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Architectural Terms Glossary

An architectural terms glossary contains basic and more complex definitions used by architects and those working in the field.

Arcade - a series of arches atop columns or posts supporting a roof or covering over a walkway.

Arch - curved piece that covers a small or large space and can hold weight.

Attic - a small space on top of a house that's contained within the roof line.

Ball and flower (ball flower) - decoration used in early architecture involving a flower surrounding a ball.

Baluster - support post taking on a rounded or squared shape, often found in a series as a railing.

Barrel vault - one curve that spans a long space such as a barrel vaulted ceiling.

Basement - lowest area of a building, usually located below the ground.

Bays - divisions of a building identified by exterior divisions such as windows or columns.

Bay window - a window that protrudes beyond the façade of a building.

Bow window - a curved window that protrudes beyond the façade of a building.

Oriel window - protruding window that sits on brackets, typically located on the ground level.

Canted window - protruding window with curved or angled sides.

Belfry - area located inside a tower where bells are placed.

Bond - way in which bricks are laid down before mortar is applied.

Bracket - load bearing decorative piece that holds another object in place.

Bullseye window - small round or oblong window, often made of hand blown glass.

Casement window - hinged window that's typically used in a vertical fashion.

Cincture - small ring located on a column to differentiate between the base and shaft.

Copping - wall covering used prior to wallpaper or paint.

Cornice - a protruding shelf located on the roofline of some buildings that sits on brackets.

Dipteral - temples with columns doubled up in the center.

Doric order - Ancient Greek order, notably due to the columns that lack decoration and have no base.

Dormer - protruding additions on the roof of a building.

Fanlight - small windows with a flat bottom and curved or arched top.

Flushwork - ashlar stone and flint used to create a decorative façade on a building.

Gable - triangular raised decoration that lays flush with the roofline.

Gable roof - roof with two sides that slope on either side.

Gambrel roof - similar to a gable roof, but with two pitches on the roof, popular with Dutch Colonial style homes.

Hip roof - roof with four sides that all have a downward angle.

Keystone - decoration placed in the middle of an arch.

Latticework - thin pieces of wood that form a pattern.

Mansard roof - flat roof with sloped sides.

Modillion - decorated blocks or brackets placed below a cornice.

Molding - strip used for decoration.

Mullion - dividers placed inside a window; typically made of wood or metal.

Piano nobile - main floor in an older house.

Portico - arches supporting a roof to form a small patio in front of a building.

Returns - edges placed on the sides of a gambrel roof.

Revolving door - rotating door with separate areas placed inside.

Round arch - arch with a rounded top.

Sash - upper part of a window, may be set in place.

Shingle - material used to cover a roof; typically made of asphalt, slate or wood.

Sunburst - popular pattern used in Art Nouveau to mimic the look of the sun's rays.

Spandrel - section of glass that differentiates between two floors.

Surround - decorative piece that covers the exterior of a window.

Transom - small window or wood block above a door, but still in the doorframe.

Transom bar - piece of wood located above the door and below the transom.

Turret - tower typically located on the side of a building.

Volute - spiral shapes found on columns, usually paired.

Wrought iron - pieces of iron hand turned and hammered into shape.

More architectural terms are available at Glossary of Architectural Terms, Dictionary of Architectural Terms, Glossary of Architecture, Architecture Glossary, and Glossary of Environmental Design.

The following resources may also be of some help: Japanese Architecture Terms, Illustrated Architecture Dictionary, Glossary of Esoteric Architectural and Design Terms, The Gothic Field Guide, and Architectural Ornaments.

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