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.

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.

Definitions of obelisk
  1. noun
    a stone pillar having a rectangular cross section tapering towards a pyramidal top
    see moresee less
    Washington Monument
    a stone obelisk built in Washington in 1884 to honor George Washington; 555 feet tall
    type of:
    column, pillar
    a vertical cylindrical structure standing alone and not supporting anything (such as a monument)
  2. noun
    a character used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote
    synonyms: dagger
    see moresee less
    type of:
    character, grapheme, graphic symbol
    a written symbol that is used to represent speech
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘obelisk'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up obelisk for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer