Playgrounds and yards

Schools in the UK usually have a bit of outside space where the pupils play during break times and at lunch time. This is known, at least in primary schools, as a playground. There are also playgrounds for children in some parks.

In American schools such spaces are known as schoolyards, and the students play in them during recess – is that right? Are other words used for playground?

In the UK you might have a garden at the back of your house, which is referred to as a garden or back garden, or if it’s paved, concreted or covered in decking, you may refer to it as a yard. I understand that in the USA a backyard is the area at the back of your house, whether it’s paved, grass or whatever. Is that right?

In French a school playground is a cour de récréation, and elsewhere it is a terrain de jeu or cour de jeu. A playground for the rich is a lieu de divertissement. Are other words used?

What about in other languages?

5 thoughts on “Playgrounds and yards

  1. Hello – native of California in the U.S. here.
    In the US, the schoolyard would be all of the area for children to play in during recess. There may be an area with play equipment and swings and there may be an area with grass for soccer or baseball, there might be a paved area painted for basketball or volleyball. We also have playgrounds at parks and by the term generally mean the area with play equipment and swings. We might use “courts” for the part of the park with basketball or tennis courts. We might use the word field for the part for soccer or football or baseball fields.

    For houses, we typically have a front yard and a back yard. Usually there is an area of lawn, bordered by flower beds, though this varies by region. Within either yard, we might have an area that is called a garden. Usually we use garden to refer to a portion of the yard set aside for a particular purpose such as the flower garden, the rose garden, an herb garden, or a vegetable garden. You might go to a garden center to shop for supplies or plants for use in your gardening or your gardening hobby. If you have a platform structure in the back yard, you might call it a deck. If you have a seating area that isn’t a deck, you might call it a patio. Often a patio might be an area of poured concrete rather than lawn. In Hawaii or Florida you might call your patio a lanai.

  2. In French, a school playground is indeed “une cour de récréation” (familiar : “cour de récré”, or just “cour”, as in “les élèves jouent dans la cour”).
    “Terrain de jeu” is also a common expression. It may also be used for sports.
    But we do not use “cour de jeu”.
    “Lieu de divertissement” is OK, wherever people have fun.

  3. I agree with Simon on British usage. A back yard is usually smaller than a back garden, but if it is a very small area composed predominantly of a lawn and/or bare ground for growing, it might be called a ‘garden’ and similarly, a larger paved area might be called a ‘yard’. You could also turn a ‘back yard’ into a ‘back garden’ by growing plants in containers. ‘Garden’ often implies a place that is pleasant to spend time in, whilst ‘yard’ typically implies a place more utilitarian in nature – for keeping bins, hanging washing etc. (although a garden might also serve these purposes).

    Yard can, of course, refer to a much larger area, e.g. shipyard (where ships are built), timber/builder’s yard (where timber/building materials are sold), breaker’s yard (where old vehicles are deposited for recycling), churchyard (the area of land surrounding a church, often a burial ground), graveyard (cemetery not necesserily attached to a church).

    It is also a unit of linear measurement (= 0.9144m) – and a unit of volume (= 1.4L – a yard of ale is traditionally served in a yard-long glass).

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