Cave-survey dictionary (1998)

[ Note: This page and its links have not been updated since 1998; today's "Cavers Multi-lingual Dictionary" can be found at ]

On February 1998, Graziano Ferrari started developing a cave-survey handbook for the italian caving community. As a contribution to international communication in cave survey, he decided to add a small dictionary to the handbook. So, he sent a message to the cave-surveying maillist asking for cooperation. Many cavers answered, giving contributions on several languages.
Later on, the dictionary contributed to the ongoing work on a caving dictionary, coordinated by Dr. Attila Kosa within the UIS Informatics Commission.
Of course, further contribution (particularly more languages) and correction of mistakes is welcome. Please write to Graziano Ferrari.


Coordination:  Graziano Ferrari
Italian language: Giulio Cappa, Giuliano Donzellini, Graziano Ferrari
Franch language: Eric Madelaine
American english language: Dean Osgood
Dutch language: Ed Stevenhagen
Portoguese language: Danilo Allegrini
Spanish language: Jose Aguilera
German language: Michael Krause
Hungarian language: Attila Kosa

other sources:

Marc Faverjon
Ken Grimes
Peter Matthews


Have a look at the Caver's Dictionary Working Group list of links !


Cave survey maillist:
Cavedata maillist:

 Symbols used

Language standard symbols accordingly to 
ISO standard ISO-639 
(english name)
(national name)
DE German Deutsch
EN English English
ES Spanish Español
FR French Français
HU Hungarian Magyar
IT Italian Italiano
NL Dutch Nederlander
PT Portuguese Portuguese

The Cave Survey Multi-Lingual Dictionary

The dictionary contains words relevant to cave survey. Common caving terms, such as room, passage, pit, cave, rope, etc. are to be searched in the general Caver's Multi-Lingual Dictionary.
The dictionary is alphabetically ordered on the english terms. A term explanation (in english) and a set of translations in several languages is provided for each term.
Red coloured words are terms defined elsewhere in the dictionary.
To avoid confusion, no internal links are provided within the dictionary (luckily, the cave survey dictionary is small...).


Accuracy is related to the systematic error magnitude in a measurement. A measurement is more accurate the littler systematic error it is affected by. In other words, the average of several accurate measurements falls very near to the actual value (but single measurements can be spread on a large interval, due to accidental errors). Calibration helps in improving accuracy.
See also: precision.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: accuratezza NL:  PT: 


An instrument which determines the elevation af an object, usually through differences in atmospheric pressure.
DE: Höhenmesser ES: altímetro FR: altimètre HU:
IT: altimetro NL: hoogtemeter PT: altìmetro


The angle measured clockwise that a line makes with the north line. True, magnetic and grid bearings are measured respectively from true, magnetic and grid north.
The usual instrument to measure bearings is the compass.
DE: Azimut, Richtung  ES:  FR: azimuth,direction HU: irány
IT: direzione, azimut NL: Azimut, kaarthoek PT: 


The evaluation of the systematic error of an instrument. On a compass, the normal calibration procedure includes also the declination.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: calibrazione, taratura NL:  PT: 

centre line

see survey line.


An instrument for measuring vertical angles or angles of dip.
DE: Neigungsmesser  ES: clinómetro FR: clinomètre HU:
IT: clinometro, ecclimetro NL: clinometer  PT: clinômetro

closed traverse

A traverse which begins and ends at stations with known coordinates or at the same station.
DE: geschlossener Messzug, geschlossener Polygonzug ES: poligonal cerrada FR: boucle, cheminement fermée HU:
IT: poligonale chiusa, anello NL: volledig aangesloten veehoek  PT: poligonal fechada 

closure error, (traverse) misclosure

 The difference in coordinates between the last station of a closed transverse and its expected position (known coordinates or first station coordinates).
DE: Abschlussfehler  ES: error de cierre  FR: erreur de bouclage, ecart de fermeture  HU:
IT: errore di chiusura (della poligonale) NL: sluitfout (van een veelhoek)  PT: erro de fechamento da poligonal 


