You’re standing in front of the Parthenon or some other great work of architecture. The tour guide next to you starts talking about “orders.” You’re ready to put in your lunch request until you realize that she’s referring to the architecture. The terms in the following list can help you understand architectural lingo — and even speak it if you’re so inclined.

arch: a structure spanning an opening that is supported from the sides. minaret: a slim tower that is part of a mosque and is used to call the faithful to prayers.
buttress: a support on the outside of a wall that helps to stabilize a vault or roof. orders: styles of classical architecture developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans; they include the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
column: a vertical post divided into a base, a shaft, and a capital at the top. portico: a porch with a roof supported by a row of columns.
dome: a curved, semispherical roof structure that is circular in plan. quoin: a large stone at the corner of an exterior wall.
entasis: a slight, outward curvature in a column that corrects an optical illusion and gives the appearance of being straight. rustication: roughly surfaced stonework on exterior walls; popular during the Renaissance.
façade: the face or exterior architectural treatment of a building. shaft: the section of a column between the base and the capital.
gable: the triangular portion of a wall under the end of a pitched roof. tracery: curvy ornament in the upper part of a Gothic window.
hypar: short for hyperbolic paraboloid, a type of shell structure with downwardly and upwardly curved surfaces. uplift: raising of a structure in response to structural forces.
Ionic: a type of classical architecture with scroll-like decorations, called volutes, on the column capital. vault: an arched ceiling or roof.
jamb: the vertical side of a doorway or window. wythe: a continuous band of brick or stone that is one unit in thickness.
keystone: a wedge-shaped unit at the top of an arch. ziggurat: a type of stepped pyramid used as a temple in ancient Mesopotamia.
lintel: a horizontal beam spanning the top of a door or window.