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.

noun plural rights of way

  1. 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
  2. US the strip of land over which a power line, railway line, road, etc, extends

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]

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