American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A manual computing device consisting of a frame holding parallel rods strung with movable counters.
- n. Architecture A slab on the top of the capital of a column.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A tray strewn with dust or sand, used in ancient times for calculating.
- n. A contrivance for calculating, consisting of beads or balls strung on wires or rods set in a frame. The abacus was used, with some variations in form, by the Greeks and Romans, and is still in every-day use in many eastern countries, from Russia to Japan, for even the most complex calculations. The sand-strewn tray is supposed to have been introduced from Babylon into Greece by Pythagoras, who taught both arithmetic and geometry upon it; hence this form is sometimes called
abacus Pythagoricus. In the form with movable balls, these are used simply as counters to record the successive stages of a mental operation. The sum shown in the annexed engraving of a Chinese abacus (called swanpan, or “reckoning-board”) is 5,196,301.
- n. In architecture: The slab or plinth which forms the upper member of the capital of a column or pillar, and upon which rests, in classic styles, the lower surface of the architrave. In the Greek Doric it is thick and square, without sculptured decoration; in the Ionic order it is thinner, and ornamented with moldings on the sides; in the Corinthian also it is ornamented, and has concave sides and truncated corners. In medieval architecture the entablature was abandoned and the arch placed directly on the column or pillar; the abacus, however, was retained until the decline of the style. In Byzantine work it is often a deep block affiliated with classic examples. In western styles every variety of size, shape, and ornamentation occurs. The general use of a polygonal or round abacus, as more consonant with neighboring forms than the square shape, is one of the distinctive features of perfected Pointed architecture.
- n. Any rectangular slab or piece; especially, a stone or marble tablet serving as a sideboard, shelf, or credence.
- n. In Roman antiquity, a board divided into compartments, for use in a game of the nature of draughts, etc.
- n. The mystic staff carried by the grand master of the Templars.
- n. The structure and arrangement of the keys or pedals of a musical instrument.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. obsolete A table or tray strewn with sand, anciently used for drawing, calculating, etc.
- n. A calculating table or frame; an instrument for performing arithmetical calculations by balls sliding on wires, or counters in grooves, the lowest line representing units, the second line, tens, etc. It is still employed in China.
- n. The uppermost member or division of the capital of a column, immediately under the architrave. See Column.
- n. A tablet, panel, or compartment in ornamented or mosaic work.
- n. A board, tray, or table, divided into perforated compartments, for holding cups, bottles, or the like; a kind of cupboard, buffet, or sideboard.
- n. a tablet placed horizontally on top of the capital of a column as an aid in supporting the architrave
- n. a calculator that performs arithmetic functions by manually sliding counters on rods or in grooves
- From Latin abacus, abax; from Greek ἄβαξ ('a`bax, "board covered with sand"), possibly from Hebrew אבק (āvāq, "dust"). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Latin, from Greek abax, abak-, counting board, perhaps from Hebrew 'ābāq, dust; see אbq in Semitic roots. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“More specifically, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway for its five big bills got an issue of perpetual preferred Goldman shares with a neat 10% annual dividend, which according to our abacus translates into $5 million a year.”
“The columns of these pillared porches have sixteen flutings, a plain abacus, and no plinth.”
“It now had fence slats and feed bags laid across, and held all types of useful things—shuttlecocks, disposable cameras, Play-Doh molds, and so on—things Joey found discarded, including a functional abacus, which is really quite rare.”
“The Romans also made a mechanical version, with beads sliding in slots, called an abacus.”
“If you put it down there, where the abacus is the machine's computer would simple take charge of it and offer you lots of nice user-friendly time-travel applications complete with pull-down menus and desk accessories if you like.”
“Let the height of the capital be divided into three parts, and give one to the plinth (that is, the abacus), the second to the echinus, and the third to the necking with its congé.”
“For higher columns the other proportions will be the same, but the length and breadth of the abacus will be the thickness of the lower diameter of a column plus one ninth part thereof; thus, just as the higher the column the less the diminution, so the projection of its capital is proportionately increased and its breadth  is correspondingly enlarged.”
“Thus the fourth column from the west is his, and perhaps the fifth up to the abacus, which is convex and of limestone.”
“Bernelinus  states that the abacus is a well-polished board (or table), which is covered with blue sand and used by geometers in drawing geometrical figures.”
“It will be observed that the pillar has a low, round base, with beveled edge; also, at the top, a square abacus, which is simply a piece of the original four-sided pillar, left untouched.”
These user-created lists contain the word ‘abacus’.
aa gets over 40 hits
aardvark 49 hits
abbatoir 103 hits
abjure 138 hits
Some interesting pre-electronic number crunchers.
A list of terms pertaining to columns employed in architecture.
With thanks to quinn for the idea, seen here. It's true that most diseases cannot double as names for baby boysâ€”but some can. And anyway in their absence I nominate (thanks to Colon/Colin) body p...
Being a list of words which have the phrase "annexed engraving" in their definitions.
Taisha GRE Bible
Shamelessly ripped off from this site and others (to be named hereinafter). (Fair warning: for my own edification, I may add definitions/comments from the site, but you might want to just go there ...
an Eckhartian exercise of grinding
Looking for tweets for abacus.