June 20, 2013
turnpike (noun)
\TERN-pyke\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : a road one must pay to use2 : a main road
How do you use it?
Even driving on the turnpike, it took us three hours to get to our cousin's house.
Are you a word wiz?

The word "turnpike" did not originally refer to a toll road. What do you think "turnpike" meant when English speakers first used it in the Middle Ages?

In the Middle Ages, people placed spiked barriers called "turnepikes" across roads or bridges to protect against enemy attacks. The barrier's name came from the verb "turnen," meaning "to turn," and the noun "pike," meaning "a sharp-tipped weapon" -- which makes sense because to pass through one, you had to turn it. With a slight change in spelling, "turnpike" later came to be used for any gate placed across a road. To pass through turnpike gates, travelers had to pay a fee or toll. Roads with such tollgates were originally called "turnpike roads," but that was eventually shortened to just "turnpikes."
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