Word Confusion: Allée vs Alley vs Ally

Posted September 21, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Another one of my pompous know-it-all word confusions, as I was proofreading a manuscript in which the author used ally to refer to an alley. Well, that just wasn’t right *she said in all huffiness*…until she looked it up.

Hmmm, one of those variant spellings…dang, I hate that, lol.

Of course, allied up with that alley was the shooter marble, another alley. Now if that don’t make you need to take a soothing walk down a calming green allée, I don’t know what will.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Allée Alley Ally
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: alley and ally

Magnolia trees with pink blooms line a bridge

“Jardin des plantes Nantes-montagne” is Pymouss44’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

A gorgeous allée of magnolia trees in bloom.

A gloomy look down an alley, one side lined with an assortment of plastic garbage cans and the other has a green garage door and a white doorway

“View West along Tiber Alley near Mulligans Hill Lane in Downtown Ellicott City, Howard County, Maryland”, 11 May 2016, is Famartin’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

A typical alley with trash cans and a garage.

A view of the interior of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, with the heads of state sitting and standing before a long table.

“The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles” is a painting by William Orpen and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This oil-on-canvas painting depicts the allies signing the Treaty of Versailles.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for noun: allées
Noun 1, 2
Plural for noun: alleys

When referring to marbles, an alternate spelling is ally.

Noun 3; Suffix
Verb 4, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: allies
Past tense or past participle: allied
Gerund or present participle: allying

Variant spelling of alley

A walk in a formal garden or park, bordered by trees or bushes

  • A path or drive bordered by identical trees or bushes
A narrow passageway between or behind buildings that allows access from the street to garages, backyards, etc. 1

  • A path lined with trees, bushes, or stones
  • [Bowling] Long, narrow area in which games such as bowling are played
    • [Often plural] A building for bowling
  • [Tennis; North American] Either of the two areas of the court between the doubles sideline and the singles or service sideline
  • [Baseball] The area between the outfielders in left center or right center field

A narrow back street

[Rare] An aisle

A large toy marble made of marble, alabaster, or glass 2

A state formally cooperating with another for a military or other purpose, typically by treaty

  • A person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity
  • [the Allies] A group of nations taking military action together, in particular the countries that fought with the US in World War I and World War II

[Biology] A plant, animal, or other organism bearing an evolutionary relationship to another, often as a member of the same family

A person who associates or cooperates with another

  • Supporter


Forms adverbs from adjectives which end in -al

Verb, intransitive:
To enter into an alliance

  • Join
  • Unite

Verb, transitive:
[Usually followed by with or to] To unite formally, as by treaty, league, marriage, or the like

To associate or connect by some mutual relationship, as resemblance or friendship

“The allées have been replanted with 168 native little-leaf linden trees, variety Greenspire, which will be clipped into an aerial hedge” (This is what a $90 million water fountain looks like“, The Washington Post, NOLA.com, 29 May 2017).

The house is intended to be viewed at the far end of a huge double allée of beeches.

I’d love an allée of trees that formed a canopy over the driveway.

I know a shortcut down the alley.

He drove his motorbike down the alley.

If you like Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock, Patricia Briggs’ and Ilona Andrews’ series may be right up your alley.

We found the litter of kittens in the alley.

He was murdered in an alley and hidden behind a dumpster.

Let’s meet up at the bowling alley.

He made a sharp right turn and faced a blind alley in dismay.

Tin Pan Alley was the commercial side of popular music.

“An alley can be a marble made of alabaster, but it can also be another term for a shooter or taw, the large marble used to knock around the smaller ones” (Mental Floss)

a state formally cooperating with another for a military or other purpose, typically by treaty.

He was forced to dismiss his closest political ally.

The United States, Britain, France, and Russia were the major allies during World War II.

The squash is an ally of the watermelon.

“Oh, yes,” Evan said with a laugh, “I’d say he was angry. Look at how he signed off on his email: ‘Infernally yours’.”

Ironically, if he’d done as his wife suggested, he’d still have a job.

The community remained firm and the government tactically retreated.

You must radically change the way you do business.

Verb, intransitive:
The U.S. allied with Canada in World War II.

Verb, transitive:
Russia allied itself to France.

Noun: alleyway Adjective: alliable
Noun: alliance, preally, preallies
Verb: preally, preallied, preallying
History of the Word:
Mid 18th century, from the French. 1 Late Middle English from the Old French alee meaning walking or passage, which is from aler meaning go, which is itself from the Latin ambulare to walk.

2 Early 18th century. Perhaps as a diminutive of alabaster.

3 Middle English and partly via the Old French alie meaning allied.

4 Middle English from the Old French alier, which is from the Latin alligare meaning bind together, from ad- (to) + ligare (to bind).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Allée in July by Gero Brandenburg is under the CC BY-NC-SA license, via VisualHunt; Vice-Admiral James Saumarez (1757–1836), was painted by Edwin Williams and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Portrait Of Vice Admiral M.P. Lazarev, 1839, by Ivan Aivazovsky is in the public domain, via Wikiart; and, Alabaster Eggs are courtesy of Designer Unique Finds, via Pinterest.

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