I have just learned (via a MetaFilter post) the word graticule, which is obscure enough that it’s not in the American Heritage Dictionary. The OED defines it thus:

1. A design or plan divided into squares to facilitate its proportionate enlargement or reduction; the style or pattern of such a division.
1887 GEN. WALKER in Encycl. Brit. XXII. 714/1 The graticule is sometimes rectangular, sometimes spherical, sometimes a combination of both.. Spherical graticules are constructed in various ways.
2. A transparent plate or cell bearing a grid, cross-wire, or scale, designed to be used with an optical instrument or cathode-ray oscilloscope for the purpose of positioning, measuring, or counting objects in the field of view; the scale, grid, etc., on such a plate. Hence graticuled ppl. a., fitted with a graticule.
1914 Handbk. Artill. Instrum. 42 In front of the eye-piece is fixed.. a diaphragm, with spider’s web graticules attached to it. 1919 Trans. Opt. Soc. XX. 277 Generally the graticules are on glass and it is usual to refer to the complete discs or plates with the measuring scales or marks on them, as ‘graticules’. Ibid. 286 Graticuled binoculars are not used much for peace purposes. […] 1971 Physics Bull. July 398/2 A graduation line is centred in the microscope eyepiece graticule.

If one were to be classically accurate, it should be “craticule”; the etymology is:
a. F. graticule, ad. med.L. grâtîcula, for crâtîcula gridiron, dim. of crâtis hurdle.
For meaning 2, the word reticle is also used; the words are unconnected, this one being from a diminutive of rête ‘net.’


  1. Hah! I’m pounding myself on the back hard enough to cause contusions AND rotator cuff difficulties. I actually knew the word! Of course, it was for the obvious reason that I often enlarge drawings, and before computers actually did it manually…..

  2. well, cartographers and geographers are giggling in glee as well. But then, we’re rather used to being on the obscure frontiers of common knowledge…

  3. Same here – only in my case the knowledge came from a childhood (and continuing) fascination with electronics. I once owned an oscilloscope which had a knob for graticule illumination: that controlled a light set into the side of a gridded green perspex cover over the screen proper.
    Is the word just not used in the US? My device was made in Britain, being of a vintage when such things happened. On the other hand, you wouldn’t use ‘grid’ because there’s a more important part of an oscilloscope with that name.

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