Architecture / Language / Most Common Terms

  1. cornice: In classical architecture, the upper, projecting section of an entablature; projecting ornamental molding along the top of a building or wall.
  2. pediment: In classical architecture, the triangular gable end of the roof above the horizontal cornice, often filled with sculpture. 2. In later work, a surface used ornamentally over doors or windows; usually triangular but sometimes curved.
  3. pilaster: The representation in relief of a column against a wall. The pilaster is sometimes considered as the visible part of a square column built into the wall. Pilasters are necessarily ornamental. They have a quasi-structural function, however, when acting as responds, i.e. as the thickening of a wall opposite a column whose entablature carries over to the wall.
  4. gable: The triangular section of exterior wall just under the eaves of a double-sloped roof.
  5. entablature: The whole assemblage of parts supported by the column. The three primary divisions are architrave, frieze, and cornice. Of these, only the architrave and cornice are subdivided.
  6. portico: A place for walking under shelter. The word is usually applied to the columned projection before the entrance to a temple or similar building. Porticos of this kind are described according to the number of frontal columns viz. Tetrastyle (4), Hexastyle (6), Octastyle (8), Decastyle (10) and Dodecastyle (12). Where there are only two columns between pilasters or antae the expression used is Distyle in Antis.
  7. lintel: A beam over an opening in a wall or over two or more pillars or posts.
  8. capital: The top portion of a column or pilaster.
  9. cupola: A dome-shaped roof on a circular base, often set on the ridge of a roof [or tower].
  10. parapet: A low guarding wall at any point of sudden drop, as at the edge of a terrace, roof, battlement, balcony, etc. 2. In an exterior wall, fire wall, or party wall, the part entirely above the roof.
  11. architrave: The lowest of the three primary divisions of the entablature. The word is loosely applied to any molding round a door or window and such moldings do, in fact, most frequently borrow the profile of the architrave in the strict sense.
  12. frieze: The middle horizontal member of a classical entablature, above the architrave and below the cornice. 2. A similar decorative band in a stringcourse, or near the top of an interior wall below the cornice. 3. In house construction, a horizontal member connecting the top of siding with the soffit of the cornice.
  13. balustrade: A series of balusters supporting a rail.
  14. column: A vertical support; in classical architecture, a usually cylindrical support, consisting of a base, shaft and capital. 2. A rigid, relatively slender structural member designed primarily to support axial, compressive loads applied at the member ends.
  15. turret: A small, slender tower usually at the corner of a building, often containing a circular stair.
  16. arcade: A series of arches supported by columns or piers.
  17. dormer: A vertically set window on a sloping roof; the roofed structure housing such a window.
  18. mullion: The vertical member separating windows, doors, or other panels set in a series. 2. A vertical member dividing the panels in wainscoting.
  19. buttress: A vertical structure of heavy masonry or wood applied as reinforcement to the wall of a building. Can serve a structural or decorative purpose.
  20. corbel: A block of stone projecting from a wall to support a beam or other weight.
  21. finial: An ornament at the top of a spire, gable or pinnacle.
  22. keystone: Center stone in a masonry arch.
  23. pier: A vertical structural support of a building, usually rectangular. 2. A cast-in-place concrete foundation formed by boring with a large auger or excavating by hand a shaft in the earth to a suitable bearing stratum and filling the shaft with concrete.
  24. transom: In North America a transom is generally the light above the doorway, also called a fanlight. In Europe, a transom is the horizontal structural member that separates the door from the window above it.
  25. baluster: An upright, often vase-shaped, support for a rail.
  26. bracket: A support element under eaves, shelves or other overhangs; often more decorative than functional.
  27. quoin: The dressed or finished stones at the corners of a masonry building. Sometimes faked in wooden or stucco buildings.
  28. voussoir: The wedge-shaped stone or brick used to form an arch or vault.
  29. spandrel: A section of wall, often defined as an ornamental panel, between two vertically aligned windows or arches.
  30. tracery: Ornamental work of branchlike lines, especially the lacy openwork in the upper part of a Gothic window.
  31. arch: A form of construction, usually of masonry, in which a number of units span an opening by carrying the downward thrust laterally to the next unit and finally to the abutments or vertical supports. Unusually further described by its intrados outline, as round, elliptical, pointed, trefoil, etc.
  32. ashlar: A dressed or squared stone and the masonry built of such hewn stone. It may be coursed, with continuous horizontal joints, or random, with discontinuous joints.
  33. bay: A unit of a building facade, defined by a regular spacing of windows, columns, or piers.
  34. cantilever: A beam, or a part of a building supported by such beams, which is supported at one end only, the other end hovering in the air.
  35. volute: The spiral scroll-shaped capitals of the Ionic order. Also the spiral curved terminus of a handrail.
  36. fanlight: A semicircular window over the opening of a door, with radiating bars in the form of an open fan. Also called a sunburst light. 2. Any window occupying a similar position.
  37. plinth: The base of a pedestal, column or statue; a continuous course of stones supporting a wall. 2. A continuous, usually projecting course of stones forming the base or foundation of a wall. Also called plinth course.
  38. stucco: A substance generally made of cement, lime and sand, applied in a fluid state to form a hard exterior wall surface.
  39. tympanum: The area between an arch and the top of a doorway or the area under the raking cornices of a pediment, above the cornice. In Greek architecture these carried scenes of Greek heroism, in Christian, it is stories from the bible.
  40. bargeboard: A board, often ornately carved, attached to the projecting edges of a gabled roof; sometimes referred to as vergeboard.
  41. colonnade: From Italian colonnato, from Latin columna, “column”. A row of evenly spaced columns, usually carrying a continuous entablature.
  42. Doric Order: The oldest and simplest of the classical Greek orders, characterized by heavy fluted columns with no base, plain saucer-shaped capitals and a bold simple cornice.
  43. lantern: A small structure on a roof or dome with windows or openings for the admittance of light. 2. A light, usually over the entrance to an elevator on each floor of a multistory building that signals the approach of the elevator.
  44. mansard roof: A roof having on each side a steeper lower part and a shallower upper part.
  45. nave: The large central volume of a church or cathedral flanked by side aisles. From the Latin navis for ship or naval.
  46. rustication: The treatment of stone masonry with the joints between the blocks deeply cut back. The surfaces of the blocks may be smoothly dressed, textured, or extremely rough, or quarry-faced.
  47. clapboard: A long, narrow board with one edge thicker than the other, overlapped to cover the outer walls of frame structures; also known as weatherboard.
  48. Corinthian Order: The most ornate of the classical Greek orders of architecture, characterized by a slender fluted column with a bell-shaped capital decorated with stylized acanthus leaves; variations of this order were extensively used by the Romans.
  49. loggia: A pillared gallery or porch open on at least one side. Usually an integral part of the building’s mass rather than an appended porch.
  50. oriel: A bay window corbeled out from the wall of an upper story. 2. A bay projecting, inside or out, extending a room. 3. A windowed bay or porch at the top of exterior stairs.
  51. sash: A frame in which the panes of a window are set.
  52. soffit: The underside of an architectural element, as an arch, beam, cornice, or staircase.
  53. truss: A frame assembled of small members (of wood or metal) in triangular sections; used to span large distances.
  54. vault: A stone, brick, or concrete roof built on the arch principle, or an imitation of such in wood or plaster.
  55. eaves: The lower edge of a sloping roof; that part of a building which projects beyond the wall.
  56. Order: An order is the total assemblage of parts comprising the column and its appropriate entablature. The primary divisions of the column are base, shaft and capital. The primary divisions of the entablature are architrave, frieze and cornice. A pedestal under the column is not an essential part of the order but appropriate pedestals are given by the theorists from Serlio onwards. 2. Any of several concentric rings of masonry forming an arch, especially when each projects beyond the one below. 3. A condition of logical, harmonious, or comprehensible arrangement in which each element of a group is properly disposed with reference to other elements and to its purpose.
  57. Palladian window: A window with an arched central light and lower side lights with entablatures over them. It is also called a Venetian window.
  58. veranda: An open, roofed porch, usually enclosed on the outside by a railing or balustrade, and often wrapping around two or more (or all of the) sides of a building.
  59. abacus: The top part of any capital; as it were a square slab placed on top of the capital to bear the beam (architrave).
  60. bay window: An exterior wall projection filled with windows; if curved, called a bow window; if on an upper floor, called an oriel window.
  61. fascia: A plain horizontal band. A common form of architrave consists of two or three fasciae each slightly oversailing the one below and perhaps separated from it by a narrow molding. 2. Any broad, flat, horizontal surface, as the outer edge of a cornice or roof.
  62. Ionic Order: The elegant voluted order of Greek architecture. Its capitals are sometimes compared to ram’s horns.
  63. modillion: A small curved and ornamented bracket used to support the upper part of the cornice in the Corinthian order; any such small curved ornamented bracket used in series.
  64. muntin: Similar to a mullion but typically smaller, separating individual panes of glass in windows and doors vertically and horizontally.
  65. battlement: A parapet wall at the edge of a roof with alternating slots and raised portions.
  66. fenestration: From Latin, fenestra, “window.” A general term used to denote the pattern or arrangement of windows.
  67. gallery: A room or hall much longer than its breadth. In old English practice the term seems to have conveyed two meanings: that of a place of amusement, the term probably derived from “gala” and that of a passage from room to room, commonly used to store and display family portraits, suits of armor, banners, trophies of the chase, etc. (hence the modern term for a room or store devoted to the display or sale of artworks). 2. A mezzanine supported on columns overlooking the interior space of a building. 3. The upper story above the aisle in a church, usually open onto the nave. 4. A shopping arcade. 5. A railing that protects the exterior of furniture. 6. A roofed promenade, especially one extending inside or outside along the exterior wall of a building. 6. An upper floor projecting over the main floor of a theater or hall.
  68. molding: A projecting strip of curvilinear profile projecting from a surface of a building, or the curvilinear finishing of the edge of two meeting surfaces.
  69. spire: A tall, acutely tapering pyramidal structure surmounting a steeple or tower.
  70. adobe: Sun-dried brick. In American usage designates a building made of this material.
  71. apse: A recess, usually singular and semi-circular, at the east end of a Christian church.
  72. façade: The front, or principal, exterior face of a building; may refer to other prominent exterior faces as well.
  73. hipped roof: A gabled roofbeveled,” or hipped, at both ends so that it slopes toward the peak from all four sides.
  74. lunette: A semi-circular area formed by an arch. Lunettes can either be windows or decorated areas at the end of a barrel vault. The windows were popular in Neo-classical and Classic Revival architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  75. pinnacle: A vertical pointed feature, of stone or brick, employed to weight a buttress or a wall in Gothic architecture.
  76. belvedere: Belle vedere means beautiful view in Italian. A building, or architectural feature of a building, designed and situated to look out upon a pleasing scene.
  77. clerestory: A series of windows placed high in a wall. Evolved from the Gothic churches where the clerestory appeared above the aisle roofs.
  78. cresting: An ornamental ridging at the top of a wall or the peak of a roof.
  79. engaged column: A column attached to a wall surface and generally forming only part of a cylinder.
  80. entasis: The slight inward curve or taper given to the upper two-thirds of a classical column.
  81. fluting: The parallel, vertical, concave grooves incised along the length of a column.
  82. flying buttress: An inclined bar of masonry carried on a segmental arch and transmitting an outward and downward thrust from a roof or vault to a solid buttress that through its mass transforms the thrust into a vertical one.
  83. gargoyle: Originating in Gothic architecture, this is a water spout for roof run-off. Gargoyles are carved human, animal, or demon figures who offer the roof run-off through their open mouths.
  84. jamb: The upright piece forming the side of a doorway or window frame.
  85. metope: The square space between two triglyphs in the frieze of the Doric order. Often left plain but sometimes decorated with bukrania, trophies, or other ornaments.
  86. pavilion: Originally a tent, especially an elaborately ornamented shelter; later, any portion of a building projected forward and otherwise set apart, or even a separate structure.
  87. pendant: A hanging ornament; usually found projecting from the bottom of a construction member such as a newel in a staircase, the bottom of a bargeboard, or the underside of a wall overhang. Also called drop. 2. A lighting fixture suspended from a ceiling.
  88. piazza: The Italian word for plaza – and sometimes an American word for porch (particularly in the Midwest).
  89. porch: An open or enclosed gallery or room on the outside of a building.
  90. rafter: Part of a wooden roof frame, sloping down from the ridge to the eaves and establishes the pitch.
  91. shaft: The cylindrical section of a column between the base and the capital; also, a tall, continuous portion of a building facade. 2. A pipe placed on top of a chimney, usually of earthenware, that functions as a continuation of the flue and improves the draft. 3. A distinct, slender, vertical masonry feature engaged in a wall or pier and supporting or feigning to support an arch or a ribbed vault.
  92. sill: The framing that forms the lower side of a window or door. A lug sill extends beyond the width of a window, where a slip sill is only as wide as the window.
  93. boss: From the Gothic era, an ornament placed at the intersection of ribs in a ceiling whether vaulted or flat. 2. A stone roughly formed and set in place for later carving.
  94. cartouche: An ornamental panel in the form of a scroll, circle or oval, often bearing an inscription.
  95. chamfer: A beveled edge on the corner of a post, wall, etc.; may take the form of a flat surface, a grooved surface, or a more elaborately molded surface. Edges so beveled are said to be chamfered.
  96. coping: A flat cover of stone or brick that protects the top of a wall.
  97. crocket: In Gothic architecture, carved projections in the shape of stylized leaves that decorate the edges of spires, gables and pinnacles.
  98. facade: The front, or principal, exterior face of a building; may refer to other prominent exterior faces as well.
  99. festoon: A carved loop or garland of leaves and flowers suspended between two points, used to embellish or decorate a building.
  100. Gothic Revival: A housing style from 1840-1860 with deep gables, dormers, arched windows, and all forms of gingerbread
  101. oculus: A circular opening, especially one at the crown of a dome, also a round window.
  102. pendentive: A triangular segment of vaulting used to effect a transition at the angles from a square or polygon base to a dome above.