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From The Buzz, 1998 (Reprinted by Permission of the Author)

Trail End Quoin - 2007 (Trail End Collection)So what is a quoin anyway … other than a great word to have in your head when playing Scrabble®? Or how about a rincleau? A belvedere? A radiating voussoir? If these questions leave you scratching your head in wonder and confusion, you’re not alone! Few people outside the confines of an architect’s office have a working knowledge of architectural terminology. For you, however, that’s about to change! After studying the following glossary, you’ll be able to amaze your friends as you walk through the streets of your town pointing out lancets, porticos, corbels and campaniles. (Incidentally – the illustration at the right shows the quoins on the Kendrick Mansion: brick or stone blocks used to accentuate the vertical corner of a building)

For illustrations to go along with many of these terms, we recommend a visit to Buffalo, New York's Illustrated Architecture Dictionary.

NOTE: The definitions of some terms use words which themselves require definition. Such words are italicized in the definition. 


Acanthus Leaf - Motif in classical architecture found on Corinthian columns 

Aedicule - A pedimented entablature with columns used to frame a window or niche 

Arcade - Series of round arches supported by columns or posts 

Architrave - The lowest part of a classical entablature running from column to column 

Ashlar - Squared building stone laid in parallel courses 

Astragal - Molding with a semicircular profile 

Astylar - Facade without columns or pilasters 

Balconet - False balcony outside a window 

Baluster - The post supporting a handrail 

Balustrade - Railing at a stairway, porch or roof 

Bargeboard - Decorative boards located at the end of a gable 

Bas Relief - Shallow carving of figures and landscapes 

Battered Wall - Wall leaning inward from its base rather than outward 

Belt Course - Narrow horizontal band projecting from exterior walls, usually defining interior floor levels 

Belvedere - Projection from top of roof; also called cupola 

Bracket - Supporting element under a cornice 

Broken Pediment - Pediment with cornices ending before they meet at the top; finial often placed in the center 

Bulkhead - Horizontal or inclined door over exterior stairway to cellar

Cames - The lead portions of stained glass windows 

Campanile - A tower 

Cantilever - Projecting overhang 

Capital - The top part of a pilaster or column 

Cartouche - Ornamental panel; oval or scroll-shaped 

Casement Window - Window hinged on the side that opens like a door 

Clapboard - Long thin overlapping wooden boards placed horizontally on the outside of a building 

Colonet - Small decorative column 

Colonnade - Series of columns supporting an entablature 

Column - Round vertical support 

Columniation - Arrangement of columns

Composite Column - Elaborate combination of Ionic and Corinthian features         

Coping - Top course of a wall 

Coquillage - Seashell-styled decoration 

Corbel - Bracket or block projecting from the face of a wall 

Corbiestep - Stepped-end gable 

Corinthian Capital - Top part of a column characterized by large acanthus leaves and fluted column 

Cornice - A horizontal molded projection that completes a building or wall; or the upper slanting part of an entablature 

Crenellation - Square openings in the top of a parapet 

Cresting - Line of ornamentation finishing a roof         

Cupola - A cup-shaped cap over a structure; often found on carriage houses 

Cyclopean Block - Rock faced blocks often used in foundations 

Dado - Mid section of a pedestal, between base and cornice 

Dentil - Molding made up of rows of small square blocks 

Dimension Stone - Large blocks of stone used in foundations 

Doric Column - Column with plain capital, no base or fluting

Dormer Window - Window that projects from a sloping roof 

Double-Hung Windows - Windows with two sashes sliding up and down 

Eaves - Lowest projecting part of a sloped roof 

Egg & Dart - Molding in which an egg shape alternates with a dart shape 

Elephantine Columns - Tapered; used as porch supports on Bungalows. 

Entablature - Horizontal detailing above a classical column and below a pediment, consisting of cornice, frieze and architrave

Exedra - Wall alcove with bench space  

Eyebrow Window - Roof dormer having low sides; formed by raising small section of roof 

Facade - Main face or side of a building 

Fanlight - Fixed half-moon window sash above a door 

Fascia - Flat vertical board used to hide ends of roof rafters 

Fenestration - Design and placement of windows 

Finial - Decorative vertical roof ornament 

Flat Arch - Arch without rounded underside 

Fluting - Narrow vertical grooves on shafts of columns and pilasters 

Foliated - Decorative motif with leaflike ornament 

Frieze - Band below cornice 

Frontispiece - Small pediment over door or window 

Gable - Upper triangular portion of wall at the end of a roof 

Gable Roof - Shaped in an upside-down V 

Gambrel Roof - Double-pitched with end walls pointed at top 

Gargoyle - Carved figure with grotesque features; often on corners of buildings. 

