from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The roughly triangular space between the left or right exterior curve of an arch and the rectangular framework surrounding it.
  • n. The space between two arches and a horizontal molding or cornice above them.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The space (often triangular) between the outer curve of an arch (the extrados) and a straight-sided figure that bounds it; the space between two contiguous arches and a straight feature above them
  • n. The triangular space under a stair; the material that fills the space
  • n. A horizontal member between the windows of each storey of a tall building
  • n. An oriental rug having a pattern of arches; the design in the corners of such a rug, especially in a prayer rug
  • n. A phenotypic characteristic that evolved as a side effect of a true adaptation

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The irregular triangular space between the curve of an arch and the inclosing right angle; or the space between the outer moldings of two contiguous arches and a horizontal line above them, or another arch above and inclosing them.
  • n. A narrow mat or passe partout for a picture.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In architecture, the triangular space comprehended between the outer curve or extrados of an arch, a horizontal line drawn through its apex, and a vertical line through its springing; also, the wall-space between the outer moldings of two arches and a horizontal line or string-course above them, or between these outer moldings and the intrados of another arch rising above and inclosing the two.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an approximately triangular surface area between two adjacent arches and the horizontal plane above them


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English spaundrell, probably from spandre, space between supporting timbers, from Anglo-Norman spaundre, from spandre, to spread out, from Latin expandere; see expand.


  • Years ago, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin borrowed the term spandrel from architecture to illustrate an important consequence of the way evolution works.

    Designs, Intelligent and Stupid

  • This is an example of a byproduct or what Stephen Jay Gould famously called a spandrel -- a trait that has no benefit and can be very costly, but remains in the population by being connected to other traits that do have a benefit.

    David Sloan Wilson: Atheism as a Stealth Religion III: Four Questions and Six Possible Answers

  • Well, a spandrel is the small brass ornament at the corner that fills in the triangular gap left between the circular face and the square outline of the case.

    Christopher and the Clockmakers

  • The horizontal beam, known as a spandrel, was designed to hold up floor sections of the deck, according to David Tyndall, of Gateway Development, the owners of the Centergy Building and parking deck. - Local News

  • 43 A spandrel is an architectural term that designates the “tapering triangular spaces formed by the intersection of two rounded arches at right angles.”

    The Edge of Evolution

  • The fact that we know those stories are fictional may indeed make such exercise a "spandrel," an unnecessary side effect of our brains 'power to find order in facts.

    Archive 2008-01-01

  • Community is important but is, in many cases, a 'spandrel' of sorts.

    Big and Small Bear

  • This isn't quite what Gould means by "spandrel", but it's close.

    A Tale of Two Games

  • This comes close to being the sort of "spandrel" that Ron Pies discusses in his critique of Lehrer's article.

    ScienceBlogs Channel : Life Science

  • David Tyndall, head of Gateway Development, which owns the decks, told WSB-TV Wednesday the floors collapsed because a "spandrel" beam - an exterior beam that extends from column to column and marks the floor level between stories - "popped out." - News


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  • See "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme," Gould and Lewontin, available here.

    July 15, 2009

  • "The 'Stephen Jay Gould line' was that scientists were too quick to apply evolutionary explanations to everything. Some features of our lives did not result from adaptation, he argued, but are just accidental by-products of other evolutionary changes. Gould called these biological artifacts 'spandrels.'"

    -- Christine Kenneally, The First Word, p54

    July 15, 2009

  • In Stephen Jay Gould's "pluralistic evolution" schema, he used spandrel as a metaphor to indicate an exaptationary structure. A spandrel is a byproduct of an otherwise purposeful construction, which, then, in a biological rather than architectural process of natural selection is used as 'fresh meat' for further adaption. In architecture, a spandrel, being a serendipitous space, is frequently the site of decoration.

    May 27, 2008

  • 1. In architecture, the roughly triangular space between the left or right exterior curve of an arch and the rectangular framework surrounding it.

    2. In philately, the decoration occupying the space at the corner of a stamp, between the border and an oval or circular central design.

    July 20, 2007