Word Origin & History
mid-14c., "passage in a house, covered way, walk in a garden," from O.Fr. alee (Mod.Fr. alée), from ale, fem. pp. of aler "to go," which ultimately may be a contraction of L. ambulare "to walk," or a back-formation from L. allatus "having been brought to." Applied c.1400 to "long narrow enclosure
for playing at bowls, skittles, etc." The meaning "passage between buildings" is from c.1510; the word also is applied in Amer.Eng. to what in London is called a mews
. To be up someone's alley "in someone's neighborhood" (lit. or fig.) is from 1931; alley-cat first attested 1904.