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.