Street Names in America is Mystery

Street Names in America is mystery for me. Let me randomly put some street names I am familiar with:

  • Hans St
  • Serra St
  • Alma St
  • Quarry Rd

These are not English words. Does people invent a word and use it to call the place they live, or what?

I at least understand certain types of road names:

  • Interstate, or state roads that are numbered, like US101, I-280, CA-85
  • Named after another name, like Oregon Expr, Santa Cruz Ave
  • Just some nice names that means something: Sand Hill Rd, Sweet Oliver Rd (inside Stanford), Garden Dr.

But the names I listed at the very beginning does not fit into any of them… Can anyone help to explain this?

10 thoughts on “Street Names in America is Mystery

  1. Micah Sittig

    In Southern California the developer or architect who works on a neighborhood will choose the street names. Sometimes they follow a theme; for example in the neighborhood where I lived during high school, all the streets were all named after trees: Elm St, Fir St, Cherry St, Ponderosa (Pine) St, Laurel Ave, Spruce Pl and so onÂ…

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=wildrose+drive,+92821&sll=33.909371,-117.9092&sspn=0.00577,0.008272&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Wildrose+Dr,+Brea,+Orange,+California+92821&ll=33.90946,-117.902355&spn=0.01154,0.016544&t=h&z=16

    > These are not English words.

    This should not surprise you about the United States! It is a country of people from around the world :)

  2. Sage

    Alma and Serra are common Spanish-derived

    street names on the west coast, Hans must be a person’s name, and a Quarry is either a place from which rocks are quarried, our an object of prey!

    I like that each city in America chooses a different system for naming their streets. In my hometown of Boston, the Back Bay neighborhood uses names in alphabetical order (Arlinton, Berkeley, Clarendon, etc) that are also important historical figures.

    Although US street names can be somewhat chaotic, I sometimes feel that’s preferable to naming the main street “Beijing Lu” in so many cities in China. :-)

  3. nmc

    The first three are people names. Hans is German, Serra is Spanish, and Alma is (I think) a female name that used to be common in the US in the 1800s. A quarry is what you mine stone from.

    With residential areas, I suspect sometimes the developer gets to name the streets whatever they like. I’ve seen neighborhoods that looked like they were named after the developer’s family, ones in the Midwest that were all named after islands in the Caribbean, and stranger.

  4. Micah Sittig

    For the examples you gave…

    _Hans St_: there is a Hans St in the state of Wisconsin, where many immigrants from Northern Europe settled. Hans is a man’s name common in Northern Europe, related to the English name “John”.

    _Serra St_: this is a street running through the Stanford campus, right? Many streets on and around campus have Spanish names (Escondido Rd, Santa Teresa St, Lagunita Dr). California was once owned by Spain and Mexico. A lot of place and city names in California come from Spanish. “Serra” comes from the Spanish for “mountain range”.

    _Alma St_: this is a street in Palo Alto. It is also a Spanish name, meaning “soul”. Palo Alto has several other major streets with Spanish names, like Embarcadero Rd (“Wharf Rd”), El Camino Real (“The Royal Road”), and Loma Verde Ave (“Green Hill Ave”).

    _Quarry Rd_: this is a street north of Stanford, but it’s actually an English word. It means a place where rock is harvested from a mountain. Many roads are named after places. For example, in the same neighborhood as Quarry Rd are Vineyard Ln, Arboretum Rd, and Sand Hill Rd.

    Hope that helps.

  5. ecodelta

    Right spelling is “sierra”, meaning mountain range.

    “Alma” is also Spanish a word, it means soul.

    You will find quite a bit of Spanish words in California.

  6. Jian Shuo Wang

    Thanks everyone for your help. That makes a lot of sense – Spanish names (The one I know was El Camino Real)…

    Because the city in US is much smaller in the China scale, it is easier to name street without worrying too much about conflict (in the same city namespace).

    I agree with Sage that the Chinese city names in the recent century is not very interesting, like Zhongshan Road, Huaihai Road, or Beijing Road.

  7. Jay

    As noted above most of those street names described ARE names or places.

    Serra is the name of the spanish monk, Father Junipero Serra who founded the missions (church outposts / towns) in California… basically heping settle california …. lots of things called Serra in california (roads, schools, other…)

    Here’s a link:

    http://www.sfmuseum.org/bio/jserra.html

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