Embankment, esplanade, quay

Alvib

New Member
Russian
I encountered this problem long ago when I tried to tell friends of mine (one from New Zealand and two from the USA) that "now we are walking along...". I consulted Merriam-Webster that gives the following definition of esplanade: "a level, open area ; especially: an area for walking or driving along a shore". However I was surprised at awkward pause as long as I tried to use this word speaking with native speakers.

What is the difference between these words? Which one is considered to be as a general one?

As far as I understand "embankment" is used mostly regarding the riversides. But it seems to carry too much of "engineering" meaning. Canadians are more inclined to quays, as long as Singapore manages to treat equally "quays", "esplanades" and "embankments". Australians seem to use esplanades quite frequently. London is famous for Thames Embankment*.

*This thread contains personal observations and experiences only (based mostly on unofficial sources).

Thanks in advance!
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    They are all different and specific things. None of them are general. As you will see from looking at Merriam-Webster, an esplanade (as you have quoted) is for walking or driving, an embankment is for holding back the water, and a quay is for unloading ships.
    You haven't told us what you are trying to describe.
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    Oh, I am sorry for that. I was looking for the word that actually describes an area along the riverside or seaside where people can walk around. However nobody seemed to uderstand me when I used "esplanade".
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    an embankment is for holding back the water
    Yes, I found that enbankment generally refers to an engineering construction. Nontheless, once I heard American who spoke about the esplanade nearby the river as about "embankment".
     
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    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Nontheless, once I heard American who spoke about the esplanade nearby the river as about "embankment".
    The road running alongside the Thames in London is called The Embankment (as is the nearby Tube Station).:)

    That said, I would take a walk along the seafront/the riverfront/the waterfront, generally speaking. I would understand esplanade to mean the seafront (for example, Brighton in the UK, has an esplanade).
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    I would understand esplanade to mean the seafront (for example, Brighton in the UK, has an esplanade).
    It means that "seafront" is a more commonly used word than "esplanade"? Probably "esplanade" is rare or obsolete word? In case I speak about architectural decisions, design and constructions at the seafront, it is possible (and correct) to say "esplanade", isn't it?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Oh, I am sorry for that. I was looking for the word that actually describes an area along the riverside or seaside where people can walk around. However nobody seemed to uderstand me when I used "esplanade".
    "An area where people can walk around" is still very vague. Most people would not think it was an esplanade unless there was a sidewalk or roadway with some landscaping, etc. It's usually applied to something fairly nice so a simple functional walkway would not be called an esplanade. It's a big fancy word.
    You might read the Wikipedia article on "esplanade", particularly:
    The original meaning of esplanade was a large, open, level area outside fortress or city walls to provide clear fields of fire for the fortress' guns. In modern usage the space allows people to walk for recreational purposes; esplanades are often on sea fronts, and allow walking whatever the state of the tide, without having to walk on the beach.
    and
    In North America an esplanade may often refer to a median or the strip of raised land dividing a roadway or boulevard. Sometimes they are just strips of grass, some may have gardens and trees. Some roadways esplanades may be used as parks with a walking/jogging trail and benches.
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    You might read the Wikipedia article on "esplanade"
    Thanks to the Wiki: you can find there "Beach promenade in Rostock, Germany". Probably, "promenade" or even "beach promenade" would help me with this little inconvenience? =]

    I don't think we can easily deprive this word of its actual meaning (you see there "Coastal esplanades") basing on historical aspects. I do not object to medievalist and others referring to "esplanade" as to the element of fortification. But I just simply want to know how would native speakers call "what-I-prefer-to-call-esplanade-in-English"! =] Because, as I have already mentioned, Singapore has esplanades, quays, embankments, seafronts (I don't know, maybe, they have transformed into the names of the streets, maybe there were historical reasons). And all these titles are perfectly describing just one thing - a broad place near the water for walking! So, if I have a broad place near the water for walking under my feet (anywhere in this world) and native speaker walking with me onwards, how shall I refer to the place that we are passing through?
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    And all these titles are perfectly describing just one thing - a broad place near the water for walking! So, if I have a broad place near the water for walking under my feet (anywhere in this world) and native speaker walking with me onwards, how shall I refer to the place that we are passing through?
    On the one hand, we don't want to commit an etymological fallacy by assuming that the origin is the meaning. On the other hand, place names often have history too. A place called "Johnson's Quay" may be a lovely park used for walking now, but the name may be due to the fact that it was a place where ships were unloaded in the past.

