A Glossary: Castle Terminology

This castle glossary will name and define the parts of castle architecture, castle structure and construction, knights and siege warfare, and defense terms.
The terms are in English and German. The definitions are in English.

English Word

German Word


Machicolation: der Maschikuli A masonry projection from a curtain wall or tower supported by corbels with opening in the floor through which rocks, boiling water or arrows could be rained down upon attackers.
Mangonel: Unknown A large siege machine in which a missile is held in a cup on a long arm and fired by torsion. Used to hurl large rocks and other large objects at the enemy during a siege.
Masonry: Das Mauerwerk Structures made with stones binded together with mortar. The mortar is usually lime cement or Portland cement. And sometimes a combination of both depending upon the binding requirements.
Merlon: die Zinne That solid part of the wall or tower battlement that with the crenels form the crenelations.
Provides protection to the castle defenders.
Moat: der Burggraben A deep and wide trench around the rampart of the castle. Usually filled with water.
Mortise: das Einzapfen A socket in a timber into which a wooden tenon is joined in a tight secure fit.
Motte: der Hügel A natural or manmade earthen mound upon which a fortification was built.
Mural Towers: die Walltürme A tower built on the top of the curtain wall.
Murder Holes: Ermorden Löcher Holes designed into the ceiling and walls of the gatehouse passageway between the inner and outer gates where arrows, rocks, and boiling water could be dropped or shot at any intruders who made it that far.
Oilette: Unknown The round opening at the base of a loophole. Allows the archer a wider angle view to help locate targets.
Oubliette: der Kerker
die Oublietten
A secret dungeon with a trap-door opening only in the ceiling. Found in certain castles.
Padstone: der Grundpfeiler A stone upon which a timber post is placed.
Palace: das Plais
der Palast
The official residence of the owner of the castle or sovereign.
Palisade: der Schanzpfahl A strong wooden fence or wall built on a Motte or an earthen rampart.
Pantry: die Speisekammer A storeroom for bread, grain, and other dry food.
Parapet: die Brustwehr A protective wall built along the outer top of a wall or tower.
Pilaster: der Wandpfier An auxilary mass of masonry designed to strengthen a wall.
Pillar: die Ständer
die Säule
A vertical structural member that supports the end of an arch or lintel.
Pike: die Pike,
der Spieß
A hand held pole weapon consisting of a long stout pole topped with a curved blade and a sharp spike.
Portcullis: das Fallgatter A vertical sliding grating of iron positioned over a gateway in the gatehouse and lowered between groves to prevent passage.
Postern Gate: das Gatter An small additional gate or door.
Quoins: der Richtkeil The hewn or dressed stones at the corner of a building.
Ramparts: die Wälle A stone wall or a broad earth embankment raised as an addition fortification outside the castle walls.
Revetment: die Verkleidung To face a slope of earthwork with a layer of stone to stabilized and strengthen the slope.
Sallyport: die Sicherheits-
A small usually concealed gate or door in the castle's outer wall.
Shake: der Schüttel
die Schindel
A hand split section of wood used to cover the topside surface a roof.
Usually somewhat thicker than a shingle.
Shield Display Wall: der Schildmauer The wall where the ruler's Coat of Arms is displayed.
Shingle: die Schindei
die Schindel,
die Dachplatte
A tile made from wood and used for roofing material.
Shutters Die Fensterläden,
Die Verschlüsse
A wooden covering for the outside of windows for protection.
Siege: die Belagerung The act of surrounding and attacking a castle, usually a prolonged attack.
Siege Tower: der Belagerungsturm A moveable tall wooden tower that is brought up to a wall and is used to climb over the wall during a siege attack.
Sillbeam: Unknown The horizontal timber at the base of a timber framed building upon which upright posts can be joined to.
Solar: das Wohnzimmer
die Wohnstube
A term commonly used for a small chamber or private sitting room usually off of the great hall.
Originally referred to a private chamber located high up in the keep, with a window that allowed direct sun to enter to warm the room.
Soleplate: die Fundamentplatte A horizontal timber plate between a sillbeam and the masonry foundation in a timber framed building.
Stairway: das Treppenhaus The structure containing one or more flights of steps used for passing from one floor to another.
Provides protection to the castle defenders.
Stockade: der Lattenzaun An enclosure constructed with upright wooden stakes or posts fixed in the ground to form a defensive barrier against attack.
Tenon: der Zapfen A wooden structural piece shaped to tightly and securely fit into a Mortise socket.
Talus: das Talus A huge sloping inner concentric wall which prevented attackers from getting so close that they could not be seen by the castle defenders. Used successfully in the castle: Krak des Chevaliers (Castle of the Knights) a Crusaders castle now in Syria.
Timber: das Bauholz A large squared or dressed piece of wood used for building.
Timbers were used for the structural framework of timber framed portions of the castle.
Timber Framing: die Fachwerk
Bauholz Rahmen
A method of constructing wooden buildings and roof structures using large wooden timbers fastened with carefully made notches and wooden pegs to securely hold the building framework together.
Tower: der Turm A structure that is usually several times or more taller than its diameter. Usually the highest part structural part of a castle.
Trebuchet: Der Wurf Maschinen A siege machine employing a counter weight to power a sling that will throw very heavy objects great distance and with great force.
Treadmill: die Tretmühle Large treadmills were used to provide the force needed to drive the winches that lifted the heavy loads of building materials up to the masons and other skilled workers working on the castle walls and towers during castle construction.
Turret: das Türmchen A small tower build on a larger tower or a wall.
Vault: das Dach An arched structure of masonry usually forming a ceiling or roof.
Wall: der Mauer, or die Wand An upright structure, usually made with stone or brick, that encloses something and is intended for defense or security.
Ward: die Schutzbefohlene
or die Abteilung
The inner courtyard of a castle or an open space within the castle's walls.
Watch tower: der Wachtturm A tower for a lookout at, above, or over the castle's walls.
Wattle: das Flechtwerk A woven structure of wooden twigs placed between timber framed structure to close the walls. The wattling is then covered with Daub.
Winch: die Winde A machine used for moving and lifting heavy objects.
Windless: Unknown A device used to increase the force to make it easier to hoist, tighten, or move objects.
A horizontal barrel supported on vertical posts and turned by a crank so that the hoisting rope is wound around the barrel thereby moving the intended object.
Yett: Unknown A hinged iron grille used to strengthen gates in tower-houses and peel towers.

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This Castle Glossary is believed to be correct and we will continue to enlargen this list as time permits.

If you have questions, suggestions or additions, please contact us at edward@sedelmeier.com

This page was last updated February 18, 2020.