Definition of perpendicular in US English:



  • 1At an angle of 90° to a given line, plane, or surface.

    ‘dormers and gables that extend perpendicular to the main roofline’
    • ‘Your shoulders need to be perpendicular to your target line as the ball comes off your hand.’
    • ‘Before proceeding, however, you must check to be sure these two layout lines are perfectly perpendicular to each other.’
    • ‘Just like the Earth, Saturn's rotational axis is not perpendicular to the plane of its orbit.’
    • ‘Velocity is perpendicular to the line of motion, etc.’
    • ‘The bending plane is normally perpendicular to the axis of the central pair.’
    • ‘The minor axis is perpendicular to the plane of rotation of the galaxy.’
    • ‘These bundles are interspersed, and may extend in all directions though they are largely perpendicular to the outer surface.’
    • ‘These layer lines are perpendicular to the fiber axis in real space.’
    • ‘An anamorph image is produced when the axis of the lens or pinhole is not perpendicular to the film plane.’
    • ‘You created two lines that are perpendicular to each other.’
    • ‘It enters the room at a 30-degree angle, its steps and risers mitered to dramatic points, its uprights perpendicular not to the floor but to its own sloping rails.’
    • ‘Subsequently, one defines planes perpendicular to such lines, positioning them at the midpoint between the connected particles.’
    • ‘When the angle of vision is small every visual ray will be nearly perpendicular to the picture plane.’
    • ‘Each tissue sample was completely immersed and oriented such that the tissue surface was perpendicular to the surface of the embedding medium.’
    • ‘In the initial state, the chains are perpendicular to the dividing surface, meaning that n coincides with N.’
    • ‘Then, since both semicircles are perpendicular to the plane ABC, so is their line of intersection QN.’
    • ‘This implies that the chain was tilted with respect to the surface, while the adenine group was perpendicular to the surface.’
    • ‘The horizontal grid lines are perpendicular to the centerline.’
    • ‘Now rotate the molecule 120° about an axis which is perpendicular to the molecular plane and which passes through the central A atom.’
    • ‘The lines in the miniblotter were perpendicular to the lines of the fixed probes.’
    at right angles, at 90 degrees, square
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    1. 1.1 At an angle of 90° to the ground; vertical.
      ‘the perpendicular cliff’
      • ‘Sloping walls may be sealed as well as vertical, perpendicular walls may be accommodated by the modified flashing.’
      • ‘Without changing your elbow angle, keep your left elbow glued to your side and rotate your left shoulder, raising your forearm vertically as far as you can, aiming for a perpendicular position.’
      • ‘Most people touring the 302-square-kilometre Lushan National Park will be unruffled when they stand in front of perpendicular cliffs and look down on deep valleys.’
      • ‘The elevation of the Planalto exceeds 1000 m at the eastern end close to the Atlantic coast, and the Serra Geral facing the east forms a perpendicular cliff.’
      • ‘It now is closed off by the forestry and is about four feet from the edge of a cliff which has a perpendicular drop of 700 ft overlooking the Masshill road.’
      upright, vertical, erect, plumb, straight, straight up and down, on end, standing, upended
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    2. 1.2 (of something with a slope) so steep as to be almost vertical.
      ‘guest houses seem to cling by faith to the perpendicular hillside’
      steep, sheer, precipitous, abrupt, bluff, vertiginous
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  • 2Denoting the latest stage of English Gothic church architecture, prevalent from the late 14th to mid 16th centuries and characterized by broad arches, elaborate fan vaulting, and large windows with vertical tracery.

    ‘the handsome Perpendicular church of St. Andrew’
    • ‘If he thinks that English Perpendicular is ‘simple, solid, squat’, he's wrong: it is fine-spun and neurotic.’
    • ‘The town was kept going by a fine Abbey, whose last church still stands as one of the final triumphs of the Perpendicular style.’
    • ‘During this hiatus, the elaborate, expensive Decorated style gave way to the less expensive and plainer Perpendicular.’
    • ‘This was unusual: a concave-sided pyramid roof supporting a high flèche rising above a Perpendicular gothic square tower to create a profile curiously reminiscent of the Empire State Building.’
    • ‘The cruciform church has huge Perpendicular windows, which until the C18 retained their medieval stained glass.’
    • ‘The building between 1200 to 1300 is usually referred to as Early English; between 1300 to 1400, the style of building is referred to as Decorated and from 1400 to 1500, it is known as Perpendicular.’
    • ‘A glance at late medieval Scots architecture reveals this: an almost complete absence of English Perpendicular forms and all-pervasive analogies with French Flamboyant.’
    • ‘This reaction produced the most English style of all, the Perpendicular.’
    • ‘Construction of the chapel was begun in 1475 by Edward IV and completed under Henry VIII in 1528 and represents one of the finest examples in the country of the Perpendicular Gothic style.’
    • ‘The Round Tower was remodelled, and then ranges of new buildings in the perpendicular style were erected around the Upper Ward to provide better accommodation and perhaps to enhance the castle's skyline.’
    • ‘The cathedral is the former Perpendicular parish church, reconstructed in 1880, with further extensions completed in 1966.’


  • 1A straight line at an angle of 90° to a given line, plane, or surface.

    ‘at each division draw a perpendicular representing the surface line’
    • ‘In other words, x-axis consists of the feet of the perpendiculars from the focus to the tangents to the parabola.’
    • ‘The curve value is the number of degrees formed by the angle of intersection of these perpendiculars.’
    • ‘The long axis and the perpendicular of each wheal were measured and mean wheal size calculated.’
    • ‘Roughly 50-60% of the cool air coming in is diverted by the perpendiculars of the optical and/or hard drives.’
    • ‘An additional collection of perpendiculars makes the full crease pattern foldable.’
    • ‘From the vertices of ABC drop perpendiculars on the transversal.’
    • ‘For insertion in the proximal tibia, the spinal needle is directed inferiorly at a 45-degree angle from the perpendicular.’
    • ‘We proceed by constructing the perpendiculars at A and B to the line AB and bisecting the right angles at A and B.’
    1. 1.1usually the perpendicular Perpendicular position or direction.
      ‘the wall declines from the perpendicular a little inward’
      • ‘It is gilded, sinuous (especially in the context of Lower Manhattan's perpendiculars and horizontals) and represents Civic Fame.’


Late Middle English (as an adverb meaning ‘at right angles’): via Old French from Latin perpendicularis, from perpendiculum ‘plumb line’, from per- ‘through’ + pendere ‘to hang’.