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Although the terms tram and tramway have been adopted by many languages, they are not used universally in English; North Americans prefer streetcar, trolley, or trolleycar.

The term streetcar is first recorded in 1840, and originally referred to horsecars.

One of the advantages over earlier forms of transit was the low rolling resistance of metal wheels on steel rails, allowing the animals to haul a greater load for a given effort.

In late 1887 and early 1888, using his trolley system, Sprague installed the first successful large electric street railway system in Richmond, Virginia.

Within a year, the economy of electric power had replaced more costly horsecars in many cities.

The tram was developed in numerous cities of Europe (some of the most extensive systems were found in Berlin, Budapest, Birmingham, Leningrad, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Paris).

The first tram in South America opened in 1858 in Santiago, Chile.

The world's first passenger tram was the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, in Wales, UK.

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