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finial at peak of gable (illustration by Viollet-le-Duc, 1856)


late Middle English: finial < Old French: fin or Latin: finis ‘end’ + -ial



finial (plural finials)

  1. The knot or bunch of foliage, or foliated ornament, that forms the upper extremity of a pinnacle in Gothic architecture.
    • 1924, Herman Melville, Billy Budd, London: Constable & Co., Chapter 24, [1]
      Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial.
    • 2004, Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty, Bloomsbury, 2005, Chapter 3,
      The steep slate roofs were topped with bronze finials so tall and fanciful they looked like drops of liquid sliding down a thread.
  2. Any decorative fitting at the peak of a gable, or on the top of a flagpole, fence post or staircase newel post.


  • 1988 : It was a narrow, gravelled island we had to lie on, guarded by glazed brick chimneys and, running along the sides, a prickly little gothic fence of iron finials and terracotta quatrefoils. - Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming Pool Library, (Penguin Books, paperback edition, 142)


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