University of Iowa Libraries       Lichtenberger Engineering Library

Glossary of Bridge Terminology

Original introduction (p. 1892-1893, Chapter LXXX of J.A.L. Waddell's "Bridge Engineering"
(New York : John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1916)


     THE dimensions to which the following glossary of technical terms used in all branches of bridgework and in its allied constructions has attained are a surprise to all concerned in its preparation. While it is intended to cover only those technical words that are employed in bridge engineering and construction, it includes all lines thereof, from the theory given in the technical schools, through the designing, manufacture of metal, and all other bridge materials, shopwork, inspection, and construction-up to the completion of the finished structure and all the accessory works, such as approaches, shore protection, operating machinery, lighting, and fire protection -- also even the maintenance and operation of finished structures. On this account, many special words used in mechanical and electrical engineering and in water supply have necessarily been inserted. It has been the aim of the author to include, regardless of their evident crudity, the special nomenclature of the workmen which is not to be found in the dictionaries or other glossaries. Elaborate, though, as this glossary certainly is, it is possible that there will be found omitted some words of more or less importance, notwithstanding the extreme care that has been taken to overlook nothing. While making it complete, the aim has been to avoid padding by the exclusion of words that would be of no practical value under any circumstances. Occasionally some far-fetched term has been discarded, mainly because of the inability of all concerned properly to define it; but such cases were rare. Those simple, common, semi-technical words in everyday use, which form a part of the vocabulary of the general public as well as of bridge engineers and constructors, have been omitted, unless a special reason, such as given below, has made it necessary to include them.

     Double words, like "Chinese Windlass," are defined nearly always under the noun, but a cross reference is made under the adjective. Hyphenated words are defined under the letter of the first word. Phrases are given under the dominating or most distinctive word, and are cross-referenced under the subsidiary word or words.

     A group of words related to a single word appears as sub-heads under that word. In some instances, in order to preserve the uniformity of arrangement, it has been necessary to define apparently simple words in order to introduce the sub-headings in their proper places. It is believed that the grouping of sub-headings in this manner will afford the reader a better grasp of the extent and ramifications of a subject than could be gained without such a classification.

     The beginning of the preparation of this glossary dates back more than a dozen years to the time when the author conceived the idea of preparing a dictionary of technical engineering terms in English, French, German, and Spanish. The task proved to be too great for the time that could be spared, and hence was abandoned; but the list of technical terms collected for the purpose formed a good nucleus for this chapter. Later, after the writing of the book was begun, the author enlarged greatly the first list by selecting words from bridge specifications and from books on all subjects relating to steel metallurgy and to bridge engineering and construction, and also by having his numerous field engineers send in lists of special words and phrases used in erection. After all the terms were thus collected and placed in proper order, it was found that they numbered about four thousand, but the author excluded some four hundred of them, mainly because of their not being sufficiently unusual or strictly technical; after which the list was typewritten and made ready for the preparation of the definitions. This last work was done principally by the author's son and future partner, N. Everett Waddell, Esq., C.E.,*  aided by Robert C. Barnett, Esq., C.E., † and the author's brother, R. W. Waddell, Esq., C.E. Finally, the work was checked and revised by the author in person, who desires here to acknowledge with many thanks the valuable assistance and the careful and painstaking work of the three gentlemen just mentioned. They not only defined the old list of terms furnished to them, but also enlarged it fully one-third, mainly by adding derivatives, the number of terms actually defined being about five thousand, and the number cross-referenced about three thousand.

     In view of the large amount of labor and the great care expended on the preparation of this glossary, it is ardently hoped by all concerned in its preparation that it will prove of real service to the engineering profession.

*Now junior member of the firm of Waddell and Son, Consulting Engineers. † Now Associate Engineer of Waddell and Son.