If you find the word alley in the middle of an English text, you may be tempted to translate it as allée without giving it a second thought.
But are you sure allée is the right choice of words? The short answer is: not always. I’d even say, you will more often than not need another word in French.
Indeed, if the text in English is talking about a path in a garden, or a walk, then yes, you can choose this translation. On the other hand, if the context is different, then you have a range of words to choose from, depending on what this alley really is and how it can be visualised:
- between buildings, in a city or village → une ruelle
In English you will also find the term back alley with the same meaning. In a more ancient and literary text, you may translate alley or back alley as venelle instead of ruelle.
Ruelle is the most common translation because it is what is most often meant by the word alley.
- between counters or stalls → un passage
- on a tennis court → un couloir
- to talk about a waterway connecting two bodies of water → un chenal
- against a wall and below a sloping roof or canopy → un appentis or un passage (the style of the text will determine the choice here ; appentis is more technical and passage is more common and a more generic term)
- to talk about playing marbles → une grosse bille, un calot (also spelt callot)
- to talk about bowling, a bowling alley → une piste (if referring to the lane), une salle, un centre, un complexe, un bowling (if talking about the site, the centre itself)
- in the set phrase “to be right up someone’s alley” → rayon, i.e. “être le rayon de quelqu’un”
- alley cat: un chat de gouttière
Of course, you will find more words that have a meaning close to alley in English.
As for the French word allée, it can be translated in a number of ways in English, e.g. lane, path, trail, drive, aisle, walk, or even avenue.
As always when translating, we have to be wary of words that look or sound similar and can thus be deceitful.
In my translations for the real estate field in which I specialise, I quite often see the word alley but in the end, the French word allée is only rarely the one I have to use in my translation!
So, there you are! Now you won’t forget to think twice about what is really meant by the term alley before you translate it as allée in French! Congratulations! 🙂