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From Middle English purlewe (piece of land on the edge of a forest), modification under the influence of Old French lieu (place) of porale, purale (royal perambulation), from Old French porale, from poraler (to traverse), from por- (forth) (from Latin prō- + aler, aller (to go).




purlieu (plural purlieus or purlieux)

  1. (historical) The ground on the edges of a forest, especially when partly subject to the same forest laws concerning game hunting etc.
  2. The outskirts of any place; an adjacent district; the environs or neighborhood.
    • 1842, [anonymous collaborator of Letitia Elizabeth Landon], chapter XXIX, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 76:
      Whether Lady Anne knew or suspected who it was that drew his steps from the purlieus of fashion he knew not, nor held himself bound to explain.
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 43, in The History of Pendennis. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
      Bred up, like a bailiff or a shabby attorney, about the purlieus of the Inns of Court, Shepherd’s Inn is always to be found in the close neighbourhood of Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, and the Temple.
    • 1886, Henry James, The Princess Casamassima, London: Macmillan and Co.:
      He seemed to wish to keep hold of him, and looked at him strangely, over his spectacles... when he learned that Hyacinth had taken a lodging not in their old familiar quarter but in the unexplored purlieus of Westminster.
    • 1964, Jan Morris, Spain, Faber and Faber, published 2008, →ISBN:
      Wide blank courtyards surround the walls of this marvel, a little town hangs respectfully about its purlieus, and from far away across the plain, even from the streets of Madrid herself, you can see it brooding there on the edge of the mountains, looking at once holy, menacing and obsessed.
    • 1985, Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian [] , →OCLC:
      The mission occupied eight or ten ares of land, a barren purlieu that held a few goats and burros.