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Alphabetically Arranged with Cyclopedic Meanings and Bible References

Babylonian Captivity

The Jews had fallen into great errors and corruptions, and were guilty of most abominable sins; wherefore Jehovah, in his wrath, denounced heavy judgments against them by Jeremiah and other prophets, declaring that their fruitful land should be spoiled, their city become desolate and an abomination, and themselves and their descendants feel the effects of his displeasure for the space of seventy years, which commenced in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiachim, A. L. 3398.  Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon destroyed the temple and took them into captivity.  2 Kings 24:10-16  A portion of the Royal Arch ritual relates to the destruction of Solomon's Temple by Nebuchadnezzar's armies and to the deportation of large numbers of Jews to Babylon.  Under divine judgment, the subjugation of Judah by the Chaldeans began 18 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem, and many Jews had already been deported into the Babylonian empire.  The period of captivity numbered 70 years in all; but the time between the destruction of Solomon's Temple and the beginning of the building of Zerubbabel's Temple under the decree of the Persian ruler Cyrus was 52 years.  These fifty-two years are commemorated in the Royal Arch Degree, with special emphasis on the return of between forty and fifty thousand Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem and the building of Zerubbabel's Temple.

Back-biting - slandering an absent party

Every form of calumny and slander, especially the speaking of evil of an absent brother, is forbidden by the ethics of Freemasonry.  Psalms 15:1-3 -  Psalms 50:20 -  Jer. 9:4 -  2 Cor. 12:20


The insignia of an order, decoration, or medal suspended from a ribbon, sash, collar, or bar.  The badges of orders are also superimposed over breast stars.  Synonymous terms are badge appendant and pendant.


The trade name for phenol formaldehyde, the first man-made plastic. Patented in the United States by Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1907.  Often confused with vulcanite.


A portion of military dress, being a scarf passing from the shoulder over the breast to the hip.  In the dress regulations of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States, adopted in 1862, it is called a "scarf," and is thus described:  "Five inches wide in the whole, of white bordered with black, one inch on either side, a strip of navy lace one-fourth of an inch wide at the inner edge of the black.  On the front center of the scarf, a metal star of nine points, in allusion to the nine founders of the Temple Order, inclosing the Passion Cross, surrounded by the Latin motto, In hoc signo vinces; the star to be three and three-quarters inches in diameter.  The scarf to be worn from the right shoulder to the left hip, with the ends extending six inches below the point of intersection."

Ball catch

A device used on boxes and matchsafes to keep a pair of lids closed.  Each of the opposing lids has attached to it an arm with a ball atop it.  The balls overlap each other, so that when the two lids are closed together the balls pass each other (under slight pressure) and interlock to keep the lids held closed.  More commonly used on purses.  EXAMPLE

Ballot Box  

The box in which the ballots or little balls or cubes used in voting for a candidate are deposited.  It should be divided into two compartments, one of which is to contain both black and white balls, from which each member selects one, and the other, which is shielded by a partition provided with an aperture, to receive the ball that is to be deposited.  Various methods have been devised by which secrecy may be secured, so that a voter may select and deposit the ball he desires without the possibility of its being seen whether it is black or white.  See EXAMPLE

Baltimore Assay Marks

Starting in 1814, silver made in Baltimore was marked at a hall and identified by a date letter.  This compulsory marking was abolished in 1830.

Banded Agate

Agate that has bands of lighter and darker colors.  It can be onyx (black/white), carnelian (orangish red/white), or sardonyx (brown/white).

Bare Feet

Q.  What was the significance of putting off the Shoes? 

A.  Putting off the shoes has a threefold signification in the Scriptures.  First, it was usual to put them off in token of mourning and grief, as David is said to have gone from Jerusalem barefoot, when he fled from Absalom.  Second, it signified the yielding of one's right to another, and is so prescribed in Deuteronomy, and matured by Boaz.  Third, it was a token of respect and reverence, as appears by the command of God to Moses, and the reason assigned for it was that the ground whereon he stood was Holy, or sanctified by God's immediate presence.  Deut. 25:9  -  Exo. 3:5  -  Ruth 4:7-9 -  Josh. 5:15 -  Eccl. 5:1   EXAMPLE

Base metal

An alloy or metal of comparatively low value to which a coating or plating is normally applied, i.e., copper, tin, and zinc.

Bas Relief

A sculptural style with a raised design and flat field, and no part of the design is undercut.

