Definition of theodolite in English:



  • A surveying instrument with a rotating telescope for measuring horizontal and vertical angles.

    • ‘Having begun my navigation career with star shots on sextants and theodolites and sun-compasses during the day, I appreciated the technical brilliance of the GPS (the US Global Positioning System).’
    • ‘You could use a surveying device such as a theodolite, moving around in the room, measuring angles to the bulb from different positions, and using trigonometry to work out the distance.’
    • ‘They retrieved all but one of 700 parts and so meticulous was their work - the position of each was plotted with a theodolite and recorded - that even now they could still all be taken back to the exact points where they were found.’
    • ‘Among the instruments shown are compasses, scales, surveying wheels and chains, theodolites, protractors, and quadrants.’
    • ‘The trophy is a 1930s theodolite - which was used for surveying work - and is presented by the institution every year.’
    • ‘Accuracy has a conceptual beauty which was once visible in the look of chronometers and theodolites.’
    • ‘Tracked by theodolite, these balloons indicated the speed and direction of the wind in the upper atmosphere.’
    • ‘Engineers and geodesists today would use the Global Positioning System or laser range-finding theodolites to do this sort of work.’
    • ‘Long says his company hires surveyors who use theodolites to locate the centerlines in both directions for the templates.’
    • ‘Technological advances included a marked wheel for measuring distances accurately, a greatly improved theodolite, and the gradual elimination of picturesque but irrelevant detail.’
    • ‘Any number of homemade traps and snares were primed at any one time, carefully crafted in his toolshed with top-quality materials, and placed with due care by spirit level and theodolite in the garden for maximum bloodletting.’
    • ‘The teenager learnt his trade in the rough rugged country of inland Taranaki, lugging theodolites, slashers and supplies, locating and cutting lines through dense undergrowth and heavy virgin bush.’
    • ‘A bunch of men was clustered around a surveyor's theodolite.’
    • ‘By the 1970s, however, the electronic theodolite began to replace the transit since it could measure angles more accurately on both the horizontal and vertical axes.’
    • ‘He set up his theodolite to get the bearings for the sundial and indicated its orientation on a north-south line.’
    • ‘Then theodolites came along and we ended up with grid patterns.’
    • ‘We did not use a theodolite to fix the position of the whales precisely, so the speed estimates have some inherent inaccuracy.’
    • ‘Then there were his surveying tools: theodolite, plane table, brass scales, parallel ruler.’
    • ‘He designed the pyrometer, the mountain barometer and the large theodolites which were used in the American Coast Survey of 1815, and base-line measuring apparatus.’
    • ‘Near it stands a theodolite, similar to one Morgan used.’


Late 16th century (originally denoting an instrument for measuring horizontal angles): from modern Latin theodelitus, of unknown origin.