AskDefine | Define pyramid

Dictionary Definition



1 a polyhedron having a polygonal base and triangular sides with a common vertex
2 (stock market) a series of transactions in which the speculator increases his holdings by using the rising market value of those holdings as margin for further purchases
3 a massive memorial with a square base and four triangular sides; built as royal tombs in ancient Egypt [syn: Great Pyramid]


1 enlarge one's holdings on an exchange on a continued rise by using paper profits as margin to buy additional amounts
2 use or deal in (as of stock or commercial transaction) in a pyramid deal
3 arrange or build up as if on the base of a pyramid
4 increase rapidly and progressively step by step on a broad base

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


From etyl fr pyramide ← etyl fro piramide ← etyl la pyramis ← etyl grc sc=polytonic, possibly from a corruption of an Ancient Egyptian phrase or expression (a tentative suggestion: pri-n-mr, "go to the pyramid?", maybe a question asked of ancient Greek tourists), OR from Ancient Egyptian Pir E Mit, "Division of Ten" or "Division of Number" or "Division of Perfection".
The Ancient Egyptian word for pyramid is mr.



  1. An ancient massive construction with a square or rectangular base and four triangular sides meeting in an apex, such as those built as tombs in Egypt or as bases for temples in Mesoamerica.
  2. A construction in the shape of a pyramid, usually with a square or rectangular base.
  3. A solid with triangular lateral faces and a polygonal (often square or rectangular) base.
  4. A pyramid scheme.


ancient construction
  • Arabic: هرم
  • Bosnian: piramida
  • Chinese: 金字塔 (jīnzìtǎ)
  • Czech: pyramida
  • Danish: pyramide
  • Dutch: pyramide
  • Esperanto: piramido
  • Finnish: pyramidi
  • French: pyramide
  • German: Pyramide
  • Greek: πυραμίς (piraˈmis) , πυραμίδα (piraˈmiða)
  • Hebrew:
  • Hungarian: piramis
  • Japanese: ピラミッド
  • Latin: pyramis
  • Portuguese: pirâmide
  • Russian: пирамида
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: пирамида
    Roman: piramida
  • Spanish: pirámide
  • Swedish: pyramid
  • Bosnian: piramida
  • Chinese: 金字塔 (jīnzìtǎ)
  • Danish: pyramide
  • Dutch: pyramide
  • Esperanto: piramido
  • Finnish: pyramidi
  • French: pyramide
  • Greek: πυραμίδα (piraˈmiða)
  • Hebrew:
  • Portuguese: pirâmide
  • Russian: пирамида
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: пирамида
    Roman: piramida
  • Spanish: pirámide
  • Swedish: pyramid
  • Bosnian: piramida
  • Danish: pyramide
  • Dutch: pyramide
  • Esperanto: piramido
  • Finnish: pyramidi
  • French: pyramide
  • German: Pyramide
  • Greek: πυραμίδα (piraˈmiða)
  • Hebrew:
  • Japanese: 角錐 (かくすい, kakusui)
  • Portuguese: pirâmide
  • Russian: пирамида
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: пирамида
    Roman: piramida
  • Spanish: pirámide
  • Swedish: pyramid
pyramid scheme

Derived terms

See also



  1. pyramid
  2. Pyramid-shaped construction.

Extensive Definition

For other meanings, see pyramid (disambiguation).
A pyramid (from Greek πυραμίδoς - pyramidos, genitive of πυραμίς - pyramis) is any three-dimensional polyhedron where the faces other than the base are triangular and converge on one point, called the apex. The base of a pyramid can be any polygon but is typically a square, leading to four non-base faces.
A pyramid is said to be regular if its base is a regular polygon and its upper faces are congruent isosceles triangles.
Cutting off the top of a pyramid, using a plane parallel to the plane of the base, leaves a frustum of a pyramid, sometimes called a flat-topped pyramid, though it no longer satisfies the definition of a pyramid.

Ancient monuments

Pyramid-shaped structures were built by many ancient civilizations.


