Header image of books


Q From Peter Smith: If a mountainside is the side of a mountain, the seaside is beside the sea and a riverside is beside a river, what is the countryside beside?

A Originally it referred to an element of open landscape. Since flatness is rare in the country, most of it can be thought of as being on one side or the other of some natural feature, such as a hill or a valley. So the term originally meant a rural feature that had a natural unity and was on one side of such a feature. This fits with the older sense of country as being some tract of land that had well-defined limits or boundaries. In the nineteenth century, countryside became fashionable among descriptive writers following the Wordsworthian discovery of the aesthetic value of landscape, and its sense shifted to mean not one part or section of the visible terrain, but the natural or rural landscape as a whole.

Search World Wide Words

Support this website!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 Jun. 1999

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-cou1.htm
Last modified: 19 June 1999.