Next time you visit the nation’s capital, you can wow tourists by telling them the Washington Monument is an obelisk — a tall, narrow stone pillar that tapers to a point at the top and commemorates an important person or event.

  • Pronunciation: /'ɑbə'lɪsk/
  • English description: a stone pillar having a rectangular cross section tapering towards a pyramidal top
  • Synonyms: column
  • Chinese Translation: 方尖碑(fang1 jian1 bei1)
  • Spanish Translation: el obelisco
  • ORIGIN: Obelisks were all the rage in ancient Egypt and still in vogue in Rome’s heyday. The Egyptians associated the skinny four-sided monoliths with the sun god Ra and thought they looked like the sun’s rays shining down. Herodotus was among the first writers to describe obelisks, and it’s to him that we owe the word; it comes from the Greek obelos, meaning “nail” or “pointed pillar.” History buffs can still spot obelisks, also called “Cleopatra’s Needles,” everywhere from Myanmar to Manhattan.


  • The stainless steel box that will contain the time capsule was custom built to fit into the shoebox-sized cavity at the base of the obelisk.
  • Hence, societies have traditionally resorted to triumphal arches, temples, colossal columns and obelisks, not because they are ancient but because they are timeless.

*New word description, story and part of "EXAMPLE SENTENCE" are cited in Vocabulary.com