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Sebastian's Technical Glossaries:

Building & general construction technology dictionary:
technology, architecture, civil, structural, forensic, mechanical, pavement and materials engineering, roofing, and masonry
with elements of testing and quality science

on-line mostly American English/French/Romanian

By A. Sebastian

© 1995 - 2050 A. Sebastian. All rights reserved.

Hosted by A. Sebastian Engineering & Investigation Services

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ASEIS also offers a Construction durability glossary
and a Building pathology glossary

First and foremost, this is a construction dictionary with English explanations. Given the difficulty that faces the Romance language speaker to relate to technical English (and the other way around), whenever possible, the corresponding equivalents are given (where genus choices are possible, only the masculine is shown). Some reference standards are also indicated. If you have a better translation, please e-mail it to us for consideration / inclusion / credit.

Items currently in the works may show in italics.


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C concrete/mortar/grout
Ch chemistry
P paints/coatings
M masonry
R roofing
T testing
Th technology
Tr transportation/pavement engineering
W wood, timber [v] verb
[n] noun

A B C D to L M to Z


AASHTO American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Abandonment Stage Final stage in a product's life cycle.

Abnormal Failure Artificially induced malfunction/failure of a component

Abrasion (F abrasion, R abraziune, frecare)Wear or removal of the surface of a solid material as a result of relative movement of other solid bodies in contact with it (BS CP3)

Abrasion resistance (R rezistenta de frecare) Ability of a construction element to resist mechanical abrasion such as foot traffic and wind blown particles which tend to progressively remove materials from exposed surfaces such as roofing the membranes

Absolute Pressure Transducer A transducer that has an internal reference chamber sealed at or close to 0 psia (full vacuum) and normally provides increasing output voltage for increases in pressure

Absolute Pressure Gage pressure plus atmospheric pressure

Absorbtion (F absorption, R absorbtie) entry and/or retention (of a fluid such as water) into the bulk of a solid material by virtue of the porosity / capilarity (BS 892). Var. Heat absorbtion (R absorbtia radiatiei termice)

Absorbant (R material sicativ, material higroscopic)

Acceleration (R acceleratie) The first derivative of velocity with respect to time. Units expressed in "g"

Accelerometer A transducer which converts mechanical motion into an electrical signal that is proportional to the acceleration value of the motion; it measures acceleration or gravitational force capable of imparting acceleration

Accuracy (R exactitate)The combined error of nonlinearity, repeatability, and hysteresis expressed as a percent of full scale output

Accuracy vs. Precision (R exactitate si precizie)If the actual value is 5.321 and you say that it is 5.30, then you are precise to 3 places but inaccurate by .021. If a value is represented as a bullseye on a target, a group of guesses or measurements represented by closely grouped points have a high degree of precision. If that group is near the center, it is highly accurate as well. On a bullseye, think of accuracy as how close to the center your arrow hits, and your measurement of precision as how closely you can group your shots

Acre (R acru) Area unit of measure: one acre equals 43,560 square feet of land. Also "Builder's Acre" or "Horse Acre" which are less than a full acre (not a legal acre).

Acrylic resin One of a group of thermoplastic resins formed by polymerization of esters or amides of acrylic acid; used in concrete or masonry construction as a bonding agent or surface sealer.

A/D Converter (also mentioned as 'A/D' or 'ADC') analog-to-digital converter. An instrument which converts real-world analog signals into a digital format that can be processed by a computer

Adhesion (F adésion, R adeziune, aderenta, lipire)The force that resists the separation of two bodies in contact (BS 5168). Var. Adhesive (R adeziv, lipici)

Admixture (F adjuvant, R adaos, adaus, aditiv) A material, other than aggregate, cementitious material or water, added in small quantities to the mix in order to produce some (desired) modifications, either to the properties of the mix or of the hardened product (BS 4049).
Var. Admixtures in Portland Cement Concrete (F Les adjuvants du béton de ciment portland):

