(WYTV) – Your “neck of the woods” is your neighborhood, town or the area where you live. We say this to describe our surroundings, even our region.
If you live in Youngstown, northeastern Ohio can be your neck of the woods.
The phrase comes from the sense of neck as a strip of land.
It had been used in England since around 1555 to describe a narrow strip of land, usually with water around it and based on the fact it looked like the neck of an animal.
But the Americans were the first to apply “neck” to a narrow stand of woods or, more important, to a settlement in a particular part of the woods.
In a country then largely covered by forests, your “neck of the woods” was your home — the first American neighborhood.
In the case of “neck,” we have one of several terms invented by the colonists in Early America used to describe the geographical features of their new home.
We see a conscious attempt to get away from the place names used in England for thousands of years in favor of new “American” names.
So the English would refer to living on the moor, or on the heath or in the dell.
But the colonists came up with “branch,” “fork,” “down in the hollow,” “in the gap,” “or the flats” and other descriptive terms.