One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1The passage or space between a bed and the wall; (hence also) the side or part of a bed next to the wall. Now historical.
2This space, or the area around the bed generally, where a distinguished person received favoured guests while in bed, especially where (in 17th and 18th cent. France) a lady of fashion held morning receptions. So in extended use: an audience or reception of this kind; a (social or literary) gathering in a ruelle. Now historical.
3In France or French-speaking regions: a small street; a lane, alley.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in William Langland (c1325–c1390), poet. From Anglo-Norman ruele, Middle French, French ruelle narrow street, alley, space between the side of a bed and the wall, bedroom used for social or literary receptions, a reception of this kind from rue + -elle.
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