An instrument with a magnetic needle which is free to point to magnetic north. For survey the needle is either attached to a graduated card or can be read against a graduated circle to measure the angle in degrees from the north clockwise.
DE: Kompaß  ES: brújula  FR: boussole  HU: compasz
IT: bussola  NL: kompas  PT: bùssola


Linear or angular quantities which designate the position that a point occupies in a given reference frame or system.
DE: Koordinaten ES:  FR: coordonnées  HU:
IT: coordinate NL: Coordinaten  PT: 

cross section

A section of a cave passage or a chamber across its width.
A section which is substantially perpendicular to the general direction of the greatest dimension of the cross-sectioned part of the cave, that describes the shape of the passage or chamber.
DE: Querschnitt, Gangquerschnitt, Profil ES: sección transversal FR: coupe transversale, section, profil (en travers) HU: kereszmetszet
IT: sezione trasversale NL: dwarsdoorsnede  PT: seção transversal 


The angle from true- (or grid-) north to magnetic north for a given time and place.
DE: Deklination  ES:  FR: déclinaison  HU:
IT: declinazione (magnetica)  NL: Declinatie (magnetische-) PT: 


A unit for measurement of plane angles, equal to 1/360 of a complete revolution, or 1/90 of a right angle.
DE: Altgrad  ES: grado (sexagesimal) FR: degré  HU:
IT: grado (sessagesimale) NL: graden (sexagesimaal)  PT: grau 


The vertical distance between a point and a specified level, usually the floor of the main entrance of a cave.
DE: Tiefe ES: profundidad  FR: profondeur  HU:
IT: profondità NL: diepte PT: desnível


Related term: traverse length.
The sum of the actual lengths of all the cave passages (planimetric development is the sum of the horizontal lengths).
The development must not be confused with the traverse length, that is the sum of all the lengths in a traverse.
Development can be computed with the continuity principle or with the discontinuity principle. The UIS official system is the discontinuity principle.
DE: Gesamtganglänge, GGL ES: desarrollo FR: développement  HU:
IT: sviluppo  NL: ??? PT: desenvolvimento


see slope
Note: dip is usually related to geological bedding planes slope.


A line on the ground at a cave entrance formed by the projection of the cave roof beginning (as by hypotetical drips from the rock above). Useful in cave survey to define the beginning of the cave.
DE: Trauflinie ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: linea di volta dell'ingresso NL: Druppellijn PT: 


  1. The distance of a point east of the point of origin of the grid of a map.
  2. The west-east component of a survey leg, or of a series of legs or of a complete traverse; east is positive and west is negative.
DE: ??? ES:  FR: ??? HU:
IT: spostamento (in pianta) verso Est  NL: Easting PT: ??? 

elevation (1), profile, section

A plot of the shape and details of a cave in an intersecting plane, called the section plane which is usually vertical. See cross section, (extended) elevation, (projected) elevation.
The trace or outline of the details to be mapped representing their intersection with a chosen section plane.
DE: Querschnitt ES: alzado FR: coupe HU: hossz-metszet
IT: sezione NL: dwarsdoorsnede PT: corte 

elevation (2)

The difference in heigth between a point and a fixed level, such as mean sea level.
IT: quota NL: PT: 

(extended) elevation, developed section

The result of straightening out an elevation(1) composed of several parts with differing directions into one common plane. Usually the plane is vertical and the length of the elevation(1) equals the plan lengths of the passages and chambers comprising it.
A vertical elevation(1) which substantially coincides with the general direction of the greatest dimension of that part of the cave in the near vicinity of the section plane.
DE: Längsschnitt, Höhlenschnitt ES: alzado desarrollado  FR: coupe developée HU: kifejtett hossz-metszet
IT: sezione longitudinale, profilo, sviluppo longitudinale NL: dwarsdoorsnede PT: corte longitudinal

(projected) elevation

A representation of the details to be mapped resulting from parallel projection on to a vertical plane.
DE: Aufriss, Höhlenaufriss  ES: alzado proyectado  FR: coupe projectée HU:
IT: sezione proiettata NL: dwarsdoorsnede  PT: corte 


An opening where a human being can enter the cave.
DE: Eingang, Höhleneingang ES: entrada, boca FR: entrée  HU:
IT: ingresso NL: ingang  PT: entrada, boca 


