Commonly used Architectural terms


  • Aisle - subsidiary space alongside the body of a building, separated from it by columns, piers, or posts.
  1. raised panel below a window or wall monument or tablet.
  2. 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. concrete slab immediately outside a vehicular door or passageway used to limit the wear on asphalt paving due to repetitive turning movements.
  • Apse - vaulted semicircular or polygonal end of a chancel or chapel.
  • Arcade - passage or walkway covered over by a succession of arches or vaults supported by columns. Blind arcade or arcading: the same applied to the wall surface.
  • Arch - a curved structure capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight.
  • Architrave - formalized lintel, the lowest member of the classical entablature. Also the moulded frame of a door or window (often borrowing the profile of a classical architrave).
  • Arris - sharp edge where two surfaces meet at an angle.
  • Articulation - articulation is the manner or method of jointing parts such that each part is clear and distinct in relation to the others, even though joined.
  • Ashlar - masonry of large blocks cut with even faces and square edges.
  • Atrium - (plural: atria) inner court of a Roman or C20 house; in a multi-storey building, a toplit covered court rising through all storeys.


  • Bahut - a small parapet or attic wall bearing the weight of the roof of a cathedral or church
  • Ball flower - an architectural ornament in the form of a ball inserted in the cup of a flower, which came into use in the latter part of the 13th, and was in great vogue in the early part of the 14th century.
  • Baluster - small moulded 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.

A page of fanciful balusters
  • 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
  • Basement - lowest, subordinate storey of building often either entirely or partially below ground level; the lowest part of classical elevation, 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.
  • Batter - upwardly receding slope of a wall or column.
  • Bays - 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 external divisions of a building by fenestration (windows).
  • Bay window - window of one or more storeys 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 Chamber or stage in a tower where bells are hung. The term is also used to describe the manner in which bricks are laid in a wall so that they interlock.
  • Boss - roughly cut stone set in place for later carving.
Also, an ornamental projection, a carved keystone of a ribbed vault at the intersection of the ogives.
  • Bossage - 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 which seem to advance beyond the surface of the building, by reason 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.
  • Bond - brickwork with overlapping bricks. Types of bond include stretcher, English, header, Flemish, garden wall, herringbone, basket, American, and Chinese.
  • Boutant - 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 boutant 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 bouter, "to butt" or "abut".
  • Brise soleil - projecting fins or canopies which shade windows from direct sunlight.
  • Bressummer - (literally "breast- beam") - large, horizontal beam supporting the wall above, especially in a jettied building.
  • Bulwark - 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 round the ship above the level of the deck. Figuratively it means anything serving as a defence. Dutch loanword; Bolwerk
  • Buttress - 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 by means of an arch or half-arch.


  • Cancellus - (plural: Cancelli) Barriers which correspond to the modern balustrade or railing, especially the screen dividing the body of a church from the part occupied by the ministers hence chancel. The Romans employed cancelli to partition off portions of the courts of law.
  • Cantilever - An unsupported overhang acting as a lever, like a flagpole sticking out of the side of a wall.
  • Casement window - window hung vertically, hinged one side, so that it swings inward or outward.
  • Cauliculus, or caulicole - stalks (eight in number) with two leaves from which rise the helices or spiral scrolls of the Corinthian capital to support the abacus.
  • Cella - the inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture
  • Chalcidicum - in Roman architecture, the vestibule or portico of a public building opening on to the forum, as in the basilica of Eumactria at Pompeii, and the basilica of Constantine at Rome, where it was placed at one end. See: Lacunar.
  • Chandrashala - the circular or horseshoe arch that decorates many Indian cave temples and shrines
  • Chresmographion - chamber between the pronaos and the cella in Greek temples where oracles were delivered.
  • Cincture - ring, list, or fillet at the top and bottom of a column, which divides the shaft from the capital and base.
  • Cinque cento - style which 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 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 - low pedestal, either round or rectangular, set up by the Romans for various purposes such as military or milestones, boundary posts. The inscriptions on some in the British Museum show that they were occasionally funeral memorials.
  • Circulation - describes the flow of people throughout a building.
  • Cleithral - term applied to a covered Greek temple, in contradistinction to hypaethral, which designates one that is uncovered; the roof of a cleithral temple completely covers it.
  • Coffer - a coffer, in architecture, is 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 - (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 calledhypotrachelium by Vitruvius.
  • Compluvium - 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.
  • Cornice - upper section of an entablature, a projecting shelf along the top of a wall often supported by brackets.
  • Cross Springer - block from which the diagonal ribs of a vault spring or start. The top of the springer is known as the skewback.
  • Crypto-porticus - concealed or covered passage, generally underground, though lighted and ventilated from the open air. One of the best-known examples is the crypto-porticus under the palaces of the Caesars in Rome. In Hadrians villa in Rome they formed the principal private intercommunication between the several buildings.
  • cyrto-style - circular projecting portico with columns, like those of the transept entrances of St Paul's cathedral and the western entrance of St Mary-le-Strand, London.[13]


