A courtyard is a circumscribed area, often surrounded by a building or complex, that is open to the sky.
Courtyards are common elements in both Western and Eastern building patterns and have been used by both ancient and contemporary architects as a typical and traditional building feature. Such spaces in inns and public buildings were often the primary meeting places for some purposes, leading to the other meanings of court. Both of the words court and yard derive from the same root, meaning an enclosed space. See yard and garden for the relation of this set of words. In universities, courtyards are often known as quadrangles.