Architectural Glossary

A few architectural terms that may be of interest.

Abacus, at the top of a capital, a thick rectangular slab of stone that serves as the flat, broad surface

Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration

Acroter, flat base

Acroteria, an ornament placed on a flat base and mounted at the apex of the pediment

Apex, highest point

Armoria, shield, coat of arms, crest

Ashlar, finely cut stone

Attic base, a column base with two rings

Baldachino, a stone or marble structure built in the form of a canopy

Baluster, a moulded shaft offering support

Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface

Basin, a round shallow container for holding water

Blind arch, an arch infilled with solid construction so it cannot function as a window, door, or passageway.

Bubbler, a fountain with a tap

Canopy, an ornamental roof-like projection

Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner

Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it

Cartouche, a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription.

Caryatid, a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head

Chamfer, a beveled edge

Column Corinthian, a fluted shaft with flowers and leaves at the capital.

Column Doric, a plain shaft with a capital consisting of a circle topped with a square

Compass cross, a cross of equal vertical and horizontal lengths, concentric with and overlaying a circle.

Console, a decorative bracket support element

Contrapposto, stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed

Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building

Corona, a crown

Cupola, a small, domed structure on top of a roof.

Cusped Arch, the point of intersection of lobed or scalloped forms

Cyma, a molding of double curvature

Demilune, half moon or crescent shape

Dome, hollow upper half of a sphere

Egg and dart, a carving of alternating oval shapes and  dart or arrow shapes

Entablature, moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns

Ephebes, young adolescent men

Fasces, a bound bundle of wooden rods

Filigree, fine ornamental work

Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure

Fluted, a long rounded groove

Fluted Shaft, a long rounded groove decorating the shaft of a column

Foliate, decorated with leaves or leaf like motif

Fret, running or repeated ornament

Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings

Gable, triangular portion of a wall between edges of a dual pitched roof

Gable Dutch (also known as a Flemish gable), a gable whose sides have a shape made up of one or more curves

Gothic arch, a pointed arch

Greek cross, a cross with arms of equal length

Griffin, winged lion denotes vigilance and strength, guards treasure and priceless possessions

Guilloche, decorative engraving technique of two or more bands twisted over each other in which a very precise intricate repetitive pattern

Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture

Kylix, a Grecian style drinking cup

Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting

Maltese cross, a cross with four arms of equal length, each arm in a “V” shape, and eight points

Mask/Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal

Medallion, a circular device bearing a portrait or relief moulding

Memento Mori, an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death

Mutule, a flat block projecting under a cornice

Obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top

Ogee, curve with a concave

Ogee arch, an arch with a concave apex

Palmette, a decorative motif resembling the fan shaped leaves of a palm tree

Parti-colour, having a predominant color broken by patches of one or more other colors

Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue

Pediment, an element in architecture consisting of a gable placed above a horizontal structure supported by columns

Piazza ceiling, vaulted roof

Pier, a platform extending over water

Pilaster, a column form that is only ornamental and not supporting a structure

Plaque, a flat ornamental plate or tablet fixed to a wall, used to mark a significant event, person, etc

Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.

Portico, a roofed porch usually supported by columns, often leading to the entrance of the building.

Putto (plural is Putti), a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude

Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter

Rosette, a round stylized flower design

Rotunda, any building with a circular ground plan (circular room), often with a dome

Roundel, a small circular decorative plate

Rustication, the outside of a wall with large blocks of masonry that are left with a rough surface, beveled, and have deep joints between them

Spandrel, the triangular space between two arches

Spigot, a device that controls the flow of liquid

St. Andrew’s Cross, a diagonal cross forming the letter X

Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support

Tazza, A shallow saucer-like dish either mounted on a stem and foot, or on a foot alone.

Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

Trefoil, An ornamental design of three rounded lobes

Vault, an arched structure of stone, brick or reinforced concrete forming a ceiling or roof over a wholly or partially enclosed space

Volute, a spiral scroll-like ornament found in the capital of a column

Yoke maintenance arms, the bars near the top of a street light which supported the lamplighter’s ladder


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