(the) right of way

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(the) right of way

1. The right to pass over or cut through property that is privately owned by someone else. Because I bought this land from the government, they have right of way in certain portions. Hey, whoa, you don't have the right of way here—this is my property! If you rent this land from the township, that would explain why they have right of way.
2. The legal right to travel in front or across the path of another vehicle. At an intersection with four stop signs, the person who arrived first has right of way. Pedestrians always have the right of way at these designated crosswalks. Wait, do I yield, or do I go? I never know who has the right of way in these situations.
See also: of, right, way
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.


the legal right to occupy a particular space on a public roadway. (*Typically: get ~; have ~; give someone ~; yield ~.) I had a traffic accident yesterday, but it wasn't my fault. I had the right-of-way. Don't pull out onto a highway if you haven't yielded the right-of-way.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

right of way

1. The right of one person or vehicle to travel over another's property, as in The new owner doesn't like it, but hikers have had the right of way through these woods for decades . [Mid-1700s]
2. The right to precede another person or vehicle, as in Sailboats always have the right of way over motorboats, and swimmers do over any kind of boat . [Early 1900s]
See also: of, right, way
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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