“Halfway” and Other Ways
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”).
Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips and get a free eBook!
- Our weekly newsletter is free (one email per week, on Tuesdays)
- You will improve your English, guaranteed.
- Get our "100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid" eBook free.