Basse taille

A decorative technique produced by using translucent enamel over excavated depressions forming artistic low relief designs in silver and gold.  The varying depth of the depressions gives the enamel different shades of color.

Beasts of the Earth

Where is the basis of the penalties recorded in the Bible.  This expression is recorded in the book of Jeremiah, and is a part of the basis of the system of Speculative Science.  Jere. 34:18-20


Operative Masonry had as its chief objective beauty and symmetry in architecture in the building of King Solomon's Temple; speculative Masonry emphasizes the beauty of character and the virtues of true manhood.  Symbolically, Beauty is one of the three supports of the Lodge.  It is represented by the Corinthian column, the most beautiful of the ancient orders of Architecture; also by the Junior Warden, because he symbolizes the meridian sun, the most beautiful object in the heavens.  Hiram Abif is represented by the Column of Beauty, because the beauty and glory of the Temple were due to his skill.  Psalms 149:4 -  Ezek. 16:14 -  1 Peter 1:3-5


The Beehive is an emblem of industry, and recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest seraph in heaven to the lowest reptile in the dust.  It teaches us that we came into the world rational and human beings, so should we ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, if it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves.  Beehive Illustration

Behold Your Master

When, in the installation services, the formula is used, "Brethren, behold your master," the expression is not simply exclamatory, but is intended, as the original use of the word behold implies, to invite the members of the Lodge to fix their attention upon the new relations which have sprung up between them and him who has just been elevated to the Oriental Chair, and to impress upon their minds the duties which they owe to him and which he owes to them.  In like manner, when the formula is continued, "Master, behold your brethren," the Master's attention is impressively directed to the same change of relations and duties.  These are not mere idle words, but convey an important lesson, and should never be omitted in the ceremony of installation.


Who were these particular workers at the building of the Temple?  The Benai, were setters, layers, or builders, at the erection of King Solomon's Temple, and were able and ingenious Fellowcrafts.  They were distributed by Solomon into separate Lodges, with a Master and Warden in each, that they might receive commands in a regular manner, take care of their tools and jewels, be paid regular, and be duly fed and clothed, that the work might proceed with harmony and order.  1 Kings 5:18


The solemn invocation of a blessing in the ceremony of closing a Lodge is called the benediction.  The usual formula is as follows:  "May the blessing of Heaven rest upon us, and all regular Masons; may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us."  The response is, "So mote it be.  Amen"; which should always be audibly pronounced by all the Brethren.


Benevolence is sometimes defined as the expression of goodwill to others which results in deeds of helpfulness.  It is prompted by the emotion of love inculcated in the command "Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself."  A benevolent disposition suffers uneasiness at the sufferings of others, abhors cruelty under every disguise or pretext, and seeks to relieve these conditions; it becomes universal when it yearns for, and strives to secure, the welfare of all men.  Masons are taught to look upon all mankind as formed by the Grand Architect of the Universe in a spirit of sympathy and love and to discharge the duties of benevolence in the widest and most generous scope.  Biblical injunctions binding on those who would emulate the spirit and actions of God... Lev. 19:9,10 -  Lev. 25:35-37 -  Eccl. 11:1,2


What was the symbolism of the tribe of Benjamin?  The twelfth son of Jacob, and the twelfth point of the ancient English lectures, symbolizing this tribe and referring to the closing of the Lodge.  He was the last of the sons of Jacob, and thus closed his father's strength.   The name Benjamin is also significant in several of the degrees which refer to the Second Temple, because the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were the only tribal representatives in its construction.  Hence in the Masonry of the Second Temple the names Judah and Benjamin superseded the names Jachin and Boaz of the First Temple.  Gen. 35:16-20 - Gen. 42:4 - Gen. 49:27


A flat surface with a slanted rim.

