Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I might be mistaken, but I feel odd calling the following "wooden handrails", since handrails are supposed to be made of metal.

enter image description here

http://otherplacesotherlives.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/dsc_1790.jpg?w=425&h=640

Is it OK to call it "handrail", "guard rail", or a "wooden handrail"? Or is there a better term for it?

share|improve this question
    
The whole construction above the deck is referred to as a balustrade. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 5 '13 at 13:39
2  
Why do you assume that handrails are supposed to be made of metal? –  user24964 Apr 5 '13 at 14:09
    
@TheMathemagician OK, so I was wrong. So, the one in the first picture can be just called a handrail? –  janoChen Apr 5 '13 at 14:13
    
Handrails could be made of anything (fiberglass or plastic, metal or wrought-iron, wood or pipe). There's nothing redundant about wooden handrail, just like there would be nothing redundant about red car. –  J.R. Apr 5 '13 at 15:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Have a look at the defininiton of handrails from a few sources:

OxfordOnline :
a rail fixed to posts or a wall for people to hold on to for support.

Reference.com:
a rail serving as a support or guard at the side of a stairway, platform, etc.

Merriam-Webster:
a narrow rail for grasping with the hand as a support.

So, it be wrong to assume that rails are metallic. I agree the word rings in the metallic character as we (at least I do) quickly think of the rail-roads. :)
And as @Edwin Ashworth tells us, we can use balustrade for rails supported by pillars or columns. Here is a good definition about it:

balustrade:
a railing supported by balusters, especially one forming an ornamental parapet to a balcony, bridge, or terrace.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the answer. Sorry, I'm not a native-English speaker. Is balustrade a commonly used by people? I think of all the novels I've read, I'd never came across with the term. –  janoChen Apr 5 '13 at 14:51
1  
Balustrade may be a more technically precise term, but the word handrail could be used as well. –  J.R. Apr 5 '13 at 15:29
1  
Parapet? I think of parapets as living on roofs or balconies, not bridges. –  Peter Shor Apr 5 '13 at 16:50
1  
@Peter They often do - but they're happy on bridges too. Check at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parapet ; I was just agreeing that balustrade, though probably the most accurate term here, is not too commonly used. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 5 '13 at 16:53
2  
I think I'd just call them railings, although I have now learned that bridges can indeed have parapets. –  Peter Shor Apr 5 '13 at 16:59

Stair guide rails on houses are good examples of wooden handrails. Anyways, I would just like to add that you can say 'wooden handrail' if you feel that it would add to your explanation or add to the sort of visual or tactile imagery that you are trying to project. Balustrade would be acceptable too but only if you don't mind your audience not knowing what they are initially.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.