Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An outlying or neighboring area.
  • n. Outskirts; the environs.
  • n. A place that one frequents.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The ground on the edges of a forest, especially when partly subject to the same forest laws concerning game hunting etc.
  • n. The outskirts of any place; an adjacent district; the environs or neighborhood.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Originally, the ground near a royal forest, which, having been unlawfully added to the forest, was afterwards severed from it, and disafforested so as to remit to the former owners their rights.
  • n. Hence, the outer portion of any place; an adjacent district; environs; neighborhood.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Land added to a royal forest by unlawful encroachment, but afterward disafforested, and restored to the former owners, its bounds and extent being settled by perambulation.
  • n. plural The borders or environs of any place; the outskirts; outlying places: as, the purlieus of Paris.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an outer adjacent area of any place

Etymologies

Middle English purlewe, piece of land on the edge of a forest, probably alteration (influenced by Old French lieu, place) of porale, purale, royal perambulation, from Old French porale, from poraler, to traverse : por-, forth (from Latin prō-; see pro-1) + aler, aller, to go; see alley1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Anglo-Norman puralee, puralé et al. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It is remarkable that the term purlieu is never once mentioned in this long roll of parchment.

    The Natural History of Selborne, Vol. 1

  • A purlieu is a familiar or outlying place; a purview is a range or scope.

    languagehat.com: BEAT THE JUDGE.

  • Stuck with his family in a purlieu of Rome densely populated by other displaced Jews, he immerses himself in his memories, which include seeing his father murdered by Cossacks and, just as hauntingly, informing on his cousin for Zionist activity.

    Lost in Transit

  • "Even in the darkest purlieu of Morocco's underworld," Eberhardt writes, "such men can reach the magic horizon where they are free to build their dream-palaces of delight."

    Jesse Kornbluth: Isabelle Eberhardt: Dressed Like a Man, Drowned in a Desert Flood in Algeria, Wrote 10 Great Stories

  • Carmine stood listening to the sound of his footsteps retreating down the hall, and prayed that his most beloved friend would chance upon a greener feminine field in his own purlieu.

    TOO MANY MURDERS

  • As a purlieu hunter, I have hitherto beaten about the circuit of the forest of this microcosm, and followed only those outward adventitious causes.

    Anatomy of Melancholy

  • Antony asked, relieved to discuss something inarguably in his purlieu.

    Antony and Cleopatra

  • Having sent in his card, he waited a long while in that lofty purlieu.

    The Silver Spoon

  • Sir Everard Powell was there in his bath-chair at twelve, with a doctor on one side of him and a friend on the other, in some purlieu of the House, and did his duty like a fine old Briton as he was.

    Phineas Finn

  • We were often crossing it on one errand or other, but now we were especially going to see the gipsy quarter of Seville, which disputes with that of Granada the infamy of the loathsomest purlieu imaginable.

    Familiar Spanish Travels

Comments

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  • the slavish pluralizer, on the other hand, haunts the less salubrious purlieux of the city.

    June 18, 2009

  • "So, while the crew investigated the boat and gauged the level of its picturesqueness, I haunted the less salubrious purlieus of the city, peeping in at doorways where dozens of sweating people sat entranced by 'Pane, Pane, Beijo, Beijo' or 'Louco Amor' in rooms not ten feet square, peering through the gate at the exclusive country club, so exclusive indeed that it appeared to be derelict, always coming back to the market, where it seemed to me I could see athwart the economic reality of life in the interior."
    - 'The São Francisco', Germaine Greer in The Madwoman's Underclothes.

    September 1, 2008