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a stone structure like a fence around the edge of a balcony or other area higher than the ground

Origin and usage

The word balustrade derives from the Greek word ‘balaustion’, which refers to the flower of a wild pomegranate. This flower resembles the curved parts of a pillar, hence the modern noun balustrade, which refers to a rail connected with a row of supporting posts.


The word balustrade is used to denote a protective barrier that is made up of a series of small vertical pillars topped by a handrail. A balustrade is often found surrounding a balcony, stairway or piece of furniture, creating a support that is ornate or practical, or both.

When the sister of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, died in 2002, her son Viscount Linley sold off a range of her possessions at auction. One of the items for sale was a cast-iron white balustrade which was located in his mother’s private garden in the grounds of Kensington Palace. However, Viscount Linley eventually decided to gift the balustrade to the nation rather than selling it, and the structure remains in situ.


“And, from the profound immobility of his whole body, barely agitated at intervals by an involuntary shiver, as a tree is moved by the wind; from the stiffness of his elbows, more marble than the balustrade on which they leaned…”

Victor Hugo

“At the end of the evening, she saw Dagny in a corner of the ballroom, sitting on a balustrade as if it were a fence rail, her legs dangling under the chiffon skirt as if she were dressed in slacks.”

Ayn Rand


handrail, rail, guardrail, railing

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

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