  1. the best known (F les mieux connus; R cele mai cunoscute): calcium chloride and the air-entraining agent (F le chlorure de calcium et l'agent entraîneur d'air). Unfortunately, calcium chloride has a number of side effects that are generally deleterious (F malheureusement, le chlorure de calcium provoque un certain nombre d'effets secondaires qui sont généralement dommageables)
  2. accelerators (F accélérateurs)
  3. set-retarders (F retardateurs de prise): salts of lignosulphonic and hydroxy carboxylic acids (F les sels des acides lignosulfoniques et des oxacides carboxyliques). Some use is made of detergents, sugars, and, more recently, of silicones (F on utilise aussi les détergents, les sucres, et plus récemment, les silicones)
  4. water-reducers (F réducteurs d'eau) and workability agents (F plastifiants)> By lowering the mix water requirement they make possible an increase in compressive strength for a given cement content and slump (F en abaissant la quantité d'eau de gâchage requise, ils augmentent la résistance à la compression pour une teneur en ciment et un affaissement donnés)
  5. lesser known admixtures (F des adjuvants moins connus): corrosion inhibitors (R aditivi anticorozivi), expansion producing agents, and color pigments (F les inhibiteurs de corrosion, les agents d'expansion et les pigments).

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Adobe (R chirpici) Spanish word for a sun-dried brick as well as for the clay from which the bricks are made. Composed of a very fine mixture of clay, quartz, among other minerals, adobe is plastic and can be molded easily when moist into bricks, which receive straw as the only addition. These bricks are baked in the sun for 7 to 14 days. Because they disintegrate when wet, adobe bricks are used only in regions of limited rainfall, such as the southwestern region of the United States.

Adsorbtion (F adsorption, R adsorptie, adsorbtie) Attachment of a substance to the surface of a solid by virtue of forces arising from molecular attraction (BS 892). Retention (of water vapor) as a surface layer on a material

AEC (US) Atomic Energy Commission, 1947-1974. Broken up in 1974 into the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Later ERDA became the Department of Energy

Aggregate (R agregate)

  1. any granular mineral material
  2. a : crushed stone, crushed slag, or water-worn gravel used for surfacing a built-up roof
    b : any of several inert materials, either hard (such as crushed rock, sand, gravel, and crushed slag) or semi-soft (such as rubber) used for mixing with a cementing materials to form concrete, mortar, grout, asphalt or plaster c : a clustered mass of individual soil particles varied in shape, ranging in size from a microscopic granule to a small crumb, and considered the basic structural unit of soil. Inert materials added to a mix in order to save on more expensive ingredients and impart special properties.
  3. an aggregate rock
See ASTM C33 (aggregate for concrete), C144 (aggregate for masonry mortar)

Air barrier (F pare air)

  1. Air barrier continuity (F Continuité du pare air)
  2. to provide effective air leakage control (F pour limiter avec efficacité les fuites d'air)
  3. the masonry wall illustrated in Figure xxx employs a reinforced, modified asphalt air barrier membrane that is self adhered and mechanically fastened to the concrete block back up (F le mur de maçonnerie illustré à la figure xxx, par exemple, comporte une membrane pare air bitumineuse modifiée, renforcée, auto adhésive et assujettie au mur de remplissage en blocs de béton à l'aide de fixations mécaniques)
  4. air seal in the window (F l'étanchéité à l'air dans la fenêtre): "the air seal in the window is provided by the frame section inside the thermal break and the glazing unit seal at the frame (F l'étanchéité à l'air dans la fenêtre est assurée par la section du dormant se trouvant à l'intérieur de la coupure thermique et par le joint d'étanchéité du vitrage au niveau du dormant)

Aluminum ("aluminium' in Canada and most Europe) (F Aluminium, R Aluminiu) symbol Al, most abundant metallic element in the earth's crust. The atomic number of aluminum is 13; the atomic weight is 26.9815. Aluminum is a lightweight, silvery metal. In contact with air, aluminum rapidly becomes covered with a tough, transparent layer of aluminum oxide that resists corrosion. Aluminum is never found as alone but commonly occurs as aluminum silicate or as a silicate of aluminum mixed with other metals. Expensive to refine, these silicates are not useful ores. Bauxite, an impure hydrated aluminum oxide, is the commercial source of aluminum and its compounds. A low-cost technique dating from the 1880s is still the major method of production. Aluminum weighs less than one-third as much as steel. Its high strength-to-weight ratio makes aluminum useful in many applications

Ambient (F ambiant, R ambiant, inconjurator)Surrounding. Usually used in the context of environmental conditions, eg. temperature or noise (BS 4275)

Ambient Compensation The design of an instrument such that changes in ambient temperature do not affect the readings of the instrument

Ambient Conditions (R conditii inconjuratoare) Conditions around a transducer (pressure, temperature, etc.)

  • ~ Pressure Pressure of the air surrounding a transducer
  • ~ Temperature The average or mean temperature of the surrounding air which comes in contact with the equipment and instruments under test

    Anchor (F ancrage, R ancora) Device providing a fixing to a solid surface. Var. "tension ~" (R tirant)=tie-rod

    Anemometer (R anemometru) Instrument for measuring and/or indicating the velocity of air flow

    Anion (R anion) Negatively charged ion (Cl-, NO3-, S2-, etc.)

    ANSI American National Standards Institute: this organization represents the United States in the ISO (International Organization for Standardization)

    Application Program Computer program that accomplishes specific tasks, such as word processing

    Appraisal A somewhat subjective estimate of the market value of a property, often based solely upon the sale prices of other more or less similar properties in the same area. Lenders will base the size of the mortgage they are willing to approve in part on the appraised value as determined by a real estate appraiser.

    Appreciation An increase in property value, sometimes reflecting inflation or a business potential.

    Appurtenance Any constructed constructable secondary facility somehow annexed to a main building. It could be either attached or not (i.e., a shed to a house, or an easement to land) and it will pass as part of the main property upon sale.

    Assessment Estimated value of a property as established by local officials for purposes of calculating the property taxes owed. The assessed valued may or may not be equal to the appraised value. Also "Assessor"

    ASME American Society of Mechanical Engineers

    Asphalt (R Asfalt) Black petroleum residue, which can be anywhere from solid to semisolid at room temperature. When heated to the temperature of boiling water, it becomes pourable. It is used in roofing materials, surfacing roads, in lining the walls of water-retaining structures such as reservoirs and swimming pools, and in manufacturing floor tiles. Asphalt should not be confused with tar, a similar looking substance made from coal or wood and incompatible with petroleum derivates

    ASTM American Society for Testing and Materials

    Atomic Number (symbolized Z) (R Numar Atomic)The number of protons in a nucleus. It determines the chemical properties of an element

    Atomic Weight (R greutate atomica) The nominal atomic weight of an isotope is given by the sum of the number of neutrons and protons in each nucleus. The exact atomic weight differs fractionally from that whole number because neutrons are slightly heavier than protons and the mass of the nucleus is also affected by the binding energy

    Auto-Zero Automatic internal correction for offsets and/or drift at zero voltage input

    AWG American Wire Gage

    AWS Automated Weather Station measures environmental factors such as air temperature, relative humidity, rain, wind, ground temperature, solar radiation and air pressure

    Axial Load (R incarcare axiala) Load applied along or parallel to and concentric with the primary axis

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    A. Sebastian: "Essential Construction & Architectural Engineering Dictionary"

    Webster, formerly known as a "Dictionary of the American Language" (whatever that might mean)

    American Heritage Dictionary

    Encarta, a barely passable product from a much less than passable corporation

    Echo-Eurodicatum: although sliding down fast, it is still the power house to beat in web multilingual dictionaries (

    TechDico, Logos (

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