Definition of theodolite in US English:



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

    • ‘Then theodolites came along and we ended up with grid patterns.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Accuracy has a conceptual beauty which was once visible in the look of chronometers and theodolites.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Long says his company hires surveyors who use theodolites to locate the centerlines in both directions for the templates.’
    • ‘The trophy is a 1930s theodolite - which was used for surveying work - and is presented by the institution every year.’
    • ‘Engineers and geodesists today would use the Global Positioning System or laser range-finding theodolites to do this sort of work.’
    • ‘A bunch of men was clustered around a surveyor's theodolite.’
    • ‘He set up his theodolite to get the bearings for the sundial and indicated its orientation on a north-south line.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘Among the instruments shown are compasses, scales, surveying wheels and chains, theodolites, protractors, and quadrants.’
    • ‘Technological advances included a marked wheel for measuring distances accurately, a greatly improved theodolite, and the gradual elimination of picturesque but irrelevant detail.’
    • ‘Near it stands a theodolite, similar to one Morgan used.’
    • ‘Tracked by theodolite, these balloons indicated the speed and direction of the wind in the upper atmosphere.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


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