from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An early navigational instrument, consisting of a wooden rod with a sliding crosspiece, used for measuring the altitude of a star; it developed into the sextant
  • n. A surveyor's instrument for measuring offsets.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An instrument formerly used at sea for taking the altitudes of celestial bodies.
  • n. A surveyor's instrument for measuring offsets.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An instrument formerly used to take the altitude of the sun or stars. It was superseded by the quadrant. Also called forc-staff.
  • n. In surveying, an instrument consisting of a staff carrying a brass circle divided into four equal parts or quadrants by two lines intersecting each other at the center.
  • n. Same as crosier, 1.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • To that end, its most useful instrument was not a ship or cross-staff or astrolabe, but a printing press.

    Champlain's Dream

  • It is hard to know how accurate these could have been, though Chinese navigators, like the Arabs, corrected their compass readings by celestial observation, using the cross-staff or the kamal.

    Archive 2008-01-01

  • [3367] Mr. Edmund Gunter, which will perform that by addition and subtraction only, which heretofore Regiomontanus's tables did by multiplication and division, or those elaborate conclusions of his [3368] sector, quadrant, and cross-staff.

    Anatomy of Melancholy

  • A Spanish Sergeant held the great banner that had been hung from a cross-staff on a pole.

    Sharpe's Rifles

  • Becket appears to have become alarmed at the demeanour of the four men, who afterwards admitted that they thought of killing him then and there with the only weapon that was handy -- a cross-staff that lay at his feet.

    Beautiful Britain: Canterbury

  • He carried on regular observations with his cross-staff and persevered with his astronomical studies in spite of the objections and want of sympathy of his fellow-countrymen.


  • He provided himself with a cross-staff for determining the angular distance between stars or other objects, and, finding the divisions of the scale inaccurate, constructed a table of corrections, an improvement that seems to have been a decided innovation, the previous practice having been to use the best available instrument and ignore its errors.


  • The cross-staff, more frequently used for the same purpose by sailors of the time, was a simpler affair less affected by the ship's roll; it was held with the lower end of the cross-piece level with the horizon and the upper adjusted to a point on a line between the eye of the observer and the sun at the zenith.

    A History of Sea Power

  • "I know it, Martin!" says he gloomily, and so brought me into a smallish cabin under the top-gallant poop; here were bunks to larboard and starboard with a table mid-way furnished with calendars, charts, a cross-staff, an astrolabe, with globes and the like, while against the walls stood rows of calivers, musquetoons and fusees, set in racks very orderly.

    Black Bartlemy's Treasure

  • Before that time the mariner was obliged to depend upon his compass, a cross-staff, or an astrolabe, a table of the sun's declination and a correction for the altitude of the polestar, and very inadequate and incorrect charts.

    A History of Science: in Five Volumes. Volume II: The Beginnings of Modern Science


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  • "An instrument formerly used to take the altitude of the sun or stars. It was superseded by the quadrant. Also called for|e|-staff."


    March 14, 2013

  • "Early predecessors of the sextant include the cross-staff and the backstaff made of wood."

    --Steven Callahan, Adrift, 252

    May 15, 2008