right of way

noun, plural rights of way, right of ways.
1.
a common law or statutory right granted to a vehicle, as an airplane or boat, to proceed ahead of another.
2.
a path or route that may lawfully be used.
3.
a right of passage, as over another's land.
4.
the strip of land acquired for use by a railroad for tracks.
5.
land covered by a public road.
6.
land over which a power line passes.
7.
Fencing. the right to attack or continue an attack, and thus to be credited with a hit, by virtue of having first extended the sword arm or having parried the opponent's attack.
Also, right-of-way.


Origin:
1760–70

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
right of way
 
n , pl rights of way
1.  the right of one vehicle or vessel to take precedence over another, as laid down by law or custom
2.  a.  the legal right of someone to pass over another's land, acquired by grant or by long usage
 b.  the path or road used by this right
3.  (US) the strip of land over which a power line, railway line, road, etc, extends

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

right of way

  1. The right of one person or vehicle to travel over another's property, as in The new owner doesn't like it, but hikers have had the right of way through these woods for decades. [Mid-1700s]

  2. The right to precede another person or vehicle, as in Sailboats always have the right of way over motorboats, and swimmers do over any kind of boat. [Early 1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Cars will always give you the right of way and everybody will smile and wave at
  you.
All they have to do is pay for materials and maintenance and buy the right of
  way for the main lines.
Pedestrians always have the right of way in a crosswalk, even when it doesn't
  seem possible.
Yield right of way when entering a roundabout, and pay close attention to all
  signs and signals within it.
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