any external prop or support built to steady a structure by opposing its outward thrusts, especially a projecting support built into or against the outside of a masonry wall.
any prop or support.
a thing shaped like a buttress, as a tree trunk with a widening base.
a bony or horny protuberance, especially on a horse's hoof.

verb (used with object)

to support by a buttress; prop up.
to give encouragement or support to (a person, plan, etc.).

Origin of buttress

1350–1400; Middle English butresOld French (arc) boterez thrusting (arch) nominative singular of boteret (accusative), equivalent to boter- abutment (perhaps < Germanic; see butt3) + -et -et
Related formsbut·tress·less, adjectivebut·tress·like, adjectivenon·but·tressed, adjectiveun·but·tressed, adjective

Synonyms for buttress

6. encourage, hearten, support, inspirit, brace, back up, reinforce, shore up.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for buttress

Contemporary Examples of buttress

Historical Examples of buttress

  • The end of the buttress was a foot or two below the level of the leads, where Clara stood.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • I got astride of the buttress, and painfully forced my way up.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • As the buttress does not bond with the wall it was evidently a later addition.

  • Philip was too busy keeping behind the buttress to see who they were who were talking.

    The Magic City

    Edith Nesbit

  • “That ridge along the summit of yonder spur or buttress,” said Dale.

    The Crystal Hunters

    George Manville Fenn

British Dictionary definitions for buttress



Also called: pier a construction, usually of brick or stone, built to support a wallSee also flying buttress
any support or prop
something shaped like a buttress, such as a projection from a mountainside
either of the two pointed rear parts of a horse's hoof

verb (tr)

to support (a wall) with a buttress
to support or sustain

Word Origin for buttress

C13: from Old French bouterez, short for ars bouterez thrusting arch, from bouter to thrust, butt ³
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for buttress

early 14c., from Old French (arc) botrez "flying buttress," apparently from bouter "to thrust against," of Frankish origin (cf. Old Norse bauta "to strike, beat"), from Proto-Germanic *butan, from PIE root *bhau- "to strike" (see butt (v.)).


late 14c., literal and figurative, from buttress (n.). Related: Buttressed; buttressing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper