The Most Used Engineering Terminology Defined


The most used engineering terminology can be confusing to the average consumer. Understanding the common jargon used in structural engineering can help you communicate with your architect, engineer, or construction manager more effectively.

Beam
A structural member, usually horizontal, with a main function to carry loads cross-ways to its longitudinal axis. These loads usually result in bending of the beam member. Examples of beams are simple, continuous, and cantilever.

Beam-Column
This is a structural member whose main function is to carry loads both parallel and transverse to the longitudinal axis.

Cantilever
Cantilever refers to the part of a member that extends freely over a beam, which is not supported at its end.

Collateral Load

Collateral load is additional dead loads (not the weight of people and not the weight of the building itself), such as plumbing, duct work, ceilings, and other components of the structure.

Column
A column is a main vertical member that carries axial loads from the main roof beams or girders to the foundation parallel to its longitudinal axis.

Continuity
Continuity is the term given to a structural system describing the transfer of loads and stresses from member to member as if there were no connections.

Damping
Damping is the rate of decay of amplitude for floor vibrations.

Dead Load
Dead load describes the loads from the weight of the permanent components of the structure.

Deflection
Deflection is the displacement of a structural member or system under a load.

Dynamic Load
This type of load varies over time.

Footing
A footing is a slab of concrete under a column, wall, or other structural to transfer the loads of the member into the surrounding soil.

Foundation
A foundation supports a building or structure.

G-Type Joist Girder
A type of Joist Girder using joists located at panel points where diagonal webs intersect the top chord of the joist only.

Gable
A gable is located above the elevation of the eave line of a double-sloped roof.

Gage
Gage can refer to the thickness of a sheet of material or the distance between centerlines in a set of holes, usually perpendicular to the joist or joist girder.

Girder
A girder is the main horizontal member spanning between two main supports and carries other members or vertical loads within the structure.

Grade
The ground elevation of the soil.

Header
A member that carries other supporting members and is placed between other beams.

Hip Roof
A roof sloping from all four sides of a building.

Joist
A structural load-carrying member with an open web system which supports floors and roofs utilizing hot-rolled or cold-formed steel and is designed as a simple span member.

Kip
1000 pounds.

Live Load
Non-permanent loads on a structure created by the use of the structure.

Load
An outside force that affects the structure or its members.

Modulus of Elasticity (E)
The value is usually 29,000 ksi for structural steels and is also called Young’s Modulus. It calculates the slope of the straight-line portion of the stress-strain curve in the elastic range.

Moment
Moment is the tendency of a force to cause a rotation about a point or axis which in turn produces bending stresses.

Moment of Inertia (I)
A measure of the resistance to rotation offered by a member’s geometry and size.

Pitch
Pitch is the slope of a member defined as the ratio of the total rise to the total width

Reaction
Reaction is the force or moment developed at the points of a support.

Seismic Load
Loads produced during the seismic movements of an earthquake.

Shear
Forces resulting in two touching parts of a material to slide in opposite directions parallel to their plane of contact.

Span
The distance between supports.

Structural Steels
Steels suitable for load-carrying members in a structure.

Strut
A structural brace that resists axial forces.

Stud
A vertical wall member used to attach other structures, such as walls.

Torsion Loads
A load that causes a member to twist about its longitudinal axis. A couple or moment in a plane perpendicular to the axis produces simple torsion.

These most used structural engineering terminology definitions provide a baseline understanding of engineering jargon for the average consumer. Detailed definitions can be obtained from visiting a professional engineering website or professional journal.

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