Glossary of Architecture

Glossary of Architecture


Abacus: A flat slab forms the uppermost member or division of the capital of a column.
Accolade: A sculptural embellishment of an arch.
Aisle: The subsidiary space alongside the body of a building is separated from it by columns, piers, or posts.
Ante-choir: The space is enclosed in a church between the outer gate or railing of the roof screen and the door of the screen.
1. A raised panel below a window or wall monument or tablet.
2. An open portion of a marine terminal immediately adjacent to a vessel berth, used in the direct transfer of cargo between the vessel and the terminal.
3. A concrete slab immediately outside a vehicular door or passageway is used to limit the wear on asphalt paving due to repetitive turning movements or heavy loads.
Apse: A vaulted semicircular or polygonal end of a chancel or chapel. That portion of a church, usually Christian, is beyond the “crossing” and opposite the nave. In some churches, the choir is seated in this space.
Araeostyle: A style of intercolumniation in which the distance between columns is at least four diameters. The large interval between columns necessitates the use of a wooden architrave.
Araeosystyle: An architectural term applied to a colonnade, in which the intercolumniation is alternately wide and narrow.
Arcade: A passage or walkway covered over by a succession of arches or vaults supported by columns. Blind arcade or arcading: the same is applied to the wall surface.
Arch: A curved structure capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight.
Architrave: A formalized lintel, the lowest member of the classical entablature. Also the molded frame of a door or window (often borrowing the profile of a classical architrave).
Area or basement area: In Georgian architecture, the small paved yard gives entry, via “area steps”, to the basement floor at the front of a terraced house.
Arris: A sharp edge is created when two surfaces converge; this includes the raised edge between two flutes on a column or pilaster if that edge is sharp.
Arris Rail: A type of rail, often wooden, with a cross-section resembling an isosceles triangle.
Arrowslit: A thin vertical aperture in a fortification through which an archer can launch arrows.
Articulation: The manner or method of jointing parts is such that each part is clear and distinct from the others, even though joined.
Ashlar: Masonry of large blocks cut with even faces and square edges.
Astragal: A molding profile composed of a half-round surface surrounded by two flat planes (fillets).
Atlas: Support is sculpted in the form of a man, which may take the place of a column, a pier, or a pilaster.
Atrium: (plural: atria) The inner court of a Roman house; in a multi-story building, a top-lit covered court rises through all stories.
Attic: A small top story within a roof above the uppermost ceiling. The story above the main entablature of a classical façade.


Balconet: A false balcony, or railing at the outer plane of a window.
Ball flower: An architectural ornament in the form of a ball inserted in the cup of a flower came into use in the latter part of the 13th and was in great vogue in the early part of the 14th century.
Baluster: A small molded shaft, square or circular, in stone or wood, sometimes metal, supporting the coping of a parapet or the handrail of a staircase. A series of balusters supporting a handrail or coping is called a balustrade.
Bar-stayed girder: A structural member of inadequate capacity for its load or span is augmented by one or two steel bars anchored to each bearing end at or above the centroid of the girder to assume the tension forces. The bar(s) runs down and below the girder and stand off the girder on one or more struts anchored to the girder at its bottom surface. The struts are sized to accept the compressive forces imposed without bending. The load limit for this member is the crippling capacity (horizontal failure) of the girder.
Bargeboard: A board fastened to the projecting gables of a roof.
Barrel vault: An architectural element formed by the extrusion of a single curve (or pair of curves, in the case of a pointed barrel vault) along a given distance.
Bartizan: An overhanging, wall-mounted turret projecting from the walls, usually at the corners, of medieval fortifications or churches.
Basement: The lowest, subordinate story of the building is often either entirely or partially below ground level; the lowest part of the classical elevation is below the piano nobile.
Basilica: Originally a Roman, large roofed hall erected for transacting business and disposing of legal matters; later the term came to describe an aisled building with a clerestory. Medieval cathedral plans were a development of the basilica plan type.
Batement Lights: The lights in the upper part of a perpendicular window, are abated, or only half the width of those below.
Batter (walls): An upwardly receding slope of a wall or column.
Battlement: A parapet (i.e., a defensive low wall between chest height and head height), in which rectangular gaps or indentations occur at intervals to allow for the discharge of arrows or other missiles.
Bays: The internal compartments of a building, each divided from the other by subtle means such as the boundaries implied by divisions marked in the side walls (columns, pilasters, etc.) or the ceiling (beams, etc.). Also, the external divisions of a building by fenestration (windows).
Bay window: A window of one or more stories projecting from the face of a building. Canted: with a straight front and angled sides. Bow window: curved. Oriel: rests on corbels or brackets and starts above ground level; also the bay window at the dais end of a medieval great hall.
Belfry: A chamber or stage in a tower where bells are hung. The term is also used to describe how bricks are laid in a wall so that they interlock.
Bench table: A stone seat that runs around the walls of large churches, and sometimes around the piers; it very generally is placed in the porches.
Bond: Brickwork with overlapping bricks. Types of bonds include a stretcher, English, header, Flemish, garden wall, herringbone, basket, American, and Chinese.
1. A roughly cut stone set in place for later carving.
2. An ornamental projection, a carved keystone of a ribbed vault at the intersection of the ogives.
Bossage: The uncut stone that is laid in place in a building, projecting outward from the building, to later be carved into decorative moldings, capitals, arms, etc. Bossages are also rustic work, consisting of stones that seem to advance beyond the surface of the building, because of indentures, or channels left in the joinings; used chiefly in the corners of buildings, and called rustic quoins. The cavity or indenture may be round, square, chamfered, beveled, diamond-shaped, or enclosed with a cavetto or listel.
Boutant: A type of support. An arc-boutant, or flying buttress, serves to sustain a vault and is self-sustained by some strong wall or massive work. A pillar buoyant is a large chain or jamb of stone, made to support a wall, terrace, or vault. The word is French, and comes from the verb better, “to butt” or “abut”.
Bracket (see also corbel): A weight-bearing member made of wood, stone, or metal that overhangs a wall.
Bressummer: (literally “breast- beam”) A large, horizontal beam supports the wall above, especially in a jettied building.
Brise soleil: Projecting fins or canopies which shade windows from direct sunlight.
Broken pediment: A style of a pediment in which the center is left open (and often ornamented) by stopping the sloping sides short of the pediment’s apex. A variant of this in which the sides are curved to resemble esses is called a swan’s neck pediment.
Bullseye window: Either a small oval window or an early type of window glass.
Bulwark: A Barricade of beams and soil used in 15th- and 16th-century fortifications designed to mount artillery. On board ships, the term refers to the woodwork running around the ship above the level of the deck. Figuratively it means anything serving as a defense. Dutch loanword; Bolwerk
Buttress: A vertical member projecting from a wall to stabilize it or to resist the lateral thrust of an arch, roof, or vault. A flying buttress transmits the thrust to a heavy abutment utilizing an arch or half-arch.


