Posted by: Jack Henry | December 13, 2016

Editor’s Corner: The 12 Days of English – Day 4

On the fourth day of English

My true love gave to me

Four building terms

From our dictionary.

Today’s architectural terms and photos are brought to you by Merriam-Webster.

1. balustrade: a kind of low wall that is placed at the sides of staircases, bridges, etc., and that is made of a row of short posts topped by a long rail

Both balustrade and baluster (which refers to the one of the vertical supports of a balustrade) come from the Italian word for the flower of the wild pomegranate, whose vase-like shape perhaps resembles that of some balusters.

2. corbel: an architectural member that projects from within a wall and supports a weight; especially one that is stepped upward and outward from a vertical surface (such as the supports beneath the balcony shown below)

The beaklike shape of the corbel inspired an unknown, fanciful Frenchman to give that architectural feature a name that translated from Middle French means "little raven."

3. newel: an upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind; or a post at the foot of a straight stairway, or one at a landing

Is a newel post the heart of a staircase? If you look at the story behind that word, you might well think so. Newel comes from the Anglo-French word nuel or noel, meaning "stone of a fruit."

4. pediment: a triangular area on the face of a building below the roof, above an entrance, etc.

There’s no connection between the impediment that means "hindrance" and the pediment that is a feature of classic architecture. This pediment is believed to trace back to the word pyramid.

The pediment shown here appears on the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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