There are many flat-topped mound tombs in China. The First Emperor of Qin (circa 221 B.C.) was buried under a large mound outside modern day Xi'an. In the following centuries about a dozen more Han Dynasty royals were also buried under flat-topped pyramidal earthworks.

Egyptian pyramids

The most famous pyramids are the Egyptian pyramids — huge structures built of brick or stone, some of which are among the largest man-made constructions. Most of them took about 27 years to build. In Ancient Egyptian, a pyramid was referred to as mer, which was also their word for the country of Egypt itself, showing how intrinsic the structures were to the culture. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest in Egypt and one of the largest in the world. Until Lincoln Cathedral was built in 1300 A.D., it was the tallest building in the world. The base is over 52,600 square meters in area.
It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the only one of the seven to survive into modern times. The Ancient Egyptians capped the peaks of their pyramids with gold and covered their faces with polished white limestone, though many of the stones used for the purpose have fallen or been removed for other structures.


There is a Roman era pyramid built in Falicon, France. There were many more pyramids built in France in this period.


There are several structures in Greece that archaeologists have called pyramids. Dotted throughout the landscape are remains of buildings that were described by ancient travelers as pyramids, they were first excavated by Americans and Germans in the early 1930s and the 1990s.
Pausanias, a Greek traveler in the second century A.D. described several of the structures as pyramids. One of these pyramids was located in Hellenikon, Ελληνικό in Greek,a village near Argos near the ancient ruins of Tiryns. The story surrounding the monument was that it was built as a polyandria, a common grave, for those soldiers who had fallen in the struggle for the throne of Argos back in the 14th Century B.C. He described the structure as something that resembled a pyramid with the decorations of Argolic shields, showing the military connection to it. Another pyramid that Pausanias saw on his journeys was at Kenchreai, another polyandria dedicated to the Argives and Spartans who lost their lives at the Battle of Hysiai in 669 B.C. Unfortunately neither of these structures remain fully intact today to test how closely they resembled the pyramids of Egypt nor is there any proof that they even resembled an Egyptian pyramid at all.
There are two surviving pyramid-like structures still available to study, one at Helleniko and the other at Ligourio, a village near the ancient theatre Epidaurus. With these two pyramid’s base stones remaining, it is possible to determine that Grecian pyramids existed, but were not used as the Egyptians used them. These buildings were not constructed in the same manner as the pyramids in Egypt. The buildings at Helleniko and Ligourio were no more than 30 meters tall and were surrounded by walls, with the base of the Helleniko pyramid being nine meters by 7 meters. The stone used to build the pyramids was limestone quarried locally and was cut to fit, not into freestanding blocks like the Great Pyramid of Giza. The base of the structures also differed from the Egyptian pyramids as they were rectangular, not square. This simple construction shape made it very difficult to make the top of the building come together in a point. As such, it makes more sense that these structures could have been peaked by a roof or platform.
There are no remains or graves in or near the structures. Instead, the rooms that the walls housed were made to be locked from the inside. This coupled with the platform roof, means that one of the functions these structures could have served was as watchtowers. Another possibility for the buildings is that they are shrines to heroes and soldiers of ancient times, but the lock on the inside makes no sense for such a purpose.
The dating of these ‘pyramids’ has been made from the pot shards excavated from the floor and on the grounds. The latest dates available from scientific dating have been estimated around the 5th and 4th centuries. There are many researchers who have given dates to the structures that pre-date the pyramids at Giza, but the method to obtain these dates was thermoluminescence of the stone. Normally this technique is used for dating pottery, but here researchers have used it to try and date stone flakes from the walls of the structures. This has created some debate about whether or not these ‘pyramids’ are actually older than Egypt, which is part of the Black Athena controversy. The basis for their use of thermoluminescence in order to date these structures is a new method of collecting samples for testing. Scientists from laboratories hired out by the recent excavators of the site, The Academy of Athens, say that they can use the electrons trapped on the inner surface of the stones to positively identify the date that the stones were quarried and put together.
The issue with this method is that they date the pyramids with a margin of error of up to over 700 years. This method dated the Helleniko pyramid to 2730 B.C. with an error factor of plus or minus 720 years. It also dated the Ligourio pyramid to 2260 B.C. with an error of plus or minus 710 years. Though these initial dates are indicative of these structures being built before the pyramid complex at Giza, it also means that they could have been built well after Khufu’s Great Pyramid was erected. Some archaeologists, however, have indicated that these samples may have been very select in their choice of which stones to sample. Further excavations of the site at Helleniko reveal that it was constructed on a previously existing structure, giving a possibility that the new methods of dating may be a misinterpretation.
Along with these two structures there are 14 more pyramid-like buildings, or their remains, scattered throughout the rest of the country side of Greece. These sites do not get as much attention as the two at Helleniko and Ligourio as they are the only ones mentioned in surviving accounts of ancient travelers.