Cancellus: (plural: Cancelli) Barriers correspond to the modern balustrade or railing, especially the screen dividing the body of a church from the part occupied by the ministers hence the chancel. The Romans employed cancelli to partition off portions of the courts of law.
Cant: An angled (oblique) line or surface, especially one that cuts off a corner.
Cantilever: An unsupported overhang acts as a lever, like a flagpole sticking out of the side of a wall.
Capital: The topmost member of a column (or pilaster).
The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens, 421–407 BC
Caryatid: A sculpted female figure serves as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head.
Casement window: A window hung vertically, hinged on one side so that it swings inward or outward.
Cauliculus, or caulicolous: Stalks (eight in number) with two leaves from which rise the helices or spiral scrolls of the Corinthian capital to support the abacus.
Cavetto: A molding in which the negative space makes a quarter-circle.
Cella: The inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture.
Chalcidicum: In Roman architecture, the vestibule or portico of a public building opened onto the forum, as in the Basilica of Eumachia at Pompeii, and the Basilica of Constantine at Rome, where it was placed at one end. See Lacunar.
Chamfer: A transitional edge, often 45 degrees, is formed by paring down an arris diagonally. Some buildings may be chamfered such that the base is octagonal.
Chancel (also Presbytery): In church architecture, the space around the altar at the east end of a traditional Christian church building, including the choir and sanctuary.
Chandrashala: The circular or horseshoe arch decorates many Indian cave temples and shrines.
Chigi: In Japanese architecture, a V-shaped finial is used almost exclusively on Shinto shrines, where they are placed near the ends of the ridgeline(s) of the roof through the extension of or attachment to the gable. In most cases, the direction of the cut at the top of a chigi indicates the sex of the kami within.
Chimera: A fantastic, mythical, or grotesque figure used for decorative purposes.
Chimney: A structure that provides ventilation.
Chresmographion: A chamber between the pronaos and the cella in Greek temples where oracles were delivered.
Cincture: A ring, list, or fillet at the top and bottom of a column, divides the shaft from the capital and base.
Cinquecento: A style that became prevalent in Italy in the century following 1500, now usually called 16th-century work. It was the result of the revival of classic architecture known as the Renaissance, but the change had commenced already a century earlier, in the works of Ghiberti and Donatello in sculpture, and of Brunelleschi and Alberti in architecture.
Cippus: (plural: cippi) A low, round, or rectangular pedestal was set up by the Romans for military purposes such as a milestone or a boundary post. The inscriptions on some cippi in the British Museum show that they were occasionally used as funeral memorials.
Circulation: Describes the flow of people throughout a building.
Cleithral: A covered Greek temple, in contradistinction to hypaethral, which designates one that is uncovered; the roof of a clitoral temple completely covers it.
Clerestory: The upper part of the nave of a large church contains a series of windows.
Clock gable: A gable or facade with a decorative shape characteristic of traditional Dutch architecture. The top of the gable is shaped like a church bell.
Coffer: A sunken panel in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon that serves as a decorative device, usually in a ceiling or vault. Also called caissons, or lacunar.
Colarin or Hypotrachelium: (also colarino, collarino, or hypotrachelium) The little frieze of the capital of the Tuscan and Doric column placed between the astragal, and the annulets. It was called hypotrachelium by Vitruvius.
Column: A structural element transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below.
Compluvium: The Latin term for the open space left in the roof of the atrium of a Roman house (domus) for lighting it and the rooms round.
Coping: The capping or covering of a wall.
Corbel: A structural piece of stone, wood, or metal jutting from a wall to carry a superincumbent weight.
Corbiesteps: A series of steps along the slopes of a gable. Also called crow-steps. A gable featuring corbiesteps is known as a corbie gable, crow-step gable, or stepped gable.
Corinthian order: One of the three orders or organizational systems of Ancient Greek or classical architecture characterized by columns that stood on the flat pavement of a temple with a base, their vertical shafts fluted with parallel concave grooves topped by a capital decorated with acanthus leaves, that flared from the column to meet an abacus with concave sides at the intersection with the horizontal beam that they carried.
Cornice: The upper section of an entablature or a projecting shelf along the top of a wall is often supported by brackets or corbels.
Cresting: Ornamentation along the ridge of a roof.
Cross Springer: A block from which the diagonal ribs of a vault spring or start. The top of the springer is known as the skewback.
Cross-wing: A wing attached to a main or original house block, its axis at right angles to the original block, and often gabled.
Crypt: A stone chamber beneath the floor of a church or other building. It typically contains coffins, sarcophagi, or religious relics.
Cryptoporticus: A concealed or covered passage, generally underground, though lighted and ventilated from the open air. One of the best-known examples is the cryptoporticus under the palaces of the Caesars in Rome. In Hadrian’s Villa in Rome, they formed the principal private intercommunication between several buildings.
Cuneus: A wedge-shaped division of the Roman theatre separated by the scalae or stairways. This shape also occurred in medieval architecture.
Cupola: A small, most often dome-like, structure on top of a building.
Cyma: A projecting molding whose edge forms an S-curve. The two major types of cyma are the cyma recta, in which the upper curve is concave, and the cyma reversa (also known as the ogee), in which the lower curve is concave.
Cyrto-style: A circular projecting portico with columns.


