AskDefine | Define pinnacle

Dictionary Definition



1 (architecture) a slender upright spire at the top of a buttress of tower
2 the highest level or degree attainable; "his landscapes were deemed the acme of beauty"; "the artist's gifts are at their acme"; "at the height of her career"; "the peak of perfection"; "summer was at its peak"; "...catapulted Einstein to the pinnacle of fame"; "the summit of his ambition"; "so many highest superlatives achieved by man"; "at the top of his profession" [syn: acme, height, elevation, peak, summit, superlative, top]
3 a lofty peak


1 surmount with a pinnacle; "pinnacle a pediment"
2 raise on or as if on a pinnacle; "He did not want to be pinnacled"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The highest point.
  2. A tall, sharp and craggy rock or mountain.


The highest point
A tall, sharp and craggy rock or mountain


  1. to put something on a pinnacle


to put something on a pinnacle

Extensive Definition

A pinnacle (from Latin pinnaculum, a little feather, pinna, compare panache) is an architectural ornament originally forming the cap or crown of a buttress or small turret, but afterwards used on parapets at the corners of towers and in many other situations. The pinnacle looks like a small spire. It was mainly used in Gothic architecture.
The pinnacle had two purposes:
  1. Ornamental - adding to the loftiness and verticity of the structure. They sometimes ended with statues, such as in Milan Cathedral.
  2. Structural - the pinnacles were very heavy and often rectified with lead, in order to enable the flying buttresses to contain the stress of the structure vaults and roof. This was done by adding compressive stress (a result of the pinnacle weight) to the thrust vector and thus shifting it downwards rather than sideway.


Some have stated that there were no pinnacles in the Romanesque style, but conical caps to circular buttresses, with finial terminations, are not uncommon in France at very early periods. Viollet-le-Duc gives examples from St Germer and St Remi, and there is one of similar form at the west front of Rochester Cathedral.
In the 12th-century Romanesque two examples have been cited, one from Bredon in Worcestershire, and the other from Cleeve in Gloucestershire. In these the buttresses run up, forming a sort of square turret, and crowned with a pyramidal cap, very much like those of the next period, the Early English.
In this and the following styles, and mainly in Gothic architecture, the pinnacle seems generally to have had its appropriate uses. It was a weight to counteract the thrust of the vaults, particularly where there were flying buttresses; it stopped the tendency to slip of the stone copings of the gables, and counterpoised the thrust of spires; it formed a pier to steady the elegant perforated parapets of later periods; and in France especially served to counterbalance the weight of overhanging corbel tables, huge gargoyles, etc.
In the Early English period the small buttresses frequently finished with gablets, and the more important with pinnacles supported with clustered shafts. At this period the pinnacles were often supported on these shafts alone, and were open below; and in larger work in this and the subsequent periods they frequently form niches and contain statues. About the Transition and during the Decorated Gothic period, the different faces above the angle shafts often finish with gablets. Those of the last-named period are much richer, and are generally decorated with crockets and finials, and sometimes with ballflowers. Very fine groups are found at Beverley Minster and at the rise of the spire of St Marys, Oxford. Perpendicular pinnacles differ but little from Decorated, except that the crockets and finials are of later character. They are also often set angle-ways, particularly on parapets, and the shafts are panelled.
In France pinnacles, like spires, seem to have been in use earlier than in England. There are small pinnacles at the angles of the tower in the abbey of Saintes. At Roullet there are pinnacles in a similar position, each composed of four small shafts, with caps and bases surmounted with small pyramidal spires. In all these examples the towers have semicircular-headed windows.


pinnacle in Catalan: Pinacle
pinnacle in Czech: Fiála
pinnacle in German: Fiale
pinnacle in Spanish: Pináculo
pinnacle in French: Pinacle
pinnacle in Galician: Pináculo
pinnacle in Italian: Pinnacolo
pinnacle in Hebrew: פינקל
pinnacle in Dutch: Pinakel
pinnacle in Polish: Pinakiel
pinnacle in Portuguese: Pináculo
pinnacle in Russian: Пинакль
pinnacle in Finnish: Pinaakkeli
pinnacle in Swedish: Fial

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acme, acme of perfection, all, antenna tower, apex, apogee, barbican, belfry, bell tower, brow, campanile, cap, ceiling, climax, cloud nine, colossus, column, consummation, crest, crown, culmen, culmination, cupola, derrick, dome, edge, end, extreme, extreme limit, extremity, fire tower, heaven, heavens, height, high noon, highest degree, highest pitch, highest point, hilltop, knoll, lantern, last word, lighthouse, limit, lofty peak, martello, martello tower, mast, maximum, meridian, minaret, monument, mountaintop, ne plus ultra, no place higher, noon, nth degree, obelisk, observation tower, pagoda, peak, perfection, pic, pico, pike, pilaster, pillar, pink, pink of perfection, pitch, point, pole, precipice, pylon, pyramid, ridge, seventh heaven, shaft, sky, skyscraper, spire, spur, standpipe, steeple, stupa, summit, television mast, the whole, tip, tip-top, top, tope, tor, tour, tower, turret, ultimate, upmost, upper extremity, uppermost, utmost, utmost extent, uttermost, vertex, very top, water tower, windmill tower, zenith
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