The difference between an instrumental measure of a value (in cave survey distance, bearing and slope) and the actual value.
An error is the sum of accidental and systematic errors. Gross errors are also possible.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: errore NL:  PT: 

(accidental) error

A random error in sign and value, statistically independent from other measurements of the same value. A typical caving cause of accidental errors is a trembling hand during bearing measurement. The amount of accidental error in a measurement can be estimated, on the basis of the measurement instrument and conditions.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: errore accidentale NL:  PT: 

(gross) error, mistake

A random macroscopic error. The measurement has no more statistical relationship with the actual value. Example: compass reading of 30 degrees instead of 130. Gross errors cannot be adjusted; they must be avoided with care and instrument know-how.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: errore grossolano NL:  PT: 

(systematic) error

An error that repeats itself on each measurement of the same value with the same instrument. Example: a biased clinometer takes slope measurements with a constant +2 degrees bias. Systematic errors can be estimated and adjusted through a proper calibration.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: errore sistematico NL:  PT: 


A unit for measurement of plane angles, equal to 1/400 of a complete revolution, or 1/100 of a right angle.
DE: Neugrad Zentesimalgrad  ES: grado (centesimal)  FR: grade  HU:
IT: grado (centesimale) NL: graden (centesimaal)  PT: grado


The class of a cave survey on the basis of the precision of the instruments and the accuracy of the methods.
DE: Genauigkeitsgrad (der Höhlenvermessung) ES:  FR: HU:
IT: grado (di accuratezza del rilievo)  NL:  PT: 


The slope between the horizontal plane and a shot line, expressed as the ratio of the horizontal to the vertical distance.
DE: Neigung  ES:  FR: pente  HU:
IT: inclinazione, pendenza  NL: gradient, helling  PT: 


A system of squares on a map formed by straight lines which represent progressive distances east and north of a fixed point of origin.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: reticolato, griglia NL:  PT: 

grid north

The direction of a north-south grid line on a map. Except for the north-south grid line through the point of origin of the grid, it will differ slightly from true north.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: nord reticolato  NL:  PT: 

height difference

The difference in elevation(2) between two points; usually between the highest and the lowest point in a cave.
DE: Höhenunterschied  ES: desnivel  FR: dénivelé HU:
IT: dislivello NL: hoogteverschil  PT: desnìvel

horizontal angle

The difference in direction of two survey lines measured clockwise in a horizontal plane.
DE: Winkel (horizontal)  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: angolo orizzontale NL: horizontale hoek  PT: 


Topographic apparatus that allows to measure angles (bearing or slope) or distances.
DE: Instrument  ES:  FR: instrument  HU:
IT: strumento (di misura) NL: (meet) instrument  PT: 

(traverse) leg

see shot

magnetic north

The direction to the north magnetic pole at a given place and time. This differs from the direction towards which the north end of a compass points by a small individual compass error and by the effect of any local magnetic attraction. It differs from the direction of the true north by the magnetic declination.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: Nord magnetico NL: PT: 

(traverse) misclosure

see closure error



  1. The distance of a point north of the point of origin of the grid of a map.
  2. The south-north component of a survey leg, or of a series of legs, or of a complete traverse; north is positive and south is negative.
DE: ???  ES:  FR: ???  HU:
IT: spostamento (in pianta) verso Nord NL: northing PT: ???


Set of paper sheets, bound or loose, on which surveyers record the traverse measurements and draft a cave drawing.
DE: Notizblock, Aufzeichnungsheft  ES: cuaderno FR: bloc topo, carnet topo HU:
IT: quaderno (di campagna) NL: veldboek  PT: caderneta de campo 

map, survey

The result of the mapping action. Usually composed by a plan, an elevation(1) (developed or projected) and several cross sections.
DE: Plan, Höhlenplan ES: topografía  FR: topographie HU: barlangtérkép
IT: rilievo (topografico) NL: topografie PT: topografia

mapping, survey

The measurement of horizontal angles, vertical angles and distances between survey points (stations) and of cave details from them and the plotting of cave plans and sections from these measurements either graphically or after computation of coordinates.
The action to produce a cave map.
DE: Vermessung  ES: topografiar  FR: topographie HU: barlang-felmérés
IT: rilevamento NL: detailmeting, veldwerk PT: topografar