Denticulation: Finely toothed or notched; having dentils.
Dentil: One of a series of small rectangular blocks projecting from a molding or beneath a cornice. A string of dentils is known as dentillation.
Diastyle: An intercolumniation of three or four diameters.
Diaulos: Peristyle around the great court of the palaestra, described by Vitruvius, measured two stadia (1,200 ft.) in length, on the south side this peristyle had two rows of columns so that in stormy weather the rain might not be driven into the inner part. The word was also used in ancient Greece for a foot race twice the usual length.
Diazoma: A horizontal aisle in an ancient Greek theater separates the lower and upper tiers of semi-circular seating and intersects with the vertical aisles.
Dikka: An Islamic architectural term for the tribune raised upon columns, from which the Koran is recited and the prayers intoned by the Imam of the mosque. Temples have a double range of columns in the peristyle, as in the temple of Diana at Ephesus.
Distyle in antis: Having two columns. A portico has two columns between two anta.
Dodecastyle: A temple where the portico has twelve columns in front, as in the portico added to the Temple of Demeter at Eleusis, designed by Philo, the architect of the arsenal at the Peiraeus.
Doric order: One of the three orders or organizational systems of Ancient Greek or classical architecture characterized by columns that stood on the flat pavement of a temple without a base, their vertical shafts fluted with parallel concave grooves topped by a smooth capital that flared from the column to meet a square abacus at the intersection with the horizontal beam that they carried.
Dormer: A structural element of a building that protrudes from the plane of a sloping roof surface. Dormers are used, either in original construction or as later additions, to create usable space in the roof of a building by adding headroom and usually also by enabling the addition of windows.
Dosseret, or impost block: A cubical block of stone above the capitals in a Byzantine church, used to carry the arches and vault, the springing of which had a superficial area greatly over the column which carried them.
Double-depth plan: A plan for a structure that is two rooms deep but lacks a central corridor.
Dromos: An entrance passage or avenue leading to a building, tomb, or passageway. Those leading to beehive tombs are enclosed between stone walls and sometimes in-filled between successive uses of the tomb. In ancient Egypt, the dromos was a straight, paved avenue flanked by sphinxes.
Dutch gable: A gable whose sides have a shape made up of one or more curves and has a pediment at the top.


