I'm sure I met someone like this a few years back & they provided me with a single word/name for the "condition". I say condition as the person who this affects automatically, & sometimes to the point of frustrated distraction, will be able to see (can't ignore) the smallest discrepancy in any of these measurements within their environment & will also accurately estimate correction. I'm not just talking about noticing a skewed wall mirror but rather an acute & often minute sense of balance in their surroundings.

  • The words to describe some of these attributes run from "obsessive-compulsive" to "detail-oriented" to "feng-shui-minded". Was it a single word, as you remember, or a compound word like my examples? Jul 2, 2013 at 16:48
  • I don't know the word you're looking for. Long time ago, when I was in the US Army, we sometimes joked about those able to consistently and accurately estimate the distance to the target as having a "calibrated eyeball". Nowadays they just use laser rangefingers. Jul 2, 2013 at 17:14
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    I don't think there's a generic term for "good at estimating". But in the specific case of estimating capacity (as, for example, how many suitcases can you fit in your car boot?), the word we usually use is woman. Jul 2, 2013 at 17:21
  • Yes, I'm pretty sure it was a single word which in itself didn't sound like a descriptor but more like a scientific term.
    – supine man
    Jul 2, 2013 at 17:27
  • The word I'm looking for doesn't refer to how "good" a person is at the estimations rather how this persons eye is drawn to these things. Observations or discrepancies aren't generally/necessarily acted on but mental notes might be constant.
    – supine man
    Jul 2, 2013 at 17:34

5 Answers 5


A related word, although perhaps not the one you want, is savant, in the sense of a person exhibiting savant syndrome. (Typically, such people have a disability that savant skills partly offset.) The wikipedia article on this topic mentions spatial skills as among the “five major areas” for savant skills. It also says:

No widely accepted cognitive theory explains savants' combination of talent and deficit. ... Another hypothesis is that savants hyper-systemize, thereby giving an impression of talent. ... Also, the attention to detail shown by many savants is a consequence of enhanced perception or sensory hypersensitivity in these unique individuals. It has also been confirmed that some savants operate by directly accessing low-level, less-processed information that exists in all human brains but is normally unavailable to conscious awareness.

On another tack (suggested by other answer) the term eagle-eyed describes someone who is perceptive and has excellent visual acuity.

  • You're right, Savant, that's certainly close in feel but not the word I'm looking for. Autistic characteristics had certainly occurred to me but I don't think autism was considered in the term I'm trying to find, the skill isn't so prodigious.
    – supine man
    Jul 2, 2013 at 19:27

There is a French expression, "avoir le compas dans l'oeil", for just what you describe. This would be roughly translated as "having your eye [accurate] as a compass" and means that you can just "see" what other people will have to measure.

  • I like that. It also echo's Cyberherbalists comment. There are probably many similar nods to this attribute.
    – supine man
    Jul 2, 2013 at 20:14
  • And since your question was about English, let's bring this full circle. I vote for "compass-eye" or "to have a compass in one's eye." Even if it sounds painful. "Man, he sure does have a compass in his eye." "Thanks for sharing that highly relevant detail, compass-eye."
    – vidget
    Jul 3, 2013 at 17:11
  • It sounds painful in French too.
    – phs
    Jul 3, 2013 at 18:08

I would describe someone having the characteristics you listed as "spatially aware" or "spatially conscious." "Situational awareness" is a closely related term used in the military to describe being attuned to your environment and its changes.


Obessive-Compulsive Disorder, and the related Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, are psychological disorders whose sufferers often have extreme attention to detail (along with anxiety over minute discrepencies in their environement).


You could also be thinking of someone with Photographic ("Eidetic") Memory.

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