AskDefine | Define ashlar

Dictionary Definition

ashlar n : a rectangular block of hewn stone used for building purposes

User Contributed Dictionary



From Old French aisselier, from Latin axilla, diminutive of axis ‘board, plank’.




  1. A large square stone; masonry making use of such stone blocks.
    • 1973: Even as I babbled, Jock's massy frame filled the doorway, his ill-hewn ashlar head weaving from side to side, eyes blinking at the light. — Kyril Bonfiglioli, Don't Point That Thing at Me (Penguin 2001, p. 108)

Extensive Definition

Ashlar is dressed stone work of any type of stone. Ashlar blocks are large rectangular blocks of masonry sculpted to have square edges and even faces. The blocks are generally 13 to 15 inches in height. When smaller than 11 inches, they are usually called "small ashlar".
Ashlar blocks are used in the construction of many old buildings as an alternative to brick. Generally the external face is smooth or polished, occasionally it can be decorated by small grooves achieved by the application of a metal comb, this is usually only used on a softer stone ashlar block. This decoration is known as mason's drag.
Ashlars have symbolic meaning for Freemasons and those in masonic schools.
In Freemasonry, the ashlar comes in two forms: the rough ashlar represents a rough, unprepared or undressed stone, and is an allegory of the uninitiated Freemason prior to his discovering enlightenment; the smooth ashlar represents the dressed stone as used by the experienced stonemason, and is an allegory of the Freemason who, through education and diligence, has achieved enlightenment and who lives an upstanding life.
Both rough and smooth ashlars can be seen around the tracing board in Freemasons' lodges, and can also be seen adorning the Junior and Senior Warden's positions respectively.
The term is frequently used to describe the dressed stone work of prehistoric Greece and Crete, although the dressed blocks are usually much larger than the 13 to 15 inches mentioned above.
ashlar in Catalan: Carreu
ashlar in Danish: Kvadersten
ashlar in German: Werkstein
ashlar in Spanish: Sillar
ashlar in Basque: Harlandu
ashlar in French: Pierre de taille
ashlar in Portuguese: Silhar
ashlar in Swedish: Kvadersten
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