Many giant granite temple pyramids were made in South India during the Chola Empire, many of which are still in religious use today. Examples of such pyramid temples include Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. However the largest temple pyramid in the area is Sri Rangam in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu. The Brihadisvara Temple was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987; the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram were added as extensions to the site in 2004.

Mesoamerican pyramids

A number of Mesoamerican cultures also built pyramid-shaped structures. Mesoamerican pyramids were usually stepped, with temples on top, more similar to the Mesopotamian ziggurat than the Egyptian pyramid. The largest pyramid by volume is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla. This pyramid is considered the largest monument ever constructed anywhere in the world, and is still being excavated. There is an unusual pyramid with a circular plan at the site of Cuicuilco, now inside Mexico City and mostly covered with lava from an ancient eruption of Xictli. Pyramids in Mexico were often used as places of human sacrifice.

Mesopotamian pyramids

The Mesopotamians also built pyramids, called ziggurats. In ancient times these were brightly painted. Since they were constructed of mud-brick, little remains of them. The Biblical Tower of Babel is believed to have been a Babylonian ziggurat.

North American pyramids

Many mound-building societies of ancient North America built large pyramidal earth structures known as platform mounds. Among the largest and best-known of these structures is Monk's Mound at the site of Cahokia, which has a base larger than that of the Great Pyramid at Giza. While the North American mounds' precise function is not known, they are believed to have played a central role in the mound-building people's religious life.

Nubian pyramids

Nubian pyramids were constructed (roughly 220 of them) at three sites in Nubia to serve as tombs for the kings and queens of Napata and Meroë.
The Nubians built more pyramids than the Egyptians, but they are smaller. The Nubian pyramids were constructed at a steeper angle than Egyptian ones and were monuments to dead kings and queens.
Pyramids were still being built in Nubia up to AD 300.


The 27-meter-high Pyramid of Cestius was built by the end of the first century BC and still exists today, close to the Porta San Paolo. Another one, named Meta Romuli, standing in the Ager Vaticanus (today's Borgo), was destroyed at the end of the 15th century.
These Roman imitations of Egyptian monuments are important as contemporary "portraits" of the Egyptian ones, providing some sense of their original color and smoothness.

Medieval Europe

Pyramids have occasionally been used in Christian architecture of the feudal era, e.g. as the tower of Oviedo's Gothic Cathedral of San Salvador. In some cases this leads to speculations on masonic or other symbolical intentions.