Garland - Ornamental detail in the shape of a band of flowers 

Gingerbread - Elaborate wooden fretwork used on gables or as porch trim 

Gutta - Droplike element found underneath a triglyph or in a mutule 

Gothic Arch - Arch with pointed top 

Guilloche - Molding resembling twisted rope 

Helicline - Curved ramp

Hipped Roof - Slopes upward from all four sides 

Hoodmold - Decorative projecting trim above a window             

Horseshoe Arch - Arch in which the bottom is smaller than the mid-span; found in Moorish architecture 

Imbrication - Overlapping of shingles or tiles

Impost - Horizontal band from which arch begins 

Ionic Column - Slender, fluted, with spiral volutes on capital 

Jamb - Sidepiece on doors and windows  

Jerkinhead - Gable roof with hipped end; also called hipped gable

Jutty - Upper story projecting beyond the one below; also called jetty

Keystone - Wedge-shaped stone found in the center of some arches 

Lanai - Furnished veranda

Lancet Window - Window with a pointed arch 

Leaded Light - Window made up of small rectangular or diamond shaped panes of glass set in lead came

Lintel - Horizontal structural member that spans an opening 

Lites - Individual panes of glass 

Loggia - Arcade or gallery open on at least one side 

Lug Sill - One that extends beyond bottom window         

Lunette - Semicircular window or wall panel 

Mansard Roof - Double pitched roof in which lower pitch is nearly vertical and upper is nearly horizontal 

Mezzanine - Partial story between two main stories; usually projects as a balcony

Modillion Blocks - Ornamental scroll-shaped brackets or blocks found under the cornice 

Mullion - Vertical member separating two or more windows 

Muntin - Vertical or horizontal divisions between lites in a window or door         

Mutule - Block under the soffit of a cornice 

Newel - Post supporting one end of a handrail at top or bottom of stairs

Niche - Wall recess reserved for statue

Oculus - Circular opening in a wall 

Ogee - Molding with both concave and convex curves 

Oriel - Upper-story projecting bay window with corbels or brackets 

Ovolo - Convex molding also called quarter round 

Palladin Window - One with an arched center section flanked by lower flat-topped sections 

Parapet - Part of a wall that extends beyond the roof 

Patera - Round or oval disc, usually ornamented with a rosette in the center  

Pediment - Triangular gable end of roof above cornice 

Pendant - Hanging ornament 

Pent Roof - Sloping roof attached to side of building 

Pier - Square pillar or post 

Pilaster - Half column or pier attached to a wall 

Plinth - Raised platform upon which sits a column 

Porte Cochere - Porch roof projecting over a driveway 

Portico - Porch supported by columns, usually above entrance 

Postern - Side entrance

Putto - Statue of naked chubby baby; similar to a cherub with no wings 

Quatrefoil - Four-lobed motif; usually in block shape 

Quoins - Units of cut stone or brick used to accentuate the vertical corners of buildings 

Reeding - Opposite of fluting; protruding half-round molding 

Ridge Roll - Rounded cap covering exterior peak of roof

Rincleau - Scroll or vines cut in stone 

Rubble - Undressed broken stone used in construction 

Rusticated - Stonework with beveled or angled edges 

Sash - Frame in which the glass panes or a window are set 

Scrollwork - Ornamental work with curvilinear open patterns 

Segmented Arch - Arch that does not form complete semi-circle 

Sill - Bottom member of a window or door 

Soffit - Underside of an eave, lintel or other horizontal element 

Spindle - Turned vertical wooden element used in stair railings and porch trim 

Stoop - Small porch leading to entrance of a house 

String Course - Horizontal band of masonry wrapping around entire facade of building

Terrace - Open area connected to building; usually paved

Terra Cotta - Fired clay used for decorative ornamental details 

Tracery - Interlaced lines that form the lacy openwork of a Gothic-style window         

Transom - Small window above door 

Trayle - Decorative motif of continuous vine, leaf and grape clusters 

Trefoil - Clover-leaved pattern 

Triglyph - Banded decoration in a frieze 

Turpet - Small tower on corner of building supported by corbels 

Tuscan Column - Simple column with plain shaft 

Tympanum - Triangular face of a pediment 

Uncoursed Masonry - Not set in layers; no continuous horizontal joints 

Veranda - Porch that runs along front or side of a building; supported by pillars or columns 

Vermiculation - Decorative masonry surface with shallow channels 

Volutes - Scroll shape found on Ionic capital 

Voussoir - Wedge-shaped stones forming curved parts of an arch 

Wainscot - Facing of wood paneling, usually covering lower portion of interior wall

Water Table - Molding or projection on the exterior located at the intersection of the basement and first story 

Wheel Window - Round window with mullions radiating from the center 

Widow’s Walk - Narrow platform on roof; usually with wooden or wrought-iron balustrade

Wing - Building part projecting from a central or main part

Xystus - Tree-lined walk 

Yoke - Top of a double-hung window

Zoophorous - Frieze decorated with animal or human figures 


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