AskDefine | Define mews

Dictionary Definition

mews n : street lined with building that were originally private stables but have been remodeled as dwellings; "she lives in a Chelsea mews"

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /mjuːz/, /mju:z/
    Rhymes with: -uːz


Etymology 1

From Mewes, the name of the royal stables at Charing Cross.


  1. An alley where there are stables; a narrow passage; a confined place.
  • 1922, Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room, Vintage Classics, paperback edition, page 106
    It was healthy and magnificient because one room, above a mews, somewhere near the river, contained fifty excited, talkative, friendly people.
  • Online Etymology Dictionary}}

Etymology 2

Plural noun, see mew.



Extensive Definition

For other uses, see Mew.
Mews is a chiefly British term originally describing a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large London houses of the 17th and 18th centuries. The word may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables open. It is sometimes applied to rows or groups of garages or, more broadly, to a narrow passage or a confined place. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings, some greatly modernized and considered highly desirable residences. The term mews is plural in form but singular in construction. Originating in London, its use has spread to parts of Canada and the United States (see, for example, Washington Mews in Greenwich Village, New York City). The term comes from the French muer and Latin mutare (to change), originally applied in French to the moulting of a hawk or falcon, and then to the caging of the bird. The term entered the English language because of the King's Mews at Charing Cross, where the royal hawks were kept starting in 1377. The name remained when it became the royal stables starting in 1537. The old Royal Mews was demolished in the early 19th century and Trafalgar Square was built on the site. The present Royal Mews was then built in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The stables of St James's Palace, which occupied the site where Lancaster House was later built, were also referred to as the "Royal Mews" on occasion, and are labelled as such on John Rocque's 1740s map of London.
The term mews is not used for large individual non-royal British stable blocks, a feature of country houses. For example the grand stable block at Chatsworth House is referred to as the stables, not the mews. Instead the word was applied to service streets and the stables in them in cities, primarily London. In the 18th and 19th centuries London housing for wealthy people generally consisted of streets of large terraced houses with stables at the back, which opened onto a small service street. The mews had horse stalls and a carriage house on the ground floor, and stable servants' living accommodation above. Generally this was mirrored by another row of stables on the opposite side of the service street, backing onto another row of terraced houses facing outward into the next street. Sometimes there were variations such as small courtyards. Most mews are named after one of the principal streets which they back onto. Most but not all have the word "mews" in their name. This arrangement was different from most of Continental Europe, where the stables in wealthy urban residences were usually off a front or central courtyard. The advantage of the British system was that it hid the sounds and smells of the stables away from the family when they were not using the horses.
Mews lost their original function in the early 20th century when motor cars were introduced. At the same time, after World War I and especially after World War II, the number of people who could afford to live in the type of houses which had a mews attached fell sharply. Some mews were demolished or put to commercial use, but the majority were converted into homes. These "mews houses", nearly always located in the wealthiest districts, are themselves now fashionable residences. Many are sold for a million pounds (circa US$2 million) and upwards.

For falconry birds

The Mews also can refer to a birdhouse designed to house a raptor. In falconry there are several mews designs, the freeloft and a traditional mews. Traditional mews usually consist of partitioned spaces designed to keep tethered birds separated with perches for each bird in the partitioned space. Many birds can be safely and comfortably housed in this setup. Traditional mews must be accompanied by a weathering yard to allow captive raptors adequate time outside as most traditional mews do not permit tethered raptors to spend time outdoors.
Freeloft mews allow captive raptors more freedom of motion, but require much more space, as usually only one raptor may safely occupy the much larger chambers. Mews chambers can be as small as 36ft2 but are frequently much larger, often occupying as much space as a small house and sometimes reaching as high as three stories. Birds are allowed to fly free within the chamber, and very often can choose between a number of perches. Perches in the mews may be covered with a number of different surfaces this can reduce the likelihood of Bumblefoot (infection) and allow birds to chose if they would like to sit in the weather, or take more sheltered perches. Freeloft mews are commonly used for private falconry, captive breeding, and raptor rehabilitation, while traditional mews are more commonly used for education.

See also


External links

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Autobahn, US highway, alley, alleyway, arterial, arterial highway, arterial street, artery, autoroute, autostrada, avenue, barn, belt highway, blind alley, boulevard, bypass, byre, byway, camino real, carriageway, causeway, causey, chaussee, circumferential, close, corduroy road, county road, court, cowbarn, cowbyre, cowhouse, cowshed, crescent, cul-de-sac, dead-end street, dike, dirt road, drive, driveway, expressway, freeway, gravel road, highroad, highway, highways and byways, interstate highway, lane, local road, main drag, main road, motorway, parkway, pave, paved road, pike, place, plank road, primary highway, private road, right-of-way, ring road, road, roadbed, roadway, route nationale, row, royal road, secondary road, speedway, stable, stall, state highway, street, thoroughfare, through street, thruway, toll road, township road, turnpike, wynd
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