A railing or wall to prevent people from falling over the edge of stairs, a balcony, etc.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen plenty of impressive or notable architectural features in your day without having the slightest clue what they’re called – like those latticed wooden structures erected in a lot of gardens, often with a mess of vines drooping all over them.
It’s called a pergola, by the way.
Jack Vance, of course, knew the names of all these miscellaneous constructions and formations. Why, just crack open the first Planet of Adventure book, City of the Chasch, and you’ll encounter a slew of such words within the first two or three chapters. Hell, we could have gone with “belvedere” today, but we all already know that one.
Let’s go to the text to see how exciting Vance can make little railings:
Low in the sky appeared an aircraft, which first hovered, then settled: a sky-raft fifty feet long, twenty feet wide, controlled from an ornate belvedere at the stern. Forward and aft great lanterns dangled from convolute standards; the bulwarks were guarded by a squat balustrade. Leaning over the balustrade, pushing and jostling, were two dozen passengers, in imminent danger, so it seemed, of falling to the ground.
– Jack Vance, City of the Chasch (1968)