Eave return: An element of Classical Revival architecture in American domestic architecture.
Egg-and-dart: An ornamental molding in which an ovolo is inscribed with alternating oval and V-shaped motifs.
Enfilade: A row of rooms with aligned doorways creates a linear processional route. Enfilades were common in upper-class Baroque architecture and are used in museum layouts to manage the flow.
Engaged column: A column built into and partially projecting from a wall, particularly notable in Roman architecture.
Engawa: In Japanese architecture, a section of the floor outside the shoji encircles the structure’s rooms, similar to a porch or, when itself enclosed by storm doors or sheet glass, a sunroom.
Entablature: A superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals.
Entasis: The application of a convex curve to a surface for aesthetic purposes. Its best-known use is in certain orders of Classical columns that curve slightly as their diameter is decreased from the bottom upward. It also may serve an engineering function regarding strength.
Ephebeum: (Ancient Greek: ephebion) A large hall in the ancient Palaestra furnished with seats, the length of which should be a third larger than the width. It served for the exercises of youths from sixteen to eighteen years of age.
Epinaos: An open vestibule behind the nave. The term is not found in any classic author, but is a modern coinage, originating in Germany, to differentiate the feature from the opisthodomos, which in the Parthenon was an enclosed chamber.
Estípite: In Churrigueresque Baroque architecture, an elaborate pilaster with a tapered base.
Estrade: The French term for a raised platform or dais. In the Levant, the estrade of a divan is called a Sopha, from which comes to our word ‘sofa’.
Eustyle: Intercolumniation is defined by Vitruvius as being of the best proportion, i.e. two and a quarter diameters.


Facade: An exterior side of a building, usually the front.
Fanlight: A window, semicircular or semi-elliptical in shape, with glazing bars or tracery, sets radiating out like an open fan.
Fan Vault: A conoid architectural element in which a series of equidistant curved ribs projects radially from a central axis, often a vertical wall support such as a column. Fan vaults are particularly connected with the English Gothic style.
1. A board attached to the lower ends of rafters at the eaves. Along with the soffit, the fascia helps enclose the eave.
2. In some Classical orders, one of a series of bands (either fillets or faces) is sometimes seen around the architrave.
Feretory: An enclosure or chapel within which the ferreter shrine, or tomb (as in Henry VII’s chapel), was placed.
1. A small band, either raised or sunken and usually square, used to separate moldings.
2. The raised edge between two flutes on a column or pilaster, if that edge is flat.
Finial: An element marking the top or end of some object — such as a dome, tower, or gable — is often formed to be a decorative feature. Small finials may also be used as ornamentation for furniture, poles, and light fixtures.
Flushwork: The decorative combination on the same flat plane of flint and ashlar stone. It is characteristic of medieval buildings, most of the survivor’s churches, in several areas of Southern England, but especially East Anglia. If the stone projects from a flat flint wall, the term is proud to work as the stone stands “proud” rather than being “flush” with the wall.
Flying buttress: A type of buttress that transmits the thrust to a heavy abutment employing a half-arch.
Flying rib: An exposed structural beam over the uppermost part of a building that is not otherwise connected to the building at its highest point. A feature of H frame constructed concrete buildings and some modern skyscrapers.
Foil: An architectural device based on a symmetrical rendering of leaf shapes, defined by overlapping circles of the same diameter that produce a series of cusps to make a lobe. Typically, the number of cusps can be three (trefoil), four (quatrefoil), five (cinquefoil), or a larger number.
Footprint: The area on a plane directly beneath a structure has the same perimeter as the structure.
Foot-stall: The lower part of a pier. (A literal translation of “pedestal.”)
Formeret: The French term for the wall rib carrying the web or filling-in of a vault.
Fractable: A coping, often ornamental, on a gable that hides the slope of the roof and becomes a parapet.
Fusuma: An opaque partition consisting of a cloth or paper sheet over a wood framework is commonly seen in traditional Japanese architecture. Fusuma is built to be moved (usually by sliding them along tracks) or removed, allowing rooms to be reorganized and reshaped as desired and, in earlier constructions, allowing the interior of a structure to open directly to the outdoors. Some fusuma are painted, though many now feature printed graphics. Shoji is similar to fusuma but is generally translucent.