  • Diaulos - peristyle round the great court of the palaestra, described by Vitruvius, which 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 of twice the usual length.
  • Diazoma - a horizontal aisle in an ancient Greek theater that separates the lower and upper tiers of semi-circular seating and intersects with the vertical aisles.
  • Dikka - 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.
  • Dipteral - temples which have a double range of columns in the peristyle, as in the temple of Diana at Ephesus.
  • Distyle - portico which has two columns between antae, known as distyle-in-antis.
Classical orders from the Encyclopedie.png
  • Doric order - one of the three orders or organisational systems of Ancient Greek or classical architecture characterised by columns which stood on the flat pavement of a temple without a base, their vertical shafts fluted with parallel concave grooves topped by a smooth capitalthat 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 addition of windows.
  • Dosseret, or impost block - 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 in excess of the column which carried them.
  • Dromos - 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 straight, paved avenue flanked by sphinxes.


  • Ephebeum - 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 of from sixteen to eighteen years of age
  • Epinaos - 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.
  • Estrade - French term for a raised platform or dais. In the Levant, the estrade of a divan is called a Sopha, from which comes our word 'sofa'.


 Fanlight - window, semicircular or semi-elliptical in shape, with glazing bars or tracery sets radiating out like an open fan.

  • Feretory - enclosure or chapel within which the ferreter shrine, or tomb (as in Henry VII.'s chapel), was placed.[29]
  • Flushwork - the decorative combination on the same flat plane of flint and ashlar stone. It is characteristic of medieval buildings, most of the survivors churches, in several areas of Southern England, but especially East Anglia. If the stone projects from a flat flint wall, the term is proudwork - as the stone stands "proud" rather than being "flush" with the wall.
  • Flying rib - an exposed structural beam over the uppermost part of a building which is not otherwise connected to the building at its highest point. A feature of H frame constructed concrete buildings and some modern skyscrappers.
  • Foot-stall - literally translation of “pedestal”, the lower part of a pier in architecture.
  • Formeret - French term for the wall-rib carrying the web or filling-in of a vault.


  • Gable - a triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a sloping roof
  • Gablets - triangular terminations to buttresses, 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 - carved or curved molding used in architecture and interior design as decorative motif, often consisting of flutes which are inverted and curved. Popular during the Italian Renaissance.
  • Gambrel - a symmetrical two-sided roof with two slopes on each side
  • 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.
  • 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 often found in parks, gardens and public areas
  • Geison -  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 Corinthan orders; it forms the outer edge of the roof on the sides of a structure with a sloped roof.


  • Hip roof - a type of roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls
  • Hyphen - possibly from an older term "heifunon"[35] - a structural section connecting the main portion of a building with its projecting "dependencies" or wings.


  • 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.


  • Keystone - the architectural piece at the crown of a vault or arch and marks its apex, locking the other pieces into position.