    "A broad place near the water for walking under my feet" is still very general. It could be a beach or a riverbank or the side of a swimming pool.
    You seem to want to use words for very specific places for very general places. It doesn't work that way. ;)
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    The road running alongside the Thames in London is called The Embankment (as is the nearby Tube Station).:)
    Does that mean that I can say "embankment" speaking about the riverfront/seafront?

    (for example, Brighton in the UK, has an esplanade).
    I feel that I'll enjoy Brighton if i am lucky to visit it. =]

    Your remark about waterfront seems to be quite to the point. Thanks a lot!
     
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    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    On the one hand, we don't want to commit an etymological fallacy by assuming that the origin is the meaning. On the other hand, place names often have history too. A place called "Johnson's Quay" may be a lovely park used for walking now, but the name may be due to the fact that it was a place where ships were unloaded in the past.
    Indeed, I presumed that you would try to choose historical backgrounds as your shield!! =)

    "A broad place near the water for walking under my feet" is still very general. It could be a beach or a riverbank or the side of a swimming pool. You seem to want to use words for very specific places for very general places. It doesn't work that way. ;)
    The side of the swimming pool is completely another kettle of fish! Ah! =) Imagine a small Russian town near the sea. And imagine tourists (who are - in addition to their duties - native speakers). And imagine a Russian who studied English and now has to meet these tourists and show them a broad area near the sea that was built especially for walking around and watching the seaguls, sun, sea, people, etc. And now our fellow Russian friend has to tell the tourists that they are walking along _______ (fill in the gap=)).
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Welcome to the forum, Alvib. Most literate Americans know what an esplanade is. Here is a photograph of one in New York City. (Scroll past the title page to the first large photo.)
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    Most literate Americans know what an esplanade is.
    Thank you!

    Do you mean that it is actually the problem of literacy/erudition? By now I have come up with the idea of reading the list of these words one by one and looking at my vis-a-vis to check out whether he/she is comfortable with eny one. It would be a kind of "waterfront survey" =)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I probably spoke too broadly. :eek: There are doubtless many Americans unfamiliar with esplanades because they don't live near a body of water and they've never seen one or a picture of one (such as the photograph to which I provided a link in post #12). Esplanades aren't mentioned that often in the news media, either.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Does that mean that I can say "embankment" speaking about the riverfront/seafront.
    The fact that the road in London is called The Embankment does not mean you can called every riverfront an embankment (and I would not call a seafront an embankment anyway).:)

    Have a look at this photo of the city where I live in Italy (Source:salernitanastory.it). In English I would call that the seafront/promenade. And and here is a photo of an esplanade near Brighton, from geograph.org.uk.;) Are one of these two places similar to the one you wish to describe?

    Take your pick, anyway!.;)
     

    Alvib

    New Member
    Russian
    The fact that the road in London is called The Embankment does not mean you can called every riverfront an embankment (and I would not call a seafront an embankment anyway).:)
    That is very reasonable, I fully agree.

    Have a look at this photo of the city where I live in Italy (Source:salernitanastory.it). In English I would call that the seafront/promenade. And and here is a photo of an esplanade near Brighton, from geograph.org.uk.;) Are one of these two places similar to the one you wish to describe?
    Yeah, both of them. But the second one (near Brighton) looks more similar to typical "paved area/street near a body of water for walking" =] however in Russian I would say that both of them are "naberezhnaya" (this word means, actually, "a paved area/street on the shore", usually stretched).
     
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