Gable: A triangular portion of an end wall between the edges of a sloping roof.
Gablets: Triangular terminations to buttresses were much in use in the Early English and Decorated periods, after which the buttresses generally terminated in pinnacles. The Early English gablets are generally plain, and very sharp in pitch. In the Decorated period, they are often enriched with paneling and crockets. They are sometimes finished with small crosses, but more often with finials.
Gadrooning: A carved or curved molding is used in architecture and interior design as a decorative motif, often consisting of flutes that are inverted and curved. Popular during the Italian Renaissance.
Galletting (also Garretting): The process in which the gallets or small splinters of stone are inserted in the joints of coarse masonry to protect the mortar joints. They are stuck in while the mortar is wet.
Gambrel: Asymmetrical two-sided roof with two slopes on each side.
Gargoyle: A carved stone grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof.
Garret: A habitable attic at the top of a larger building, generally with sloping walls, and skylights or dormer windows.
Gauged brickwork (also rubbed brickwork): Brickwork constructed of soft bricks rubbed to achieve a fine smooth finish with narrow joints between courses.
Gazebo: A freestanding pavilion structure is often found in parks, gardens, and public areas.
Geison: (Greek: γεῖσον — often interchangeable with cornice) The part of the entablature that projects outward from the top of the frieze in the Doric order and from the top of the frieze course of the Ionic and Corinthian orders; forms the outer edge of the roof on the sides of a structure with a sloped roof.
Gorgerin: On some capitals, a smooth or ornate part is placed above the astragalus of a column.
Geodesic dome: A structure formed of straight wood or metal members between points (or nodes) on a circular sphere (or part thereof) that are “pinned” at each connection point to two or more other members that transfer loads imposed on the structure to the base of the structure. The geometric areas between individual members may support a “skin” if the structure is to be enclosed. A “regular” geodesic structure has members of equal length but the strengths of members may vary depending on location in the geodesic “grid”.
Grotto: An exterior submerged room that is decorated with landscaping or art which has no exterior exit or entrance. One enters and exits only through the building.
Gutta: In a Doric entablature, one of several small, projecting, drop-like ornaments under the triglyphs between the taenia and the architrave as well as under the mutules.


Hip roof: A type of roof where all sides slope downwards from the ridge to the eaves.
Hood mold: An externally molded projection from a wall over an opening throws off rainwater. Also known as a dripstone.
Hyphen: Possibly from an older term “heifunon”, a structural section connecting the main portion of a building with its projecting “dependencies” or wings.


Imperial roof decoration: A row of small figures along the unions of the roofs of Chinese official buildings.
Intercolumniation: The interval separates one column from another in a colonnade. Intercolumniation regularly occurs in six forms: pycnostyle, systyle, eustyle, diastyle, araeostyle, and araeosystyle.
Interlaced arches: A scheme of decoration employed in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, where arches are thrown from alternate piers, interlacing or intersecting one another. In the former case, the first arch mold is carried alternately over and under the second, in the latter, the moldings intersect and stop one another.
Ionic order: One of the three orders or organizational systems of Ancient Greek or classical architecture characterized by columns that stood on the flat pavement of a temple with a base, their vertical shafts fluted with parallel concave grooves topped by a capital with volutes, that flared from the column to meet a rectangular abacus with carved ovolo molding, at the intersection with the horizontal beam that they carried.


Jagati: A raised surface, platform, or terrace upon which an Indian temple is placed.
Jettying: A building technique used in medieval timber frame buildings in which an upper floor projects beyond the dimensions of the floor below.


Kamoi: In Japanese architecture, the upper rail, made from wood, to which shoji or fusuma are attached. A chigi and katsuogi at the end of the ridgeline of a Shinto roof
Katsuogi: In Japanese architecture, a log is used as ornamentation atop the roof. Katsuogi is normally round and is placed in parallel lines perpendicular to the ridge. They are currently only used on Shinto shrines, placed behind chigi and sometimes helping to convey, by their parity, the sex of the kami within.
Keystone: The architectural piece is at the crown of a vault or arch and marks its apex, locking the other pieces into position.


Lacunar: The Latin term for a paneled or coffered ceiling, soffit, or vault adorned with a pattern of recessed panels.
Latticework: An ornamental, lattice framework consisting of small strips in a crisscrossed pattern.
Lesene: A type of pilaster that lacks a base or capital.
Light: The opening(s) in a window between mullions and muntins through which light enters an interior space. A 6:6 window is a window that has six lights on the upper sash and six on the lower sash.
Lightning rod: A conductive bar of copper or zinc-coated steel mounted on the ridge or a roof or on the parapet of a building connected to a large capacity conductor, usually, copper, routed to a ground rod driven into the earth to safely direct electrical charges caused by a lightning strike to the ground to avoid damage or fire to the structure.
Lintel: A horizontal block that spans the space between two supports usually over an opening such as a window or door.
Loculus: An architectural niche that houses a body, as in a catacomb, hypogeum, mausoleum, or another place of entombment.
Loggia: A gallery formed by a colonnade open on one or more sides. The space is often located on an upper floor of a building overlooking an open court or garden.
Lunette: A half-moon-shaped space, either masonry or void.


