Column terms

If you are intending to shop for columns, it is very useful to know some terminology. A column with its surroundings is a complex architectural structure. Without knowing the right words you will not even understand your contractor or manufacturers' product information.

Abacus: A slab on the top of the capital of a column.

Acanthus: Any of various perennial herbs or small shrubs of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean and having pinnately lobed basal leaves with spiny margins and showy spikes of white or purplish flowers. Also called bear's breech.

Apophyge: An outward curve, called congé or scape, connecting the shaft of a Classical column to the fillets over the base and under the astragal beneath the capital.

Astragal: A narrow convex molding often having the form of beading.

Base: The lowest part of a structure, such as a wall, considered as a separate unit: the base of a column.

Capital: the upper part of a column that supports the entablature.

Column: A supporting pillar consisting of a base, a cylindrical shaft, and a capital.

Conge: An Apophyge

Echinus: A convex molding just below the abacus of a Doric capital.

Egg and Dart: A decorative molding consisting of a series of egg-shaped figures alternating with dart-shaped, anchor-shaped, or tongue-shaped figures.

Fillet: A thin flat molding used as separation between or ornamentation for larger moldings.

Flute: A long, usually rounded groove incised as a decorative motif on the shaft of a column.

Load-bearing: A structural element that supports the weight of other construction elements.

Necking: A molding between the upper part of a column and the projecting part of the capital.

Pilaster: A vertical element projecting from a wall, with a base and capital.

Pillar: A vertical, noncircular masonry support.

Plinth: A block or slab on which column is placed

Post: A vertical element used to support a horizontal beam or lintel

Scotia: A hollow concave molding at or near the base of a column.

Shaft: The principal portion of a column, between the capital and the base.

Torus: A large convex molding, semicircular in cross section, located at the base of a classical column.

Volute: A spiral scroll-like ornament such as that used on an Ionic capital.