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right of way

or right-of-way

noun, plural rights of way, right of ways.
a common law or statutory right granted to a vehicle, as an airplane or boat, to proceed ahead of another.
a path or route that may lawfully be used.
a right of passage, as over another's land.
the strip of land acquired for use by a railroad for tracks.
land covered by a public road.
land over which a power line passes.
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.
Origin of right of way
1760-70 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for right-of-way
Historical Examples
  • No one of the multitude of transverse railways, on whose junctions it had counted, crossed its right-of-way before 1850.

    The Last American Frontier Frederic L. (Frederic Logan) Paxson
  • You can show it to any guard, who will, on seeing it, give you the right-of-way.

  • The right-of-way of the railroad still showed distinctly, in spite of the fact that ties and rails had long since vanished.

    Darkness and Dawn George Allan England
  • The boss thinks that he will get out and stir his feet for a minute on the right-of-way.

    The Modern Railroad Edward Hungerford
  • The right-of-way for the line was entirely donated by the adjoining property-holders.

  • What I wanted to get at was whether or not you had right-of-way, not way.

  • And here, I might remark, that there is no such thing as a right-of-way for the footfarer on either street or sidewalk.

    On the Mexican Highlands William Seymour Edwards
  • They could not pass it on the river, and Archer would not yield his right-of-way at Moores Rapids.

    The Boss of Wind River David Goodger (
  • Previously, an agent of the railroad company had bartered through, securing a right-of-way.

    'Firebrand' Trevison Charles Alden Seltzer
  • Few besides the farm people of Abergann use the right-of-way path, and unlikely any of them being on it at that hour.

    Gwen Wynn Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for right-of-way

right of way

noun (pl) rights of way
the right of one vehicle or vessel to take precedence over another, as laid down by law or custom
  1. the legal right of someone to pass over another's land, acquired by grant or by long usage
  2. the path or road used by this right
(US) the strip of land over which a power line, railway line, road, etc, extends
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Idioms and Phrases with right-of-way

right of way

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 ]
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® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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