• synonyms

back staff



an obsolete instrument for determining the altitude of the sun by facing away from the sun, sighting upon the horizon, adjusting a cursor until its shadow falls upon the sight through which the horizon appears, and measuring the resulting arc.


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Nearby words

back scratcher, back seat, back shaft, back shift, back slang, back staff, back stairs, back story, back straight, back street, back stretch

Origin of back staff

First recorded in 1620–30 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for back staff

  • This instrument was known also as "the back-staff" from the position of the observer with his back to the sun when using it.

    Life Aboard a British Privateer in the Time of Queen Anne|Robert C. Leslie