Definition of Nilometer in US English:



  • A graduated pillar or other vertical surface, serving to indicate the height reached by the Nile during its annual floods.

    • ‘The elevations at the Nilometers throughout Egypt were all tied to a single common datum.’
    • ‘The readings of the Nilometers were relayed downstream to tell the height and progress of the flood, so that preparations could be made to arrange the irrigation most efficiently.’
    • ‘When the water level in the Nilometer was below 6 meters, a famine occurred consequential to failed crop yield.’
    • ‘Basic calibration still found on the Nilometer's walls were used as an efficient measurement tool.’
    • ‘The first Nilometers and mention of their level records go back to the third millennium B.C. and even earlier.’


Early 18th century: via French nilomètre from Greek Neilometrion, from Neilos ‘Nile’ + metron ‘measure’.