Bible - Sacred Book of Judiasm and Christianity

The Bible is known Masonically as the book of the Law, when opened at its proper place in the Lodge, because it is defusing the proper light among the brethren.  The passages on which it is opened, differ in the various degrees.  The history of the Masonic symbolism of the Bible is interesting.  Although referred to in the manuscripts before the revival of 1717, as the book upon which the covenant was taken, it was never referred to as a great light.  In the oldest ritual that we have, that of 1724, -- a copy of which from the Royal Library in Berlin is given by Krause, -- there is no mention of the Bible as one of the lights.  Preston made it apart of the furniture of the Lodge; but in the rituals of 1760 it is described as one of the three great lights.  In the American system, the Bible is both a piece of furniture and a great light.  It is placed upon the altar in the center of the Lodge room, and must be opened at certain designated passages during the ritual and the conferring of the different degrees.  It occupies this position as a symbol of the refulgent rays of Divine Truth which permeate all the transactions of the Lodge.  Psalm 133:1-3 - Amos 7:7-9 - Eccles. 12:1-7  - Josh. 1:8  Bible Illustration


While the Masonic Order is in many respects a religious Institution and thoroughly Biblical in its moral and ethics, it is completely free of sectarianism and bitterly opposed to religious intolerance and bigotry of every sort.  As an Institution it has been the harbinger of civil and religious freedom, of liberty and conscience, and of separation of church and state.  Men of various religious faiths have been numbered among its foremost promoters; many of the founders of our American liberties were Masons.  Religious narrow-mindedness, prejudices, jealousies, self-conceit, and bigotries denounced by the Holy Scriptures... Num. 11:28,29 - Isa. 65:5 - Mark 9:38-40 - Luke 9:49,50 - 2 Cor. 10:12

Biscuit / Bisque

Porcelain or earthenware fired once and unglazed.

Blazing Star

The Blazing Star, which is not, however, to be confounded with the Five-Pointed Star, is one of the most important symbols of Freemasonry, and makes its appearance in several of the degrees.  The Blazing Star is symbolic of a true Mason, who, by perfecting himself in the way of truth, that is to say, by advancing in knowledge, becomes like a blazing star, shining with brilliancy in the midst of darkness.  The star is, therefore, a symbol of truth.

Blue Lodge

What is the peculiar characteristic of the color Blue?  The three degrees of symbolic Masonry are clothed in or ornamented with blue, it is a color of truth or fidelity;  and it is a remarkable fact that the brethren have ever remained true to the blue degrees, while the authenticity of the other degrees have often been disputed, and in many places altogether denied.  This durable and beautiful color was adopted and worn by our ancient brethren as the peculiar characteristic of an institution which has stood the test of ages, and which is as much distinguished by the durability of its materials or principals, as by the beauty of its superstructure.  It is an emblem of universal friendship and benevolence; and instructs us that, in the mind of a Mason, those virtues should be as expansive as the blue arch of Heaven itself.  2 Cor. 5:1  Psalm 8:1 and 3

Boaz - strength; in strength

Boaz was the name of the left hand, or north pillar, that stood at the porch of King Solomon's Temple.  It signifies "in strength," or in a fuller literal rendering, "in Thee is strength."  Like the other of the two pillars which stood at the porch of the Temple, Jachin by name, this pillar was highly ornamented; but more important was its emblematical import.  Gazing upon the Temple in all its splendor and beauty and perfections, one might naturally transpose the significance of this pillar into the words:  "O Lord, thou art mighty, and thy power is established from from everlasting to everlasting."  It is in this emblematic symbolism that "Boaz" has such an important place in Masonry.  Biblical origin of the name Boaz... 1 Kings 7:21 - 2 Kings 25:13

Bog oak / Bog wood

The product of peat bogs in Ireland. Trees and stumps saturated and preserved; black when excavated.

Bois durci

Sawdust, blood, egg albumin, or gelatin, dried, placed in a mold, and compressed in a heated press. Patented in France by Lepage in 1855. Only made commercially from the 1860s to 1875.

Book of Law

This is another name for the Holy Bible, which see.  The title applies especially to the Old Testament, and more particularly to the Five Books of Moses.  The Book of the Law is an important symbol in the Royal Arch Degree, concerning especially the tradition that this Book was lost during the Babylon Captivity, and that it was among the treasures discovered during the building of the Second Temple.  According to Masonic teachings the Book of the Law is the revealed word of God, and if lost we are left in darkness; it must be recovered as a precedent to our learning what is Truth.  Deut. 28:58 - 2 Chr. 17:9 - 2 Kings 22:8 - 2 Kings 23:2 - Neh 8:8


Difficult to distinguish from ivory.  Occasionally used as applied decorative elements.  


A metal alloy consisting mainly of copper and zinc.

Brazen Pillars - See Pillars of the Porch

Breast to Breast - See Points of Fellowship

Breast, The Faithful

One of the three precious jewels of a Fellowcraft.  It symbolically teaches the initiate that the lessons which he has received from the instructive tongue of the Master are not to be listened to and lost, but carefully treasured in his heart, and that the precepts of the Order constitute a covenant which he is faithfully to observe.