  • Latticework - an ornamental, lattice framework consisting of a criss-crossed pattern
  • Lintel - a horizontal block that spans the space between two supports
  • 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


  • Mansard roof (French roof) - a curb hip roof in which each face has two slopes, the lower one steeper than the upper; from the French mansarde after the accomplished 17th-century French architect noted for using (not inventing) this style, François Mansart, d. 1666.
  • Marriage stone - a stone lintel, usually carved, with a marriage date.
  • Modillion - enriched block or horizontal bracket generally found under the cornice and above the bedmold of the Corinthian entablature. It is probably so called because of its arrangement in regulated distances.
  • Monotriglyph - interval of the intercolumniation of the Doric column, which 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, in order to give increased width to the roadway, up which chariots and beasts of sacrifice ascended.
  • Molding - decorative finishing strip.
  • Mullion - vertical bar of wood, metal or stone which divides a window into two or more parts.
  • Mutule - 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 in order 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.


  • Niche - in classical architecture is an exedra or an apse that has been reduced in size, retaining the half-dome heading usual for an apse.


  • 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.
  • Order - An order refers to each of a series of mouldings most often found in Romanesque and Gothic arches.
  • Orthostatae (Greek: ὀρθοστάτης, standing upright) - Greek architecture 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, as for instance those of the portico or flanks of a classic temple.


  • Parclose - screen or railing used to enclose a chantry, tomb or chapel, in a church, and for the space thus enclosed.[43]
  • Pavilion (structure) - a free standing 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.
  • Pediment - (Gr. ἀετός, Lat. fastigium, Fr. ponton), in classic architecture the triangular-shaped portion of the wali above the cornice which formed the termination of the roof behind it. The projecting mouldings of the cornice which surround it enclose the tympanum, which is sometimes decorated with sculpture.
  • Pendentive - three-dimensional spandrels supporting the weight of a dome over a square or rectangular base.
  • Peripteral - a temple or other structure where the columns of the front portico are returned along its sides as wings 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
  • Phiale - a building or columned arcade around a fountain
  • Pilaster - a slightly-projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall.
  • Planceer or Planchier - building element sometimes used in the same sense as a soffit, but more correctly applied to the soffit of the corona in a cornice.
  • Plinth - the base or platform upon which a column, pedestal, statue, monument or structure rests.
  • Poppy heads - finials or other ornaments which 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.
  • Porte-cochère - a porch- or portico-like structure at a main or secondary entrance to a building through which a horse and carriage (or motor vehicle) can pass in order 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 - old architectural name given sometimes to the queen posts of a roof, and sometimes to the filling in quarters in framing.
  • Prostyle - free standing columns that are widely spaced apart in a row. The term is often used as an adjective when referring to a portico which projects from the main structure.
  • Pseudodipteral - a temple which is like the dipteral temple except for omitting the inner row of columns.
  • Pseudo-peripteral - 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, in order 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, generally behind a screen of columns.
  • Pycnostyle - term given by Vitruvius to the intercolumniation between the columns of a temple, when this was equal to 11/2 diameters.


  • Quadriporticus - also known as a quadriportico - a four-sided portico. The closest modern parallel would be a colonnaded quadrangle.


  • Rear vault - 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 scoinson rib, and a further development is given by angle shafts carrying this rib, known as scoinson shafts.
  • Return - receding edge of a flat face. On a flat signboard, for example, the return is the edge which 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
  • Roof comb - the structure that tops a pyramid in monumental Mesoamerican architecture


  • Sommer or Summer - girder or main "summer beam" of a floor: if supported on two storey 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.
  • Spandrel - in a building fascade, esp. glass, the section covering floor partions.
  • Squinch - a piece of construction used for filling in the upper angles of a square room so as to form a proper base to receive an octagonal or spherical dome.
  • Squint - an opening, often arched, through an internal wall of a church providing an oblique view of the altar.

  • Timber framing - is the method of creating structures using heavy timbers jointed by pegged Mortise and tenon joints.
  • Transom - window or element above a door but within its vertical frame.
  • Tympanum (architecture) -  the triangular space enclosed between the horizontal cornice of the entablature and the sloping cornice of the pediment. Though sometimes left plain, it is often decorated.

from wikipedia ..