Modern pyramids

Examples of modern pyramids are:



  • Patricia Blackwell Gary and Richard Talcott, "Stargazing in Ancient Egypt," Astronomy, June 2006, pp. 62-67.
  • Fagan, Garrett. "Archaeological Fantasies." RoutledgeFalmer. 2006

External links

pyramid in Arabic: هرم
pyramid in Min Nan: Kim-jī-thah
pyramid in Bosnian: Piramida (arhitektura)
pyramid in Bulgarian: Пирамида
pyramid in Catalan: Piràmide
pyramid in Czech: Pyramida
pyramid in Welsh: Pyramid
pyramid in Danish: Pyramide
pyramid in German: Pyramide (Bauwerk)
pyramid in Esperanto: Piramido
pyramid in Spanish: Pirámide
pyramid in French: Pyramide (architecture)
pyramid in Manx: Pyramidyn
pyramid in Hebrew: פירמידה (מבנה)
pyramid in Korean: 피라미드
pyramid in Croatian: Piramida (arhitektura)
pyramid in Ido: Piramido
pyramid in Icelandic: Pýramídi
pyramid in Italian: Piramide
pyramid in Swahili (macrolanguage): Piramidi
pyramid in Lithuanian: Piramidė
pyramid in Hungarian: Piramis
pyramid in Malay (macrolanguage): Piramid
pyramid in Dutch: Piramide (bouwwerk)
pyramid in Dutch Low Saxon: Piramide
pyramid in Japanese: ピラミッド
pyramid in Norwegian: Pyramide (byggverk)
pyramid in Norwegian Nynorsk: Pyramidar
pyramid in Narom: Pyramide
pyramid in Polish: Piramida
pyramid in Portuguese: Pirâmide
pyramid in Russian: Пирамида (архитектура)
pyramid in Albanian: Piramida
pyramid in Simple English: Pyramid
pyramid in Slovenian: Piramida
pyramid in Serbian: Пирамиде
pyramid in Finnish: Pyramidi
pyramid in Swedish: Pyramid
pyramid in Turkish: Piramit
pyramid in Ukrainian: Піраміда
pyramid in Yiddish: פיראמיד
pyramid in Chinese: 金字塔

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

add to, aggrandize, amplify, animal kingdom, antenna tower, anthill, arch, architecture, augment, bank, bank up, barbican, barrow, be caught short, be short, beehive tomb, belfry, bell tower, belong, bone house, boost, boundary stone, box grave, brass, broaden, bucket, bucketshop, build, build up, building, burial, burial chamber, burial mound, bust, cairn, campanile, catacombs, cenotaph, chain of being, charnel house, cist, cist grave, class structure, cock, colossus, column, construct, construction, cromlech, cross, crypt, cup, cupola, cyclolith, deep six, deposit margin, derrick, dokhma, dolmen, domain, dome, drift, dune, edifice, embankment, enlarge, erection, establishment, exalt, expand, extend, fabric, fatten, fill out, fire tower, footstone, go long, grave, gravestone, haycock, haymow, hayrick, haystack, headstone, heap, heap up, hierarchy, hike, hike up, hill, hoarstone, hold on, house, house of death, increase, inflate, inscription, jack up, jump up, kingdom, lantern, last home, lengthen, lighthouse, long home, low green tent, low house, make a killing, make a scoop, margin up, marker, martello, martello tower, mass, mast, mastaba, mausoleum, maximize, megalith, memento, memorial, memorial arch, memorial column, memorial statue, memorial stone, menhir, minaret, mineral kingdom, miss the market, molehill, monolith, monstrance, monument, mound, mountain, mow, mummy chamber, narrow house, natural hierarchy, necrology, obelisk, obituary, observation tower, operate, ossuarium, ossuary, overstay the market, packaged house, pagoda, parlay, passage grave, pecking order, pilaster, pile, pile up, pillar, pinnacle, pit, plaque, play the market, plunge, pole, power structure, prefab, prefabrication, prize, put up, pylon, raise, realm, reliquary, remembrance, resting place, ribbon, rick, rostral column, scalp, scoop the market, sepulcher, shaft, shaft grave, shrine, skyscraper, snowdrift, speculate, spire, stack, stack up, stag, stag the market, standpipe, steeple, stela, stone, structure, stupa, superstructure, tablet, take a flier, television mast, testimonial, thicken, tomb, tombstone, tope, tour, tower, tower of silence, trade on margin, trophy, tumulus, turret, up, vault, vegetable kingdom, venture, water tower, windmill tower, windrow
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