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Traditionally, an avenue is a straight road with a line of trees or large shrubs running along each side, which is used, as its French source venir ("to come") indicates, to emphasize the "coming to," or arrival at a landscape or architectural feature. In most cases, the trees planted in an avenue will be all of the same species or cultivar, so as to give uniform appearance along the full length of the avenue. The French term allée is confined normally to avenues planted in parks and landscape gardens.

The avenue is one of the oldest ideas in the history of gardens, with even earlier ritual uses that sanctified a landscape by laying a plumbline across it, a ley line. An avenue of sphinxes still leads to the tomb of the pharaoh Hatshepsut (died 1458 BCE); see the entry Sphinx. Avenues similarly defined by guardian stone lions lead to the Ming tombsmarker. British archaeologists have adopted highly specific criteria for "avenues" within the context of British archaeology.

In Baroque landscape planning, avenues of trees that were centered upon the dwelling radiated across the landscape. See the avenues in the gardens of Het Loomarker. Other late 17th century Dutch landscapes, in that intensely ordered and flat terrain, fell naturally into avenues; Meindert Hobbema, in The Avenue at Middelharnismarker, 1689, presents such an avenue in farming country, neatly flanked at regular intervals by rows of young trees that have been rigorously limbed up; his central vanishing point mimics the avenue's propensity to draw the spectator forwards along it.

Street name

In urban or suburban settings, "avenue" is often a qualifier for a road name, along with "lane", "street", "way", etc. Thus a community might have a "Maple Avenue" and a "Maple Street". In some cities which have a grid plan, such as Manhattanmarker, there is a convention that avenues run in a north-south direction, while streets run in an east-west direction, or vice versa. In Phoenix, Arizonamarker, "the avenues" can colloquially mean "the west side of town", due to the numbered north-south running roads being called "Avenues" in the western part of the city, separated from the eastern "Streets" by a "Central Avenue".

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