Mandapa: In Indian architecture, a pillared outdoor hall or pavilion for public rituals.
Maqsurah (measure): In Islamic architecture, the sanctuary or praying chamber in a mosque, is sometimes enclosed with a screen of lattice-work; occasionally, a similar enclosure around a tomb.
Mansard roof: A curb hip roof in which each face has two slopes, the lower one steeper than the upper; from the French mansard after the accomplished 17th-century French architect noted for using (not inventing) this style, François Mansart, died in 1666.
Marriage stone: A stone lintel, usually carved, with a marriage date.
Mascaron: A face, usually human, sometimes frightening or chimeric, is used as a decorative element.
Meander: A decorative border consisting of a repeated linear motif, particularly of intersecting perpendicular lines. Also known as a fret or a key pattern.
Metope: In a Doric entablature, the space between triglyphs along the frieze. These may be ornamented or plain and may be square or rectangular.
Mihrab: In Islamic architecture, a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque indicates the direction of prayer.
Minaret: In Islamic architecture, a tall spire with a conical or onion-shaped crown, on or near a mosque, is used by the imam to give the prayer call.
Modillion: An enriched block or horizontal bracket is generally found under the cornice and above the bedmould of the Corinthian entablature. It is probably so-called because of its arrangement in regulated distances.
Molding: A decorative finishing strip.
Monotriglyph: The interval of the intercolumniation of the Doric column is observed by the intervention of one triglyph only between the triglyphs which come over the axes of the columns. This is the usual arrangement, but in the Propylaea at Athens, there are two triglyphs over the central intercolumniation, to give increased width to the roadway, up which chariots and beasts of sacrifice ascended.
Mullion: A vertical structural element of stone, wood, or metal within a window frame (cp. transom).
Muntin: A vertical or horizontal piece that divides a pane of glass into two or more panes or lites in a window.
Muqarnas: A type of decorative corbel used in Islamic architecture that in some circumstances, resembles stalactites.
Mutule: A rectangular block under the soffit of the cornice of the Greek Doric temple, which is studded with guttae. It is supposed to represent the piece of timber through which the wooden pegs were driven to hold the rafter in position, and it follows the sloping rake of the roof. In the Roman Doric order the mutule was horizontal, with sometimes a crowning fillet, so that it virtually fulfilled the purpose of the modillion in the Corinthian cornice.


Narthex: An enclosed passage between the main entrance and the nave of a church.
Nave: The main body of a church is where the congregants are usually seated. It provides the central approach to the high altar.
Newel: The central supporting pillar of a spiral staircase. It can also refer to an upright post that supports the handrail of a stair railing and forms the lower, upper, or intermediate terminus of a stair railing usually at a landing.
Niche: In classical architecture, an exedra or apse has been reduced in size, retaining the half-dome heading usual for an apse.


Oculus: A circular opening in the center of a dome such as the one on the roof of the Pantheon in Rome or a wall.
Oillets: Arrow slits in the walls of medieval fortifications, but more strictly applied to the round hole or circle with which the openings terminate. The same term is applied to the small circles inserted in the tracery-head of the windows of the Decorated and Perpendicular periods, sometimes varied with trefoils and quatrefoils.
Onion dome: A dome whose shape resembles an onion.
Order: A term for a standard arrangement of architectural features; most often refers to the three traditional classical orders of Western architecture: the Doric order, Ionic order, and Corinthian order, though there are others. Can also refer to types of moldings most often found in Romanesque and Gothic arches.
Orthostates (Greek: ὀρθοστάτης, standing upright): The Greek term for the lowest course of masonry of the external walls of the naos or cella, consisting of vertical slabs of stone or marble equal in height to two or three of the horizontal courses which constitute the inner part of the wall.
Orthostyle (Greek: ὃρθος, straight, and στῦλος, a column): A range of columns placed in a straight row, for instance, those of the portico or flanks of a classic temple.
Ovolo: A molding whose edge forms a convex quarter-circle or quarter-ellipse.


