- alley (n.1)
- mid-14c., "passage in a house; open passage between buildings; walkway in a garden," from Old French alee (13c., Modern French allée) "a path, passage, way, corridor," also "a going," from fem. of ale, past participle of aler "to go," which is of uncertain origin. It might be a contraction of Latin ambulare "to walk," or it might be from Gallo-Roman allari, a back-formation from Latin allatus "having been brought to" [Barnhart]. Compare sense evolution of gate.
Applied by c. 1500 to "long narrow enclosure for playing at bowls, skittles, etc." Used in place names from c. 1500. "In U.S. applied to what in London is called a Mews" [OED], and in American English especially of a back-lane parallel to a main street (1729). To be up someone's alley "in someone's neighborhood" (literally or figuratively) is from 1931; alley-cat (n.) is attested by 1890.
- alley (n.2)
- also ally, type of large playing marble (generally one of stone as opposed to terra cotta), 1720, said to be a shortening of alabaster.