[ al-ee ]
/ ˈæl i /

noun, plural al·leys.

a passage, as through a continuous row of houses, permitting access from the street to backyards, garages, etc.
a narrow back street.
a walk, as in a garden, enclosed with hedges or shrubbery.
  1. a long, narrow, wooden lane or floor along which the ball is rolled.
  2. (often plural) a building for bowling.
  3. bowling green.
Tennis. the space on each side of a tennis court between the doubles sideline and the service or singles sideline.
Rare. an aisle.


    up/down one's alley, Informal. in keeping with or satisfying one's abilities, interests, or tastes: If you like science fiction, this book will be right up your alley.

Origin of alley

1350–1400; Middle English al(e)y < Middle French alee walk, passage, derivative of feminine of ale, past participle of aler to walk (French aller), probably < Vulgar Latin *allārī, regularized from allātus, the suppletive past participle of afferre to bring (passive afferrī to be moved, conveyed, to betake oneself); French aller often allegedly < Latin ambulāre to walk (see amble), but this offers grave phonetic problems, since the m and b would not normally be lost Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for down one's alley (1 of 2)


/ (ˈælɪ) /


a narrow lane or passage, esp one between or behind buildings
tennis, mainly US the space between the singles and doubles sidelines
a walk in a park or garden, esp one lined with trees or bushes
up one's alley or down one's alley See street (def. 10)

Word Origin for alley

C14: from Old French alee, from aler to go, ultimately from Latin ambulāre to walk

British Dictionary definitions for down one's alley (2 of 2)


/ (ˈælɪ) /


a large playing marble

Word Origin for alley

C18: shortened and changed from alabaster
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

Idioms and Phrases with down one's alley (1 of 2)

down one's alley

see right up one's alley.

Idioms and Phrases with down one's alley (2 of 2)


In addition to the idiom beginning with alley

  • alley cat

also see:

  • blind alley
  • right up one's alley
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.