In by Mark Goodman

In architecture, a perpendicular supporting member, circular or rectangular in section, usually consisting of a base, shaft and capital. In engineering, a vertical structural compression member that supports loads acting in the direction of its longitudinal axis.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
column (noun)
a) a vertical arrangement of items printed or written on a page
b) one of two or more vertical sections of a printed page separated by a rule or blank space
c) an accumulation arranged vertically - stack
d) one in a usually regular series of newspaper or magazine articles - gossip column
a supporting pillar , especially one consisting of a usually round shaft, a capital, and a base
a) something resembling a column in form, position, or function - a column of water
b) a tube or cylinder in which a chromatographic separation takes place
a long row (as of soldiers)
one of the vertical lines of elements of a determinant or matrix
a statistical category or grouping - put another game in the win column
column (Wikipedia)
National Capitol Columns at the United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. In other words, a column is a compression member. The term column applies especially to a large round support (the shaft of the column) with a capital and a base or pedestal which is made of stone, or appearing to be so. A small wooden or metal support is typically called a post, and supports with a rectangular or other non-round section are usually called piers. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces. Other compression members are often termed "columns" because of the similar stress conditions. Columns are frequently used to support beams or arches on which the upper parts of walls or ceilings rest. In architecture, "column" refers to such a structural element that also has certain proportional and decorative features. A column might also be a decorative element not needed for structural purposes; many columns are "engaged", that is to say form part of a wall.

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