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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English thurghfare, corresponding to thorough- (through) +‎ fare. Compare Old English þurhfaran (to go through, go over, traverse, pierce, pass through, pass beyond, transcend, penetrate). Compare also Old English þurhfær (inner secret place), German Durchfahrt (passage through, thoroughfare).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈθʌɹəfɛː/
  • (file)


thoroughfare (plural thoroughfares)

  1. (now rare except in certain set phrases) A passage; a way through.
    • 1961, Frederic Morton, The Rothschilds, page 173:
      “I ask you,” cried Lloyd George in 1909. “Are we to have all the ways of reform, financial and social, blocked simply by a notice board: ‘No thoroughfare. By order of Nathanial Rothschild’?”
    • 1974, John Le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy:
      In the scullery Smiley had once more checked his thoroughfare, shoved some deck-chairs aside, and pinned a string to the mangle to guide him because he saw badly in the dark.
  2. A road open at both ends or connecting one area with another; a highway or main street.
    • 1841, Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge:
      a dozen houses were quickly blazing, including those of Sir John Fielding and two other justices, and four in Holborn – one of the greatest thoroughfares in London – which were all burning at the same time, and burned until they went out of themselves, for the people cut the engine hose, and would not suffer the firemen to play upon the flames.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 7, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      With some of it on the south and more of it on the north of the great main thoroughfare that connects Aldgate and the East India Docks, St. Bede's at this period of its history was perhaps the poorest and most miserable parish in the East End of London.
    • 2011, Stephen Phelan, The Guardian, 1 Jul 2011:
      Local art is now a viable industry, and hundreds of islanders make a living in it. The thoroughfare of Oneroa village is lined with shops and galleries full of their work.
  3. (obsolete) The act of going through; passage; travel, transit.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book X:
      and made one realm, / Hell and this world, one realm, one continent / Of easy thorough-fare.
    • 1819, Washington Irving, The Sketch Book, Roscoe:
      Mr. Roscoe, on the contrary, has claimed none of the accorded privileges of talent. He has shut himself up in no garden of thought, no elysium of fancy; but has gone forth into the highways and thoroughfares of life; [] .
  4. An unobstructed waterway allowing passage for ships.