This Breastplate was worn by a High Priest who represented Joshua, or Jeshua, who was the son of Josedech, and the High Priest of the Jews when they returned from Babylonian exile.   He was seated in the East, and clothed in the apparel of the ancient High Priest of the Jews.  He wore a robe of blue, purple, scarlet, and white linen, and was decorated with a breastplate and miter.  On the front of the miter was inscribed the words, Holiness to the Lord. The Breastplate represents the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The High Priest was at the head not only of ecclesiastical but of civil affairs, presiding in the Sanhedrim and judging the people.  He superintended the Temple, directing the mode of worship, and preserving the building from profanation.   He was inducted into his office by anointment and sacrifices, and was invested with a peculiar dress.  This dress, as the Rabbis describe it, consisted of eight parts, namely, the breastplate, the ephod, with its curious girdle, the broidered coat, the robe of the ephod, the miter, and the girdle.  The vestments of a High Priest of a Royal Arch Chapter are intended to represent -- though the representation is imperfect -- the gorgeous apparel of the Jewish Pontiff.  To these the Masonic ritualists have ascribed a symbolic signification.  The miter teaches the High Priest the dignity of his office; the breastplate, his responsibility to the laws and ordinances of the Institution, and that the honor and interest of the Chapter should always be near his heart; and the robe, the different graces and virtues which are symbolized by the various colors of which it is composed.  EXAMPLE


This word, being the plural of Brother in the solemn style, is more generally used in Masonic language, instead of the common plural, Brothers.  Thus Masons always speak of "The Brethren of the Lodge," and not of "The Brothers of the Lodge."



Patented. France.

Breveté‚ S.G.D.G.

Patented without government guarantee (of quality or performance). France.


Patent. Italy.


A form of engraving popular about 1790, in which the metal is removed by beveled cutting tools, giving a jewel-like faceted sparkle to the surface.

Bright finish

Highly polished, mirror-like finish produced by use of jeweler's rouge on a polishing wheel.


A term for diamonds that are set in jewels, badges and insignia, mainly the badges and jewels of certain orders, to denote a higher class or a special distinction.

Britannia metal

A silver-white alloy composed largely of tin hardened with copper and antimony.  Closely akin to pewter, yet differing in the higher proportion of tin, the addition of antimony and the omission of lead, resulting in a more silvery appearance than is possible with the pewter mixture.  It often contains also a small quantity of zinc and bismuth.  A common proportion is 140 parts of tin, three of copper and ten of antimony.

Britannia silver

Highest grade silver used in Great Britain: 95.84% fine silver.

Broken Column

Among the ancients, columns, or pillars, were used to signify princes or nobles, as if they were pillars of state.  A broken column would signify a "fallen prince," the weakening of the state.  Thus we have the Broken Column, familiar to every Master Mason, as the symbol of the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft.  ARTICLE


An alloy often used for phaleristic items consisting of ninety-five percent copper, four percent tin, and one percent zinc.

Brotherly Love

By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family--the high, the low, the rich, the poor--who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other.  On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.  In the Masonic Fraternity, the candidate for the mysteries of Freemasonry is impressed with the fact that the great principles of the Order are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth in the initiatory Rites, and throughout his advancement.  The mode and manner for the practice of these principles are detailed in words and illustrated in symbols, so there can be no cause for error in understanding or failure in practice.  Emphatic throughout the ritual of the Masonic Fraternity are the teachings of the greater Light of Masonry that Brotherly Love is to be more than an abstract principle; it is to be in deed and in truth... Ex. 23:4 - Deut. 10:19 - 1 Sam. 18:1 - Prov. 18:23,24 - Heb. 13:1 - 1 John 4:19-21 


A general term for a shallow indentation on the surface of a phaleristic item usually caused by mishandling.


Removal of the outer layer of metal with a flexible abrasive wheel or a soft mop, exposing a shiny under-surface but imparting no additional hardness.