Paneling: A millwork wall covering is constructed from rigid or semi-rigid components. These are traditionally interlocking wood but could be plastic or other materials. Panelling was developed in antiquity to make rooms in stone buildings more comfortable. The panels served to insulate the room from the cold stone. In more modern buildings, such paneling is often installed for decorative purposes. Paneling, such as wainscoting and boiserie in particular, may be extremely ornate and is particularly associated with seventeenth and eighteenth-century interior design, Victorian architecture in Britain, and its international contemporaries.
Parapet: A low wall is built up above the level of a roof, to hide the roof or to provide protection against falling, and similar structures are associated with balconies, bridges, etc.
Parclose screen: A screen or railing is used to enclose a chantry chapel, tomb, or manorial chapel, in a church, and for the space thus enclosed.
Parterre: A garden design made from patterns of mostly low elements such as plant beds and small hedges interwoven with gravel or grass paths, historically meant to be open spaces. Modern parterres are often denser and taller.
Pavilion: A freestanding structure near the main building or an ending structure on building wings.
Pedestal (also Plinth): The base or support on which a statue, obelisk, or column is mounted. A plinth is a lower terminus of the face trim on a door that is thicker and often wider than the trim which it augments.
Pediment (Gr. ἀετός, Lat. fastigium, Fr. ponton): In classic architecture, the triangular-shaped portion of the wall above the cornice formed the termination of the roof behind it. The projecting moldings of the cornice which surround it enclose the tympanum, which is sometimes decorated with sculpture.
Pelmet: A framework is placed above a window.
Pendentive: Three-dimensional spandrels supporting the weight of a dome over a square or rectangular base.
Peripteral: A temple or other structure surrounded on all sides by columns forming a continuous portico at the distance of one or two intercolumniations from the walls of the naos or cella. Almost all the Greek temples were peripteral, whether Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian.
Peristasis (Greek: Περίστασις): A four-sided porch or hall of columns surrounding the cella in an ancient Greek Peripteros temple (see also Peristyle). In ecclesial architecture, it is also used in the area between the baluster of a Catholic church and the high altar (what is usually called the sanctuary or chancel).
Peristyle: A continuous porch of columns surrounding a courtyard or garden (see also Peristasis). In ecclesial architecture, the term cloister is used.
Phiale: A building or columned arcade around a fountain.
Piano mobile: The principal floor of a large house, was built in the style of Renaissance architecture.
Pier: Upright support for a superstructure, such as an arch or bridge.
Pilaster: A flat, slightly projecting element that resembles a pillar or pier and is engaged in the face of a wall. Pilasters usually do not serve a structural purpose.
Planceer or Planchier: A building element is sometimes used in the same sense as a soffit, but more correctly applied to the soffit of the corona in a cornice.
Plate girder: A steel girder formed from a vertical center web of steel plate with steel angles forming the top and bottom flanges welded, bolted, or riveted to the web. Some deep plate girders also may have vertical stiffeners (angles) attached to the web to resist the crippling (horizontal failure) of the web.
Plinth: The base or platform upon which a column, pedestal, statue, monument, or structure rests. A plinth is a lower terminus of the face trim on a door that is thicker and often wider than the trim which it augments.
Poppyheads: Finials or other ornaments terminate the tops of bench ends, either to pews or stalls. They are sometimes small human heads, sometimes richly carved images, knots of foliage or finials, and sometimes fleurs-de-lis simply cut out of the thickness of the bench end and chamfered. The term is probably derived from the French poupee doll or puppet used also in this sense, or from the flower, from a resemblance in shape.
Portcullis: A heavy wooden or metallic grid vertically slides down and thus blocking the main gateway of a medieval castle or fortification.
Porte-cochère: An often ornate porch- or portico-like structure at a main or secondary entrance to a building through which vehicles can pass for the occupants to alight under cover, protected from the weather.
Portico: A series of columns or arches in front of a building, generally as a covered walkway.
Prick post: An old architectural name is given sometimes to the queen posts of a roof, and sometimes to the filling in quarters in framing.
Prostyle: Freestanding columns that are widely spaced apart in a row. The term is often used as an adjective when referring to a portico that projects from the main structure.
Pseudodipteral: A temple was similar to a dipteral temple, in which the columns surrounding the naos have had walls built between them, so that they become engaged columns, as in the great temple at Agrigentum. In Roman temples, to increase the size of the Celia, the columns on either side and at the rear became engaged columns, the portico only having isolated columns.
Pteroma: In Classical architecture, the enclosed space of a portico, peristyle, or stoa, is generally behind a screen of columns.
Pycnostyle: A term is given by Vitruvius to the intercolumniation between the columns of a temple when this was equal to one and a half diameters.


Quadriporticus: Also known as a quadriportico, a four-sided portico. The closest modern parallel would be a colonnaded quadrangle.
Quirk: A small recess, often V-shaped, at the edge of a molding.
Quoin: The cornerstones of brick or stone walls. Quoins are also common in some brickwork corners that are alternately recessed and expressed.


Rake: The diagonal outside facing the edge of a gable is sometimes called a raking cornice or a sloping cornice. Rake is equivalent to a slope which is the ratio of the rise to the run of the roof.
Rear vault: A vault of the internal hood of a doorway or window to which a splay has been given on the reveal, sometimes the vaulting surface is terminated by a small rib known as the crimson rib, and further development is given by angle shafts carrying this rib, known as crimson shafts.
Return: The receding edge of a flat face. On a flat signboard, for example, the return is the edge that makes up the board’s depth.
Revolving door: An entrance door for excluding drafts from an interior of a building. A revolving door typically consists of three or four doors that hang on a center shaft and rotate around a vertical axis within a round enclosure.
Rib vault: The intersection of two or three barrel vaults.
Ridge board: A structural member that runs the length of the ridge (high point) on a sloped roof to which the upper ends of rafters are attached.
Roof comb: The structure that tops a pyramid in monumental Mesoamerican architecture (also common as a decorative embellishment on the ridge of metal roofs of some domestic Gothic-style architecture in America in the 19th century).
Rotunda: A large and high circular hall or room in a building, usually but not always, surmounted by a dome.