A plot of the shape and details of a cave projected vertically onto a horizontal plane at a reduced scale.
DE: Plan, Grundriss  ES: planta FR: plan HU: alaprajz
IT: pianta, planimetria NL: plattegrond  PT: planta


Precision is linked to the accidental error magnitude in a measurement. A measurement is more precise the littler accidental error it is affected by. In other words, precise measurements all fall very near to the same value, that differs from the actual value by the systematic error amount.
See also: accuracy.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU:
IT: precisione NL:  PT: 


see elevation.



The planimetric distance between the two farthest points in a cave.
DE: Entfernung ES:  FR: extension HU:
IT: estensione NL: range  PT: 

(cave) register

Collection of the relevant information for each known cave (usually the survey, the name, the entrance(s) coordinates, the development, the maximum heigth difference, geographic, geologic, hydrologic information, bibliography, and so on).
DE: Höhlenkataster ES: catálogo (de cavidades) FR: inventaire (des cavités)  HU:
IT: catasto (delle grotte)  NL: inventarislijst (van grotten)  PT: cadastro

ruler, tape

An instrument made of a graduated tape of steel, plastic, or fibreglass, used for measuring distance.
DE: Maßband ES: cinta FR: décamètre HU:
IT: nastro metrico, rotella metrica, bindella, fettuccia, rullina NL: meetlint  PT: trena


The ratio of the length between any two points on a map, plan or elevation(1) to the actual distance between the same points in a cave.
DE: Maßstab ES:  FR: echelle  HU:
IT: scala  NL: schaal  PT: 


see elevation(1).

(survey record) sheet, (recording) sheet

The sheet with all measures for the survey, one of the pages of the notebook
DE: Meßdatenblatt, Meßprotokoll  ES:  FR: fiche de calcul HU: jegyzõkönyv
IT: scheda dei dati NL:  PT:

shot, leg, sight

A part of a survey traverse between two successive stations.
DE: Meßstrecke ES: tramo (de poligonal) FR: visée HU:
IT: battuta, lato, segmento, tiro (di poligonale)  NL: meetlijn PT: visada 


see shot.

slope, dip

Related terms: dip, gradient, vertical angle.
The inclination downward (negative) or upward (positive) from the plane of the horizon. It may be expressed as an angle (see vertical angle) or as a percentage (see gradient).
The usual instrument to measure slopes is the clinometer.
DE: Einfallen, Fallen ES:  FR: pente HU: dolés
IT: pendenza NL:  PT:


A survey point in a chain of such points in a survey. The place where you set instruments to shoot at next station.
See also: shot, traverse.
DE: Meßpunkt, Meßort  ES: estación FR: station HU:
IT: caposaldo, punto di stazione  NL: Meetpunt, standpunt  PT: base


see map and mapping

survey line, traverse, centre line

The commonest form of cave survey in which distance, horizontal angle and vertical angle between successive stations are measured and linked together, shot by shot.
DE: Meßzug, Polygonzug, Polygon ES: poligonal  FR: cheminement, ligne brisee HU: poligon
IT: poligonale NL: veelhoek PT: poligonal

survey point

see station.


One of the authors of a survey.
DE: ES:  FR: HU:
IT: rilevatore NL: PT:


see ruler


An instrument that uses a sewing thread to measure distances.
DE: Topofil, (Fadenabspulmeßgerät) ES: topofil FR: topofil  HU:
IT: topofilo NL: topo PT: topofio


see survey line


true north

The direction of the geographical north pole at a place.
DE:  ES:  FR:  HU: 
IT: Nord geografico NL:  PT: 

vertical angle

The angle in a vertical plane between a line of sight and the horizontal; positive above the horizontal and negative below.
DE: Winkel (der Neigung) ES:  FR: angle (de pente) HU:
IT: angolo verticale  NL: Vertikale hoek  PT: 

V 1.0 - Last update: 30/07/98