headway can mean “forward movement” or “height clearance.” Leeway originally was a navigational term; it now means “freedom to do something a certain way.” Lifeway is a rarely used variation on “way of life.”

Anyway is an adverb meaning “in any case.” “Under way” is the only open compound that includes way; it’s an adverb meaning “happening now” or “in motion.” (In adjectival form, it is a closed compound.) One-way, an adjective meaning “going in one direction,” is the only hyphenated form of a compound that includes way.

Of several adverbs ending in the plural form -ways, only sideways (which also serves as an adjective and has the less common variation sideway) is common; others include lengthways, longways, and slantways.

A small group of compounds begin with way: the nouns wayside (meaning “the side of the road” or “off to one side”), wayfarer (meaning “traveler”), and wayfaring (meaning “the act of traveling”)—the first and last are also adjectives—the adjectives way-out (meaning “far off” or, as slang, “bold”) and wayward (meaning “straying”), and the verb waylay (meaning “ambush”).

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

8 thoughts on ““Halfway” and Other Ways”

  1. One those of us who watched westerns as kids know: Thataway, a solid alteration of “that way.”

  2. Here are two other -way/-ways usages, both common in Britain. Speedway is a dirt bike racing format practiced in the UK and a few other countries, while “get a word in edgeways” is the British phrase in which an American would use edgewise.

  3. A “raceway” is a closed circuit used for racing horses, dogs, camels, motorcycles, cars, trucks, etc. The word is also used in proper names, such as the Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona.

    In civil engineering, a raceway is an open conduit for running water, such as in a power plant, a mill, or a factory.

    In electrical engineering, a raceway is an open conduit for carrying various kinds of electric cables, including power cables and communication cables.
    Example: “Everybody out of here! There is a fire in the raceway!”

  4. Throwaway. We Westerners live in a society of throwaway items, throwaway people, throwaway cellular phones, throwaway clothes, throwaway food, and worst of all, throwaway children: boys and girls who have been cast out of their homes and are not longer taken care of, fed, or nurtured by their parents or other relatives.
    Then there are throwaway pets, too.

  5. “Speedway” in proper nouns in the U.S.A., such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500.

    Words that are variations on the same theme, especially in proper nouns: Speedway, Raceway, Racecourse, Racetrack, Motorcourse, Motortrack.

  6. Used as an adjective or an adverb: “underway” and sometimes an open compound “under way”, and sometimes spelled or said “underways”. These words are most commonly used in reference to boats, ships, or submarines.
    There are other words or prepositional phrases more commonly used with aircraft, spacecraft, cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains, etc.
    “The train called ‘The City of New Orleans’ is on its way to Chicago now.”

  7. Concerning the British use of the word “subway”:
    “Jack was trying to get his motorbike underway in the subway.”

    That was when he met Max Headroom!

Leave a Comment