Main Street

Main Street
Main Street in Salinas, California

Main Street is the metonym for a generic street name (and often the official name) of the primary retail street of a village, town, or small city in many parts of the world. It is usually a focal point for shops and retailers in the central business district, and is most often used in reference to retailing and socializing.

The term is commonly used in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and some parts of Scotland. High Street is also a common term in the United Kingdom and Australia, though Main Street is used just as much (as in Upwey). In Jamaica, as well as North East England and some sections of Canada, the usual term is Front Street. In Cornwall (and also in some towns in Devon), the equivalent is Fore Street.

In some larger cities, there may be several Main Streets, each relating to a specific neighborhood or formerly separate city, rather than the city as a whole. In many larger U.S. cities "Main Street" is a U.S. Highway, as the streets that helped develop the cities around were converted to highways.


American cultural usage

A traditional Main Street; Bastrop, Texas, featuring the small shops and old-fashioned architecture typical of rural towns

In the general sense, the term "Main Street" refers to a place of traditional values.

In the North American media, "Main Street," or the interests of everyday working-class people and small business owners, is sometimes contrasted with "Wall Street" (in the United States) or "Bay Street" (in Canada), symbolizing the interests of corporate capitalism.

Main Street was an extremely popular term during the economic crises in 2008 and 2009: the proposed bailout of U.S. financial system, the 2008 presidential campaign, and debates.

"Main Street" is part of the iconography of American life. Examples include:

In small towns across the United States, Main Street is not only the major road running through town but the site of all street life, a place where townspeople hang out and watch the annual parades go by. A slang term popularized in the early 1900s, "main drag", is also used to refer to a town's main street.

Preservation and Main Street

Main Street Inc. is the name of a community revitalization program begun by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the late 1970s. The core of the Main Street philosophy is the preservation of the historic built environment by engaging in historic preservation. Main Street focuses on a holistic approach to revitalization based on the 4-point approach of design, promotion, economic restructuring, and organization. Originally targeted at small, traditional downtowns, the program has expanded to include towns of various sizes, including neighborhood districts in several large urban centers. [1]

International equivalents

The main street in the Peruvian town of Máncora, which happens to be the Pan-American Highway.
Baylis Street, the Main Street of Wagga Wagga
  • In Hong Kong, "Main Street" can be translated in Chinese into Zheng Jie (正街) or Da Jie (大街); however, the actual "正街" in Hong Kong (officially "Centre Street") is a branch road off Sheung Wan District.
  • In England, the terms "Market Street" or "Market Place" are often used to designate the heart of a town or city, as is the more common High Street (particularly in newer urban developments, or towns or cities which were not original market towns). High Street is often the name of a fairly busy street with small shops on either side, often in towns and villages.
  • In Germany, the Hauptstraße (literally "Main Street") is a highly trafficked street. Hauptstraßes even have formal recognition in road construction guidelines, which specify the width of lanes, for example.
  • In Sweden and Norway, almost all towns and cities have their own main street, a street called Storgatan/Storgaten

(literally, "The big street"). They are typically surrounded by stores and restaurants, and increasingly open for pedestrians only. Likewise, in Norway this type of street is called gågate (literally, "walkingstreet").

  • In Ireland most towns have a "main street", and this is usually the term given colloquially (for example, in offering road directions), though the primary thoroughfare of cities are often named after an historical figure, e.g. O'Connell Street. A more recent phenomenon in the media and with younger people is the misapplication of the term "high street" to describe typical or average street level fashion—likely due to advertising by various British retail multiples which began operating in Ireland during the "Celtic Tiger" years.
  • In most Italian municipalities, the highway or at another major route is called Via Roma. This was done at the behest of Benito Mussolini, who gave the order in 1939 to commemorate the March on Rome.
  • Many Canadian cities and towns also have Main Streets. In Toronto, however, Main Street is a mostly residential avenue in the city's east end. (At one time it was the main street of the hamlet of East Toronto, which was annexed by the city of Toronto in 1908. It has kept its historic name, and evidence of its commercial origins can be seen in the stores at the corner of Main and Gerrard Streets.) Saint Laurent Boulevard, which divides Montreal between east and west, is unofficially known as "the Main."
  • Jalan Besar (roughly translated from Malay as "Main Road") is a common street name used in Malaysia (and to a more limited extent, Singapore) when referring to main streets of older urban centres in the country. Such main streets were originally constructed during British colonisation of territories in present day Malaysia and Singapore, and were named in English as "Main Street" or "Main Road", depending on the size and nature of the urban centre, and oftentimes are laid out as parts of major thoroughfares between larger towns and cities.
    • The independence of states that would form Malaysia and the introduction of the Malay language as the country's national language in 1967 led to extensive renaming of certain Main Streets or Main Roads to "Jalan Besar" in Malaysia the following decades. Large cities (such as state capitals) tend to forgo the use of "Main Street" or "Main Road" altogether as commercial or transport activity may be concentrated along more than one street.
  • In Australia and New Zealand, smaller urban centres often have a main street. In some towns this street is officially designated Main Street or High Street; rarer variants include Main Road, Commercial Road, and Commerce Street. Often, though, the street is given a name peculiar to the town. For many small towns, the main street forms part of the principal road into, or through, the town. Large centres often have a central business district in which no one street is a clear focus for commercial activity, though for historical or cultural reasons there is often one street regarded as the city's "main street". Examples include Melbourne's Collins Street, Adelaide's King William Street, Auckland's Queen Street, and Christchurch's Colombo Street.
  • In South Africa, Main Road is the term used for the same concept as Main Street in the U.S. and High Street in the U.K.
  • In Cambodia, the Main Road is between the Rice fields and settlements.

See also


  1. ^ "Home Page". Main Street. National Main Street Center. 2009-04-09. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • main´street´er — main|street «MAYN STREET», intransitive verb. U.S. and Canada. to campaign for election along the main streets of towns and districts: »Boston has witnessed a merry binge of mainstreeting, leafletting, and parties with some of the excitement of a …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Main Street — n 1.) the most important street, with many shops and businesses on it, in many small towns in the US British Equivalent: high street 2.) [U] AmE ordinary people who believe in traditional American values ▪ The President s new proposals won t go… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Main Street — Main ,Street noun * 1. ) count the main road in the center of a town, with many stores and businesses on it 2. ) uncount AMERICAN people who live in small towns and are considered to be traditional and conservative: Main Street will never accept… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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