The chief architect of the Temple of Solomon, "Hiram Abif," was often called "the Builder."  But the word is also applied to the Craft.  In speculative Masonry every member is as much a builder as was his operative predecessor. As the operative Mason spreads the cement to bind the stone, speculative masons spread brotherly love, relief, and truth to bind men morally and spiritually. The operative builder, builds for a century and the speculative builder, builds for eternity.  Masons are moral builders.  In the ritual it is declared that they have "a more noble and glorious purpose than squaring stones and hewing timbers, which is fitting immortal nature for that spiritual building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."  "The Builder" is therefore the most noble title that can be bestowed upon a Mason.  1 Kings 5:18 - 2 Kings 12:11 - 2 Chr. 34:11 Ezek. 27:4 - 1 Cor. 3:10,14 - Eph. 3:19-22 - 2 Cor. 5:1 - Heb. 9:11 - Heb. 11:10

Building of the Temple of Solomon

Q.  What was the length of time taken for the building of the Temple? 

A.  In the fourth year was the foundation laid, in the month of Zif:  And in the eleventh year in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it.  So was he seven years in building it.  1 Kings 6:37-38  An Illustration of the Completed Temple

Building of the Temple of Zerubbabel

Q.  Who granted permission to the Jews to build the second Temple? 

A. The foundation for the second Temple was laid 537 B.C. and completed 516 B.C.  After returning from captivity, the Jews under Zerubbabel laid the foundation.  When the people of the land offered to assist in rebuilding the Temple, Zerubbabel and the principal men of Judah refused them this honor, since Cyrus had granted his permission to the Jews only.  Ezra 5:2; 4:2-3  Zech. 4:9 


Metallic-like gold or silver thread usually found on Masonic aprons and sashes.


From time immemorial religious cults and fraternal institutions have given special attention to the burial of their dead, and solemn rituals have been used in the last rites of fellow-members.  Masons are no exception in this matter.  While never interfering with the religious rites in the burial of a brother Mason, a ritual consisting of solemn, beautiful, and profoundly meaningful burial rites and ceremonies is provided for deceased brothers.  The requirements are that the deceased brother must have been a Master Mason, and that he must have made the request for a Masonic Burial, by direct appeal to his Lodge or through a member of his family.  Gen. 23:3-20 - 2 Sam. 2:5,6 - Matt. 27:59  Illustration

Burn Engraving   

Designs created by burning a surface (usually of leather or wood) with a hot tool.  Also see PyrographyEXAMPLE

Burning Bush

Jehovah, the Hebrew title of God, is, of all the significant words of Masonry, by far the most important.  This name is regarded as "the basis of Masonic dogma and mysteries."  In the original Hebrew this name consisted of four letters, and is designated by the Greek term Tetragrammaton, meaning a four-lettered name.  Because it was forbidden of the Hebrews, as it is to a Mason, to pronounce it, it is also called the Ineffable or Unpronounceable name.  See Jehovah.  Since this Ineffable name was first communicated to Moses out of the midst of a flaming fire from a "Burning Bush" which was not consumed by the flames, the utterance of this name by God himself is commemorated in the "Burning Bush" of the Royal Arch Degree.  Recognizing the fact that in all systems of antiquity fire is adopted as a symbol of Deity, the fire of the "Burning Bush" is a symbol of Divine Light and Truth.  The God represented thereby is one source of all Masonic Light and Truth, as represented more fully in the high degrees of Masonry.  Ex. 3:2-6,11-15 - Ex. 6:3 - John 8:58 - Heb. 13:8


Tool with hard, polished working surface such as agate, for burnishing gold and silver.


The process of applying a hard, polished surface to the surface of an object by means of a burnisher in order to further produce a highly polished surface.  Electro deposits consist of a multitude of small crystals, with intervals between them, and with facets reflecting the light in every direction.  The deposited metal is hardened by burnishing and forcing into the underlying metal.  The durability is thus increased to such an extent that, with the same amount of silver, a burnished article will last twice as long as one which has not been so treated.


The profile head and shoulders of the sovereign or another personage.  A synonymous term is effigy.

Butler's finish

Satin finish produced by a revolving wheel of wire which makes many tiny scratches, giving the article a dull appearance.

Butt join

The joining of two edges of metal, without overlapping or folding.  A technique used to solder the two halves of a die-stamped item at the edges.


Every Lodge has the power of framing by-laws for its own government, provided they are not contrary to or inconsistent with the general regulations of the Grand Lodge.  The Old Constitutions provide that the by-laws of the Lodge shall be delivered to the master on the day of his installation, when he shall solemnly pledge himself to observe and enforce them during his mastership.  Every brother shall also sign them when he becomes a member of the Lodge, as a declaration of his submission to them.


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