Glossary of Terms

Many of the definitions presented here are taken in substance from "Definitions of Surveying and Associated Terms" prepared by a joint committee of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping and the American Society of Civil Engineers, dated 1972. This publication is available from the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping and other sources.


Accuracy
Degree of conformity with a standard. Accuracy relates to the quality of a result, and is distinguished from precision, which relates to the quality of the operation by which the result is obtained.

BFE
Base Flood Elevation
The base flood elevation is the elevation determined for a specific area to be the upper limit of a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). SFHA’s are areas subject to inundation by a flood having a one- percent or greater probability of being equaled or exceeded during any given year (this is also known as a 100-year flood event).

Chain
A unit of surveying measurement. When Kansas was originally surveyed the method of measurement was with a 66 foot "chain" divided into 100 links. Can also be the procedure of measuring a line using a calibrated steel tape today.

Easement
Areas of land owned by the property owner, but in which other parties, such as utility companies, may have limited rights granted for a specific purpose.

Encroachment
A structure or part of an improvement that occupies the property of another.

Encumbrance
An interest or partial right in real property, which may affect the value of ownership, but does not prevent the transfer of ownership. Mortgages, taxes and judgments are encumbrances known as liens. Restrictions, easements, and reservations are also encumbrances, although not liens.

Error
The difference between a measured value and the true value. Error in measurement is inherent, but is separate and distinct from a blunder (a mistake).

Exception
From a title insurance policy, portions of the land containing encumbrances and in which free and clear title is subject to certain conditions. From a legal description, portions of land, which are included in the description of a larger parcel of land but then, excluded from it by a subsequent legal description.

Gun
A slang term for the instrument known as a "theodolite". This instrument is what the surveyor uses to turn angles and measure distances.

Improvement
Usually some sort of manmade structure, although perhaps not always a literal "improvement".

Legal Description
A method of describing a particular parcel of land in such a way that it uniquely describes the particular parcel and no other. A legal description may be a simple reference to a lot as shown on a subdivision plat, or be described by metes and bounds. To be adequate, it should be sufficient to locate the property without oral testimony.

Level
An instrument the surveyor uses to determine elevations. Is used in conjunction with a level rod. The level is used to read the measurement on the level rod.

Measurement
An estimated value that is, by its nature, subject to error. A person can count (an absolute value) one hundred beans and get the same quantity as someone else counting one hundred beans. However, if two people each measure (an estimated value) a cup of beans, it is likely that they will have a different quantity of beans. Two surveyors measuring the same distance may obtain different values. Both of the values should be similar, but they will only approach the true theoretical value through repetition and statistical analysis.

Monument
An object placed to mark the physical location of a position. A property corner monument is often a length of iron rod driven vertically into the ground so that the top is at or below natural grade. A cap identifying the registration number of the surveyor responsible for placing the monument must be placed atop the monument.

Offset
In boundary: a point located at the extension of a line and marking the direction of the line. An offset monument may be placed on the extension of a line because the offset position can provide a more durable monument. A common practice is to place offset monuments in a sidewalk or top of curb, as these monuments are less likely to be disturbed than a monument marking the actual position. In construction: a short distance usually measured at a right angle to a line, to preserve the position of the line when it is anticipated that points marking the line itself would be disturbed.

Precision
The degree of refinement in the performance of an operation, or the degree of perfection in the instruments and methods used when making measurements. An indication of the uniformity or reproducibility of a result. Precision relates to the quality of an operation by which a result is obtained, and is distinguished from accuracy, which relates to the quality of the result.

Right-of-Way
A parcel of land granted by deed or easement for construction and maintenance according to a designated use. This may include highways, streets, canals, ditches, or other uses.

Shoot
A slang term for the physical act of measuring a line with a "gun" or "theodolite". The surveyor shoots the distance by triggering the electronic distance-measuring device contained within the instrument.

Subdivision Plat
A legal instrument intended to take a large parcel of land and divide it into smaller parcels of land. A subdivision plat may also create public rights-of-way or easements, and is usually filed with the public real estate records of the county.

Title Commitment
A commitment to provide title insurance to a parcel of land. The surveyor is interested in the legal description and the exceptions.

Tolerance
A mathematical term indicating the allowable variation from a standard or from specified conditions. It is an indication of the accuracy and the precision of a measurement.

Traverse
(TRAVerse) A geometrical shape that the surveyor follows by placing and occupying points on the ground and measuring the distances and angles between the points. The purpose of the traverse is to help determine the accuracy and precision of the measurement process. (traVERSE) The physical act of measuring the geometrical shape.

XYZ coordinates
A grouping of three numbers which designate the position of a point in relation to a common reference frame. In common usage, the X and Y coordinate fix the horizontal position of the point, and Z refers to the elevation.

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