Sash: The horizontal and vertical frame encloses the glazing of a window. A sash may be fixed or operable and may be of several different types depending on the operation (i.e. casement, single or double hung, awning, hopper, or sliding).
Screens passage: The passage is at one end of the Great Hall of an English medieval house or castle, and separated from it by the spere.
Scroll: An ornamental element featuring a sequence of spiraled, circled, or heart-shaped motifs. There are, among others, flower scrolls, foliated scrolls, plant scrolls, and vine scrolls.
Shiki-i: In Japanese architecture, the lower rail, made from wood, to which shoji or fusuma are attached.
Shoji: A translucent partition consisting of a paper sheet over a wood framework is commonly seen in traditional Japanese architecture. Shoji is built to be moved (usually by sliding them along tracks) or removed, allowing rooms to be reorganized and reshaped as desired and, in earlier constructions, allowing the interior of a structure to open directly to the outdoors. Because of their translucence, shoji is notable for diffusing light, air, and sound. Fusuma is similar to shoji but is generally opaque.
Site-specific architecture: Architecture is of its time and its place. It is designed to respond to both its physical context and the metaphysical context within which it has been conceived and executed
Skeiling: A straight sloped part of a ceiling, such as on the underside of a pitched roof.
Soffit: Any architectural element’s underside, especially the board connecting the walls of a structure to the fascia or the end of the roof, enclosing the eave.
Sommer or Summer: A girder or main “summer beam” of a floor: if supported on two-story posts and open below, also called a “bress” or “breast-summer”. Often found at the centerline of the house to support one end of a joist, and to bear the weight of the structure above.
1. In a building facade, the space between the top of the window in one story and the sill of the window in the story above.
2. The space between two arches or between an arch and a rectangular enclosure.
Spere: The fixed structure between the great hall and the screens passage in an English medieval timber house.
Spire: A tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building.
Splay: A slant is created by cutting a wall around an opening such that the inside of the opening is wider or narrower than the outside.
Springer: The lowest voussoir on each side of an arch.
Squinch: A piece of construction is used for filling in the upper angles of a square room to form a proper base to receive an octagonal or spherical dome.
Squint: An opening, often arched, through an internal wall of a church provides an oblique view of the altar.
Stoop: A small staircase ending in a platform and leading to the entrance of an apartment building or other building.
Sunburst: A design or figure commonly used in architectural ornaments and design patterns, including art nouveau.
Syrian arch: In American architecture, esp. Richardsonian Romanesque, an archway that begins at the ground, rather than being set upon a supporting pedestal.
Systyle: In the classical orders, columns are rather thickly set, with an intercolumniation to which two diameters are assigned.


Taenia: In a Doric entablature, a raised fillet separates the architrave from the frieze.
Throating: A continuous groove underneath a coping or other projecting element, to prevent water from running back onto the wall beneath.
Timber framing: The method of creating structures using heavy timbers jointed by pegged mortise and tenon joints.
Trabeated arch: A simple construction method using a lintel, header, or architrave as the horizontal member over a building void supported at its ends by two vertical columns, pillars, or posts.
Tracery: The stonework elements support the glass in a Gothic window.
Transom (architectural): A window or element, fixed or operable, above a door but within its vertical frame; also a horizontal structural element of stone, wood, or metal within a window frame (cp. mullion).
Triglyph: In a Doric entablature, an ornament along the frieze consists of three vertical recesses.
Truss: A structural component made of straight wood or metal members, usually in a triangular pattern, with “pinned” connections at the top and bottom chords and which is used to support structural loads, such as those on a floor, roof, or bridge.
Turret: A small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle.
Tympanum (Greek τύμπανον, from τύπτειν, to strike): The triangular space is enclosed between the horizontal cornice of the entablature and the sloping cornice of the pediment. Though sometimes left plain, it is often decorated.


Undercroft: Traditionally, a cellar or storage room. In modern usage, a ground-level area is relatively open to the sides, but covered by the building above.


Ventilation shaft: A small, vertical space within a tall building permits ventilation of the building.
Vierendeel truss: A rectilinear truss is usually fabricated of steel or concrete with horizontal top and bottom chords and vertical web members (no diagonals) in which the loads imposed on it are transferred to the supports through bending forces resisted in its connections.
Volute: A spiral, scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order.
Voussoir: A wedge-shaped or tapered stone between the springer and the keystone is used to construct an arch.


1. A lateral part or projection of a building or structure such as a wing wall.
2. A subordinate part of a building is possibly not connected to the main building.
3. The sides of a stage (theatre).
Widow’s walk: A railed rooftop platform often has an inner cupola/turret frequently found on 19th-century North American coastal houses.


Zaguan: A passageway of a central passage plan house, or the complex as a whole, in Territorial or Territorial Revival architecture in the American Southwest
Ziggurat: A temple tower of the ancient Mesopotamian valley, having the form of a terraced pyramid of successively receding stories.


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