Definition of back alley in US English:

back alley


  • A narrow passage behind or between buildings.

    • ‘It was through a PPA survey on life in the area that householders' fears over back alleys being used by burglars and other undesirables were voiced, say councillors.’
    • ‘Even the grimmest of Riis's photographs show only a few people, at most, in the back alleys and basement dives.’
    • ‘The soles of his shoes scuff the wet asphalt of black-and-white back alleys, headlights closing in behind him.’
    • ‘Country lanes, laybys, back alleys, railway land, outside tips and playgrounds were the most popular dumping sites.’
    • ‘Taking an intricate short cut through back alleys and abandoned buildings, she came out onto an empty, dead-end road.’
    • ‘He led her out of the Source and they walked in the back alleys to a two story brick building whose second story had been painted bright green.’
    • ‘‘We have written to the council to ask for street lighting to be put up in dark back alleys, pavement repairs plus bumps in the road to slow down traffic,’ he said.’
    • ‘In this city the citizens run madly, ignoring the back alleys, tunnels and buildings of yesterday.’
    • ‘The main focus has been on organising community litter picks, although other people have been working behind the scenes to clear back alleys of rubbish.’
    • ‘We're almost a week away from Valentine's Day and I have already found the perfect route from the florist to my girlfriend's house, via back alleys and side streets.’
    • ‘I love the pokey back alleys, the twists and turns of the narrow roads as they feel their way round ancient buildings, even if the buildings are long gone.’
    • ‘I went for a stroll around the back alleys and quiet little courtyards hidden behind the main shopping streets.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, this is an area that has a lot of back alleys for the youths to evade us but we are making progress.’
    • ‘The most bizarre example of light pollution in Edmonton is indeed much nearer to home: back alleys, agree the experts.’
    • ‘‘However, they can take advantage of back alleys and lanes,’ he said.’
    • ‘Steve's is not the first complaint I have received about unwanted rubbish being left in the back alleys behind terraced homes.’
    • ‘The recent surge in break-ins has seen thieves using back alleys to approach homes before breaking into them, mainly through windows at the rear.’
    • ‘Plans to make East Lancashire's back alleys no-go zones for criminals have been delayed amid legal and health and safety problems.’
    • ‘So I braved the elements as darkness began to fall; walking a circuit of the avenue and back alleys, round the nearby waste ground where a gang of hooded youths were gathered.’
    • ‘Once in the city, she got lost immediately in the maze of back alleys and narrow lanes.’


  • attributive Secret or illegal, as might be found in a back alley.

    ‘a back-alley drug deal’
    deceitful, underhanded, dishonest, dishonourable, disreputable, unethical, unprincipled, immoral, unscrupulous, fraudulent, cheating, dubious, dirty, unfair, treacherous, duplicitous, double-dealing, below the belt, two-timing, two-faced, janus-faced, unsporting, unsportsmanlike
    View synonyms


back alley

/bæk ˈæli/