noun (used with a singular verb)

Origin of ways

Middle English weyes, Old English weges, genitive singular of weg way1




manner, mode, or fashion: a new way of looking at a matter; to reply in a polite way.
characteristic or habitual manner: Her way is to work quietly and never complain.
a method, plan, or means for attaining a goal: to find a way to reduce costs.
a respect or particular: The plan is defective in several ways.
a direction or vicinity: Look this way. We're having a drought out our way.
passage or progress on a course: to make one's way on foot; to lead the way.
Often ways. distance: They've come a long way.
a path or course leading from one place to another: What's the shortest way to town?
  1. an old Roman or pre-Roman road: Icknield Way.
  2. a minor street in a town: He lives in Stepney Way.
a road, route, passage, or channel (usually used in combination): highway; waterway; doorway.
Law. a right of way.
any line of passage or travel, used or available: to blaze a way through dense woods.
space for passing or advancing: to clear a way through the crowd.
Often ways. a habit or custom: The grandmother lived by the ways of the old country.
course or mode of procedure that one chooses or wills: They had to do it my way.
condition, as to health, prosperity, or the like: to be in a bad way.
range or extent of experience or notice: the best device that ever came in my way.
a course of life, action, or experience: The way of transgressors is hard.
Informal. business: to be in the haberdashery way.
  1. ways,two or more ground ways down which a hull slides in being launched.
  2. movement or passage through the water.
Machinery. a longitudinal strip, as in a planer, guiding a moving part along a surface.

Origin of way

before 900; Middle English wei(gh)e, wai, Old English weg; cognate with Dutch, German Weg, Old Norse vegr, Gothic wigs; akin to Latin vehere to carry
Related formsway·less, adjective
Can be confusedway weigh weight

Synonyms for way

3. scheme, device. See method. 4. detail, part. 7. space, interval. 10. track. 14. usage, practice, wont.


a suffix appearing in native English adverbs: always; sideways.

Origin of -ways

Middle English; see way1, -s1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ways

Contemporary Examples of ways

Historical Examples of ways

  • What enabled him to see it so clearly was his familiarity with the ways of men and the uncelestial politics of Florence.

  • Yet a church once consecrated, is not to be consecrated again unless it shall have been profaned, which happeneth in three ways.

  • It took Lady Clare several months to accustom Shag (for that was the colt's name) to her ways.

    Boyhood in Norway

    Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen

  • I turned it a thousand ways, and examined it in every point of view.

    Caleb Williams

    William Godwin

  • Yet ways and means had to be provided, and the difficulty grew rather than diminished, until it was decided to cut the knot.

    Sir Walter Ralegh

    William Stebbing

British Dictionary definitions for ways


suffix forming adverbs

indicating direction or mannersideways

Word Origin for -ways

Old English weges, literally: of the way, from weg way



a manner, method, or meansa way of life; a way of knowing
a route or directionthe way home
  1. a means or line of passage, such as a path or track
  2. (in combination)waterway
space or room for movement or activity (esp in the phrases make way, in the way, out of the way)
distance, usually distance in generalyou've come a long way
a passage or journeyon the way
characteristic style or mannerI did it in my own way
(often plural) habits; idiosyncrasieshe has some offensive ways
an aspect of something; particularin many ways he was right
  1. a street in or leading out of a town
  2. (capital when part of a street name)Icknield Way
something that one wants in a determined manner (esp in the phrases get or have one's (own) way)
the experience or sphere in which one comes into contact with things (esp in the phrase come one's way)
informal a state or condition, usually financial or concerning health (esp in the phrases in a good (or bad) way)
informal the area or direction of one's homedrop in if you're ever over my way
movement of a ship or other vessel
a right of way in law
a guide along which something can be moved, such as the surface of a lathe along which the tailstock slides
(plural) the wooden or metal tracks down which a ship slides to be launched
a course of life including experiences, conduct, etcthe way of sin
archaic calling or trade
by the way (sentence modifier) in passing or incidentally
by way of
  1. via
  2. serving asby way of introduction
  3. in the state or condition ofby way of being an artist
each way (of a bet) laid on a horse, dog, etc, to win or gain a place
give way
  1. to collapse or break down
  2. to withdraw or yield
give way to
  1. to step aside for or stop for
  2. to give full rein to (emotions, etc)
go out of one's way to take considerable trouble or inconvenience oneself
have a way with to have such a manner or skill as to handle successfully
have it both ways to enjoy two things that would normally contradict each other or be mutually exclusive
in a way in some respects
in no way not at all
lead the way
  1. to go first
  2. to set an example or precedent
make one's way
  1. to proceed or advance
  2. to achieve success in life
no way informal that is impossible
on the way out informal
  1. becoming unfashionable, obsolete, etc
  2. dying
out of the way
  1. removed or dealt with so as to be no longer a hindrance
  2. remote
  3. unusual and sometimes improper
pay one's way See pay 1 (def. 11)
see one's way or see one's way clear to find it possible and be willing (to do something)
the way Irish so thatI left early the way I would avoid the traffic
under way having started moving or making progress


  1. at a considerable distance or extentway over yonder
  2. very farthey're way up the mountain
informal by far; considerablyway better
slang truly; genuinelythey have a way cool site

Word Origin for way

Old English weg; related to Old Frisian wei, Old Norse vegr, Gothic wigs
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

Word Origin and History for ways



Old English weg "road, path, course of travel," from Proto-Germanic *wegaz (cf. Old Saxon, Dutch weg, Old Norse vegr, Old Frisian wei, Old High German weg, German Weg, Gothic wigs "way"), from PIE *wegh- "to move" (see weigh). Most of the extended senses developed in Middle English. Adverbial meaning "very, extremely" is by 1986, perhaps from phrase all the way. Ways and means "resources at a person's disposal" is attested from early 15c. Way-out (adj.) "original, bold," is jazz slang, first recorded 1940s. Encouragement phrase way to go is short for that's the way to go.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ways


In addition to the idioms beginning with way

  • way the wind blows, which
  • way to go

also see:

  • all the way
  • by the way
  • by way of
  • can't punch one's way out of a paper bag
  • come a long way
  • come one's way
  • cut both ways
  • downhill all the way
  • every which way
  • feel one's way
  • find one's way
  • from way back
  • get one's way
  • give way
  • go all the way
  • go a long way toward
  • go one's way
  • go out of one's way
  • go the way of all flesh
  • hard way
  • have a way with
  • have it both ways
  • have one's way with
  • in a bad way
  • in a big way
  • in a way
  • in one's way
  • in the family way
  • in the way
  • in the worst way
  • know all the answers (one's way around)
  • laugh all the way to the bank
  • lead the way
  • look the other way
  • make one's way
  • make way
  • mend one's ways
  • more than one way to skin a cat
  • not built that way
  • no two ways about it
  • no way
  • one way or another
  • on one's way
  • on the way
  • on the way out
  • other way round
  • out of the way
  • parting of the ways
  • pave the way
  • pay one's way
  • pick one's way
  • put in the way of
  • right of way
  • rub the wrong way
  • see one's way to
  • set in one's ways
  • show the way
  • take the wrong way
  • that's how (the way) the ball bounces
  • under way
  • wend one's way
  • work one's way
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.