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vertical architectural support, circular or polygonal in plan. A column is generally at least four or five times as high as its diameter or width; stubbier freestanding masses of masonry are usually called piers or pillars, particularly those with a rectangular plan. In fully developed Egyptian architecture the columns were of gigantic size, spaced very closely together, and were reserved for inner courtyards and halls. In the Aegean area, in pre-Hellenic times, the column type known to have been used is one with a cushionlike cap and with its shaft tapering downward. Subsequent types were the archaic forms of Doric, developed by the Dorians after their coming (before 1000 B.C.) into the region. By the 7th cent. B.C. this Greek Doric had been established in its design. The columns of classical architecture represent the attempt to design proportionings and details that would create maximum structural harmony. It is in the Greek temples of the Periclean Age (5th cent. B.C.), notably in the Parthenon, that the ideal was obtained. In Greek, Roman, and Renaissance architecture the various column types, taken together with the entablatures that they support, form the classical orders of architectureorders of architecture.
In classical tyles of architecture the various columnar types fall, in general, into the five so-called classical orders, which are named Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite.
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. The classical column has the three fundamental elements of base, shaft, and capital. The shaft has a gradual upward tapering (entasis), and the capital that crowns it provides a decorative and structural transition between the circular column and the rectangular entablature. The Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian column types advanced toward perfect proportions and details and formed the basis for the columnar architecture of the Romans. Although Greek columns always had vertical channels or flutes cut in their shafts, those of the Romans were often without them. In Greek buildings the columns were usually structurally indispensable, but the Romans and later the Renaissance and modern architects used them often also as a decorative feature, mostly following fixed rules of proportions. The columns of Romanesque, Byzantine, and Gothic buildings were usually structural elements and were without canons of proportioning. The capitals of the Romanesque and Gothic were often variously decorated with plant and animal forms. The columns of Chinese and Japanese architecture are circular or polygonal wood posts, with bases but without capitals, having instead an ornamented projecting bracket. In Indian architecture columns exhibit great variety of detail: shafts, bases, and capitals are often intricately ornamented. In modern construction most columns are of either steel or reinforced concrete. See Doric orderDoric order,
earliest of the orders of architecture developed by the Greeks and the one that they employed for most buildings. It is generally believed that the column and its capital derive from an earlier architecture in wood.
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; Ionic orderIonic order
, one of the early orders of architecture. The spreading scroll-shaped capital is the distinctive feature of the Ionic order; it was primarily a product of Asia Minor, where early embryonic forms of this capital have been found.
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; Corinthian orderCorinthian order,
most ornate of the classic orders of architecture. It was also the latest, not arriving at full development until the middle of the 4th cent. B.C. The oldest known example, however, is found in the temple of Apollo at Bassae (c.420 B.C.).
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; capitalcapital,
in architecture, the crowning member of a column, pilaster, or pier. It acts as the bearing member beneath the lintel or arch supported by the shaft and has a spreading contour appropriate to its function.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


A vertical structural compression member or shaft supporting a load, which acts in the direction of its vertical axis and has both a base and a capital, designed to support both an entablature or balcony.

angle column

A freestanding or engaged column placed outside the corner of a building or portico.

baluster column

A short, thick-set column in a subordinate position, as in the windows of early Italian Renaissance facades.

banded column

A column or pilaster with drums alternately larger and smaller, alternately plainer and richer in decoration, or alternately protruding.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in architecture, a vertical support, generally with a circular cross section; an essential element of buildings and other supporting structures. The principal function of a column is to support a vertical load.

The column originated in the architecture of many peoples as an element of the most fundamental type of post-and-lintel construction. The prototypes of the column, wooden posts and stone pillars, bore the weight of the roof beams. The column became an element of the traditional architectural systems, which are commonly known as orders. In classical architectural orders, the main part of the column, the shaft, is fluted and tapered gradually toward the top, sometimes becoming curvilinear or “swollen” (entasis). The shaft often rests on either a plain or ornate base and is crowned with a capital. The column’s proportions, articulation, and modeling, as well as the relationship of its height and diameter with the intercolumniation and with the dimensions of the structure, determine its artistic expressiveness, significance, and impact.

Columns were first used as elements of both the facades and interiors of buildings in ancient Oriental, Greek, and Roman architecture. They were also used to convey a particular sense of scale and to provide rhythmic variation in the surface of a wall. In the architecture of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome the columns were merged with the wall to a certain extent and lost their independent tectonic importance, resulting in the development of three-quarter columns, half columns, pilasters, and the engaged columns that were prevalent in ancient Rome. Originally serving as supports for roof beams, columns were later used as supports for arches and vaults. Some columns stand isolated as monuments and are usually crowned with sculpture. In frame buildings the column is one of the elements of the frame that bears the load from the elements attached to it or resting on it, such as beams, spandrels, and girders. Columns may be made of stone (bricks, rocks, or concrete blocks), reinforced concrete, metal, or wood. In contemporary usage the word “column” often incorrectly designates supports with cross sections of various shapes (square, rectangular, round, I-shaped, bifurcate, or cruciform).


Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitektury, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1970–73.




a formation in which servicemen are placed one behind the other and subunits (vehicles) one behind another.

Columns may consist of files of one, two, three, or more men; they are used to deploy subunits and units in march or line formation. If the column is on the move, the serviceman (or subunit) at the head of the column is called the guide and the one at the rear, the file closer. The distance between the head and the tail of the column is called its depth. In the navy a column is a fleet formation in several lines, each of which is also called a column.

Until the middle of the 19th century, when armies used dense battle formations in combat, the column was a form of troop combat formation. For instance, Napoleon I, A. V. Suvorov, and other generals used company and battalion columns. In the second half of the 19th century the increase in the maximum rate of fire of weapons and in the range and power of aimed fire led to great losses and made the column useless in combat.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a column?

Columns symbolize strength and work, as they usually hold something up. They also represent organization (e.g., columns of numbers to classify groups of entries in accounting, columns of soldiers). A dream about columns may indicate the dreamer is trying to hold up under burdens or to support others.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(analytical chemistry)
In chromatography, a tube holding the stationary phase through which the mobile phase is passed.
(chemical engineering)
(computer science)
A vertical arrangement of characters or other expressions, usually referring to a specific print position on a printer.
A vertical shaft designed to bear axial loads in compression.
A hollow cylinder of water and spray thrown up from an underwater burst of an atomic weapon, through which hot, high-pressure gases are vented to the atmosphere; a somewhat similar column of dirt is formed in an underground explosion. Also known as plume.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A structural member that carries its load in compression along its length. Most frequently, as in a building, the column is in a vertical position transmitting gravity loads from its top down to its base. Columns are present in other structures as well, such as in bridges, towers, cranes, airplanes, machinery, and furniture. Other terms used by both engineers and lay persons to identify a column are pillar, post, and strut. Columns of timber, stone, and masonry have been constructed since the dawn of civilization; modern materials also include steel, aluminum, concrete, plastic, and composite material. See Composite material, Loads, transverse, Structural materials, Structural steel

Modern steel columns are made by rolling, extruding, or forming hot steel into predetermined cross-sectional shapes in the manufacturing facility. Reinforced concrete columns are fabricated either in their final locations (cast-in-place concrete) or in a precast plant (precast concrete) with steel reinforcing rods embedded in the concrete. Masonry columns are usually built in their final locations; they are made of brick or concrete masonry blocks; sometimes steel reinforcing rods are embedded within the masonry. See Brick, Concrete, Masonry, Precast concrete, Reinforced concrete

According to their behavior under load, columns are classified as short, slender, or intermediate. A short column is one whose length is relatively short in comparison to its cross-sectional dimensions and, when loaded to its extreme, fails by reaching the compressive strength of its material. This is called failure in axial compression. A slender column is one whose length is large in comparison to its cross-sectional dimensions and, when loaded to its extreme, fails by buckling (abruptly bending) out of its straight-line shape and suddenly collapsing before reaching the compressive strength of its material. This is called a condition of instability. An intermediate column falls between the classifications of short and slender. When loaded to its extreme, the intermediate column falls by a combination of compression and instability.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. In structures, a relatively long, slender structural compression member such as a post, pillar, or strut; usually vertical, supporting a load which acts in (or near) the direction of its longitudinal axis.
2. In classical architecture, a cylindrical support consisting of a base (except in Greek Doric), shaft, and capital; either monolithic or built up of drums the full diameter of the shaft.
3. A pillar standing alone as a monument. (See illustration p. 232.)
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. an upright post or pillar usually having a cylindrical shaft, a base, and a capital
2. a vertical array of numbers or mathematical terms
3. Botany a long structure in a flower, such as that of an orchid, consisting of the united stamens and style
4. Anatomy Zoology any elongated structure, such as a tract of grey matter in the spinal cord or the stalk of a crinoid
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


A named slice through a database table that includes the same field of each row. For example, a telephone directory table might have a row for each person with a name column and a telephone number column.


A line of memory cells in a dynamic random-access memory, that is selected by a particular column address.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


A vertical set of data or components. Contrast with row.

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References in periodicals archive ?
Addition of 5% PRGF or pretreatment of cells with TNF-[alpha] had no effect on endogenous IL-10 release in untreated cells (gray column and stripped column, resp.).
A few lesions were found in the ventral gray columns. This destructive lesion extended into the caudal medulla.
The ground floor interior reflects a neutral palette of natural stone and wood strip flooring, dark gray columns, and off-white walls and ceilings.