flying buttress


: a masonry structure that typically consists of a straight inclined bar carried on an arch and a solid pier or buttress against which it abuts and that receives the thrust of a roof or vault

Illustration of flying buttress

Illustration of flying buttress

Examples of flying buttress in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web That pinning point sustains pressure against the glacier’s interior, like a flying buttress pressing against the wall of a cathedral. Marissa Grunes, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Jan. 2023 The shelf and the sheet help to stabilize each other, like a flying buttress and a cathedral arch. David W. Brown, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2022 Once upon a time, Americans really only used Madrid as a stopover, maybe spending one night en route to somewhere else—with a broadly recognizable skyline, iconic bridge, flying buttress or other totem easily conjured in the collective imagination. Christian L. Wright, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 The console takes a page from Corvette with a flying buttress separating driver from passenger — doubling as an Oh, Crap! Tribune News Service, cleveland, 5 Mar. 2022 An aerodynamic channel in the rear pillar creates a flying buttress, while the roof is painted black. Caleb Miller, Car and Driver, 11 Nov. 2021 The vault is punctured by three gaping holes, and the flying buttresses are propped up by giant wooden blocks. Aurelien Breeden, New York Times, 15 Apr. 2020 Details – rose windows, gargoyles, flying buttresses – came gradually. Mike Hughes,, 26 Apr. 2020 And the damage threatened the delicate balance of forces between the vault and the cathedral’s flying buttresses: The entire building teetered on possible collapse. Christa Lesté-Lasserre, Science | AAAS, 12 Mar. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'flying buttress.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1669, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of flying buttress was in 1669

Dictionary Entries Near flying buttress

Cite this Entry

“Flying buttress.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

flying buttress

: an arched structure that extends beyond a wall or building and supports it

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