I've been traveling along a highway a lot lately. I really enjoy music, but when I drive I like silence. It gives my brain time to wander a bit and think about random things... things like why is it called a highway, anyways?
Highway refers to a major rural traveled way; more recently it has been used for a road, in either a rural or urban area, where points of entrance and exit for traffic are limited and controlled.
The most ancient name for these paths of travel seems to be the antecedent of the modern way. Way stems from the Middle English wey, which in turn branches from the Latin veho (“I carry”), derived from the Sanskrit vah (“carry,” “go,” or “move”). The word highway goes back to the elevated Roman roads that had a mound or hill formed by earth from the side ditches which was thrown toward the center of the road, thus high way.
The word street originates with the Latin strata (initially, “paved”) and later strata via (“a way paved with stones”). Street was used by the Anglo-Saxons for all the roads that they inherited from the Romans. By the Middle Ages, constructed roads were to be found only in the towns, and so street took on its modern limited application to town roads. The more recent word road, derived from the Old English word rád (“to ride”) and the Middle English rode or rade (“a mounted journey”), is now used to indicate all vehicular ways.