AskDefine | Define finial

Dictionary Definition

finial n : an ornament at the top of a spire or gable; usually a foliated fleur-de-lis

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The knot or bunch of foliage, or foliated ornament, that forms the upper extremity of a pinnacle in Gothic architecture.
  2. Any decorative fitting at the peak of a gable, or on the top of a flagpole, fence post or staircase newel post.


  • 1988 : It was a narrow, gravelled island we had to lie on, guarded by glazed brick chimneys and, running along the sides, a prickly little gothic fence of iron finials and terracotta quatrefoils. - Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming Pool Library, (Penguin Books, paperback edition, 142)


Extensive Definition

The finial is an architectural device, typically carved in stone and employed to decoratively emphasize the apex of a gable, or any of various distinctive ornaments at the top, end, or corner of a building or structure. Smaller finials can be used as a decorative ornament on the ends of curtain rods or applied to chairs and furniture. These are frequently seen on top of bed posts or clocks. Decorative finials are also commonly used to fasten lampshades, and as an ornamental element at the end of the handles of souvenir spoons. Finials can also be decorative members at the ends of curtain rods. An architectural finial can also function as a lightning rod, and was once believed to act as a deterrent to witches on broomsticks attempting to land on one's roof. Finial is also a term given to straw animals at the ridges of thatched cottages. Finial maker is the term given to the artisan that makes the straw animal.


A "ball-style" finial is commonly mounted to the top of a stationary flagpole. This is sometimes (mistakenly) called a "truck", which is the mechanism that connects the finial to the pole. An urban legend says the ball contains a razor, lighter, and flare. According to the legend, the items were meant to be used to destroy the flag in case the post was overrun by the enemy. A related and less pleasant version says the finial should have a bullet, knife, and matches so the last surviving soldier can continue fighting (with the knife), and if need be destroy the flag with matches (to prevent it from being captured), and take his own life with the bullet.

See also

External links

finial in Afrikaans: Kruisblom
finial in Danish: Korsblomst (arkitektur)
finial in German: Kreuzblume
finial in Galician: Florón (arquitectura)
finial in Upper Sorbian: Alpska křižnička
finial in Dutch: Kruisbloem (gotiek)
finial in Polish: Kwiaton
finial in Portuguese: Florão (arquitectura)
finial in Russian: Шпиль (архитектура)
finial in Swedish: Fial
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