• synonyms


  1. Surveying. a precision instrument having a telescopic sight for establishing horizontal and sometimes vertical angles.Compare transit(def 6).
  2. phototheodolite.
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Origin of theodolite

First recorded in 1565–75, theodolite is from the New Latin word theodolitus < ?
Related formsthe·od·o·lit·ic [thee-od-l-it-ik] /θiˌɒd lˈɪt ɪk/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for theodolite

Historical Examples of theodolite

  • Smithers is an ass with the theodolite, and Hedger's 'trig' is rotten.

    A Lively Bit of the Front

    Percy F. Westerman

  • The telescope of the theodolite may not be absolutely perfect.

    Mount Everest the Reconnaissance, 1921

    Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury

  • The graduations on the circle of the theodolite may not be quite accurate.

    Mount Everest the Reconnaissance, 1921

    Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury

  • At noon I took a latitude "shot" with the three-inch Cary theodolite.

  • A theodolite traverse was run to fix the position of each islet.

British Dictionary definitions for theodolite


  1. a surveying instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles, consisting of a small tripod-mounted telescope that is free to move in both the horizontal and vertical planesAlso called (in the US and Canada): transit
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Derived Formstheodolitic (θɪˌɒdəˈlɪtɪk), adjective

Word Origin for theodolite

C16: from New Latin theodolitus, of uncertain origin
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 theodolite


1570s, of unknown origin (see OED for discussion).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

theodolite in Science


  1. An optical instrument used to measure angles in surveying, meteorology, and navigation. In meteorology, it is used to track the motion of a weather balloon by measuring its elevation and azimuth angle. The earliest theodolite consisted of a small mounted telescope that rotated horizontally and vertically; modern versions are sophisticated computerized devices, capable of tracking weather balloons, airplanes, and other moving objects, at distances of up to 20,000 m (65,600 ft).
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.