AskDefine | Define highway

Dictionary Definition

highway n : a major road for any form of motor transport [syn: main road]

User Contributed Dictionary



etyl ang heahweg, corresponding to high + way:
  • Old English heah < < +
  • Old English weg < < .



  1. A main, direct public road, especially a multi-lane, high speed thoroughfare connecting major population centers.


main public thoroughfare

See also

Extensive Definition

Highway is a term commonly used to designate major roads intended for travel by the public between important destinations, such as cities. The term highway can also be varied country-to-country, and can be referred to as a road, freeway, superhighway, autoroute, autobahn, parkway, expressway, autostrasse, autostrada, byway, auto-estrada, kōsokudōro, or motorway. The first road of this type was opened on September 21, 1924, in Italy, and connected Milan with Como and Lake Como; it was 42.6 km long. Now it is officially designed as Autostrada A9 Milano-Laghi.
Highway designs vary widely. They can include some characteristics of grade separations, multiple lanes of traffic, a median between lanes of opposing traffic, and access control (ramps and grade separation). Highways can also be as simple as a two-lane, shoulderless road.
The United States has the largest network of highways, including Interstate highways and United States Numbered Highways. This network is present in every state and connects all major cities. The Expressway Network of the People's Republic of China, also known as National Trunk Highway System (NTHS) has a total length of about 53,600 km at the end of 2007, which is the world's second longest only after the United States.
According to world views, the characteristics of a highway can differ. For example, in the United States of America's state of California, civil code 360(590) defines that a highway refers to "any way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel." Streets, avenues and even one lane dirt roads are therefore considered highways within the state of California, so long as they are maintained by the state. Multi-lane, high-speed roadways with restricted access are called freeways according to California's civil code, whereby all freeways are highways but not all highways are freeways. In other jurisdictions, such as the Canadian province of Ontario, all public roadways are legally defined as a highway, regardless of its ownership.
Some highways, like the Pan-American Highway or the European routes, bridge multiple countries. Australia's Highway 1 is the longest national highway in the world at over and runs almost the entire way around the country.
Highways are not always continuous stretches of pavement. For example, some highways are interrupted by bodies of water, and ferry routes may serve as sections of the highway.

Quick facts

  • Longest international highway: the Pan-American Highway, which connects many countries in the Americas, is nearly long as of 2005.
  • Longest national highway: Australia's Highway 1 at over 20,000 km (12,427 mi). It runs almost the entire way around the country’s coastline. With the exception of Canberra (which is inland) it links all the capital cities, although Brisbane and Darwin are not directly connected. Also the route links all the major towns and cities of the island state of Tasmania, Burnie, Devonport, Launceston and Hobart (the state’s capital).
  • Longest national highway (Point to point): The Trans-Canada Highway (Known as TCH 1 in western Canada) is 7,821 km (4,857 mi) long as of 2006. It runs across southern Canada and connects with several major urban centres along its longitudinal route.
  • Largest national highway system: The United States of America has approximately of highway within its borders as of 2005.
  • Busiest highway: Highway 401 in Ontario, Canada, has volumes surpassing an average of 500,000 vehicles per day in some sections of Toronto as of 2006.
  • Widest highway (maximum number of lanes): The Katy Freeway (part of Interstate 10) in Houston, Texas, United States of America, has a total of 26 lanes in some sections as of 2007. However, they are divided up into general use/frontage roads/HOV lanes, restricting traffic flow.
  • Widest highway (number of maximum through lanes): Highway 401 through Mississauga, Ontario has the most unrestricted free-flow lanes, at 18 (22 including restricted) as of 2006.


The terms used for various types of highways (such as autobahn, autoroute, expressway, freeway and motorway) vary between countries or even regions within a country. In some places a highway is a specific type of major road that is distinct from freeway or expressway; in other places the terms may overlap. In law, highway may mean any public road or canal. However, in some countries, the term highway is not generally used at all.

List of countries with freeways


In Australia, a highway is a distinct type of road from freeways, expressways and motorways. The word highway is generally used to mean major roads connecting large cities, towns and different parts of metropolitan areas. Metropolitan highways often have traffic lights at intersections, and rural highways usually have only one lane in each direction. The words freeway, expressway or motorway are generally reserved for the most arterial routes, usually with grade-separated intersections and usually significantly straightened and widened to a minimum of four lanes. The term motorway is used in some Australian cities to refer to freeways that have been allocated a metropolitan route number, and in Sydney, a motorway has a toll, whereas a freeway is free of charge. On the Hume Highway when traveling from Melbourne to Sydney there is only one set of traffic signals, they are in Holbrook. Roads may be part-highway and part-freeway until they are fully upgraded. The Cahill expressway is the only "named" expressway in New South Wales, which opened in 1954 the first in New South Wales .

Bosnia and Herzegovina

see also Corridor Vc As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Pan-European Corridor Vc Motorway, Budapest - Osijek - Sarajevo - Ploce, is one of the most significant and project of the highest priority. The construction works on the road have already begun, but intensified beginning of the construction will be a key starter of economic and social activities, and will enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to be connected to main European traffic network, as well as to global European economic and social structure.
Construction of the motorway, whose total length is 340 km, will provide: rational connecting to neighboring countries and regions; stabilizing and developing effects will be reached; transport conditions and quality of life improvement; economy competitiveness enhancement; new projects launched and national and international private investments enhancement.


see also List of Brazilian Highways In Brazil, highways (or expressway/freeway) are named "rodovia", and Brazilian highways are divided in two types: regional highways (generally of less importance and entirely inside of one state) and national highways (of major importance to the country). In Brazil, rodovia is the name given exclusively to roads connecting two or more cities with a sizable distance separating the extremes of the highway. Urban highways for commuting are uncommon in Brazil, and when they are present, they receive different names, depending of the region (Avenida, Marginal, Linha, Via, Eixo, etc). Very rarely names other than "rodovia" are used.
Regional highways are named YY-XXX, where YY is the abbreviation of the state where the highway is running in and XXX is a number (e.g. SP-280; where SP means that the highway is running entirely in the state of São Paulo).
National highways are named BR-XXX. National highways connects multiples states altogether, are of major importance to the national economy and/or connects Brazil to another country. The meaning of the numbers are:
  • 001-100 - it means that the highway runs radially from Brasília. It is an exception to the cases below.
  • 101-200 - it means that the highway runs in a south-north way.
  • 201-300 - it means that the highway runs in a west-east way
  • 301-400 - it means that the highway runs in a diagonal way (northwest-southeast, for example)
  • 400-499 - another exception, they are less important highways and its function is to connect a city to an arterial highway nearby
Often, Brazilian highways receive names (famous people, etc) their YY/BR-XXX designation (example: SP-280 is also known as Rodovia Castelo Branco).


highway in German: Highway
highway in Croatian: Autocesta
highway in Italian: Superstrada
highway in Marathi: द्रुतगती मार्ग
highway in Malay (macrolanguage): Lebuhraya
highway in Japanese: 道路
highway in Narom: Câochie
highway in Polish: Autostrada
highway in Portuguese: Rodovia
highway in Simple English: Highway
highway in Swedish: Väg
highway in Thai: ทางหลวง
highway in Ukrainian: Автомобільна дорога
highway in Yiddish: הייוועי
highway in Chinese: 公路

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Autobahn, US highway, alley, alleyway, arterial, arterial highway, arterial street, artery, autoroute, autostrada, avenue, belt highway, blind alley, boulevard, bypass, byway, camino real, carriageway, causeway, causey, chaussee, circumferential, close, corduroy road, county road, court, crescent, cul-de-sac, dead-end street, dike, dirt road, drag, drive, driveway, expressway, freeway, gravel road, highroad, highways and byways, interstate highway, lane, local road, main drag, main road, mews, motorway, parkway, path, pave, paved road, pike, place, plank road, primary highway, private road, right-of-way, ring road, road, roadbed, roadway, route nationale, row, royal road, secondary road, speedway, state highway, street, superhighway, terrace, thoroughfare, through street, thruway, toll road, township road, track, turnpike, way, wynd
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