Is there a single term that can be used to describe both a 'row' and a 'column', such as in a spreadsheet?

EDIT: I like Kris's comment-answer of "linear array", because it doesn't have so much of a loaded meaning as the other answers. "Axis" isn't bad considering I (purposefully) didn't specify the use-case. I'm trying to come up with a name for a programming variable that can either hold a row or a column, and 'array' and 'axis' can give the wrong idea in this context.

I need this term for a logical function name in an assignment for students who aren't programmers.

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    Rows and columns are 'linear arrays'. – Kris Oct 22 '13 at 7:51
  • In chess rows are ranks, and columns are files; in math the rows and columns of a matrix are vectors. In spreadsheets terminology, rows and columns are arrays, although what Kris wrote would be more precise. – Talia Ford Oct 22 '13 at 9:10
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    In spreadsheets specifically, a subset of the sheet is often called a range. Rows and columns are almost always just called "rows and columns", though. You should perhaps give an example of a context where you want to use the word? – starwed Oct 22 '13 at 20:35
  • @TaliaFord On that note, is there a general term for 'ranks' and 'files'? :-) – Duncan Matheson Oct 22 '13 at 22:05
  • @DuncanMatheson Haha, true that :-) – Talia Ford Oct 22 '13 at 22:46

I think the word he is look for is "vector"; i.e. a line of indeterminate length in a specific direction.

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    Not coincidentally, vector can also mean "a matrix with one row or column". – snailcar Oct 22 '13 at 22:38
  • I agree with the word vector, but your explanation should be improved, including references to common usage or authoritative definition. " a line of indeterminate length in a specific direction" doesn't really respond clearly to the question. – Canis Lupus Oct 23 '13 at 6:39

How about axis?

  1. (Mathematics) one of two or three reference lines used in coordinate geometry to locate a point in a plane or in space.

(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged)


You say you're looking for a name for a code variable. Seeing as people here struggle so much to find such a word, I'm guessing whatever you settle on will confuse whoever reads your code just as much. I'd just skip trying to be pithy and go for rowOrColumn. Clarity over brevity.

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    This is valid in some uses - row or column can mean the index of the row or column as a means of addressing (along the lines of r and c axes), or it can mean the contents of an entire row or column, for which axis doesn't match. – Chris H Oct 22 '13 at 9:20

Thank you all for your suggestions. I need this term for a logical function name in an assignment for students who aren't programmers, so a lot of the words put forward here would not mean much to them.

I asked a colleague about it and he suggested 'line'. I'll use this as it makes logical sense for the match 3 game example project they will be completing, and I thought I'd return and share.


Other word for a row and a column can be "tuple".

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    That's not what the OP is asking. A tuple would be representing a row and a column as "row, column", an ordered collection of values. He's looking for a generic term, such as "spreadsheet axis", that describes either of them. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Oct 22 '13 at 7:56
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    Why would a tuple need to be representing a row and a column as (row, column)? Just because 2-tuples frequently represent (row, column) doesn't mean all tuples must. I can't see a reason why a tuple can't represent all the data in a row or all the data in a column if so desired. – Diamond Python Aug 25 '16 at 8:57


What you describe are referred to as row vectors and column vectors. (Collectively, they are vectors.)

For example, in linear algebra, a row in a matrix represents the coefficients of one linear equation from a system of linear equations. Taken alone, that row is considered a vector (a row vector), and can just as easily be used to calculate the solution for that single linear equation. The "vector dot product" is used with a row vector and a column vector. Here is a link to a simple explanation for those less familiar with this concept. This picture (from the article) illustrates the idea:

enter image description here

While the picture also illustrates a column matrix, it's a degenerative case where there is only one column [x y z] in the matrix. But the concept can be extended over multiple columns, where the result of multiplying a row by a column follows the same vector dot product process.

Less common in the context, Tuple is an ordered list of elements. As this article in Wikipedia states, a tuple can be used to represent other objects in mathematics (besides a simple list of elements), with vectors being the first example. You might consider "tuple" to be a hypernym of "vector".

When it comes to tables like spreadsheets, I would consider some cases of a delineated part of a column or of a row to be a list. (I say "delineated part" because the spreadsheet array is so expansive that we often might put multiple independent tables and arbitrary objects in an array.)


I propose "band".

I am suggesting this as a new usage, as we do not seem to otherwise have a common word for this kind of thing.

I was coming at this question from the perspective of separating the row/column from the dividers separating them. The dividers, being narrow, are properly referred to as lines:

2: a straight or curved geometric element that is generated by a moving point and that has extension only along the path of the point


In typical usage, a band is generally something thin and long, but generally indicates non-trivial thickness:

3: a strip serving to join or hold things together (belt, book band)

4: a thin flat encircling strip (strip of cloth, ring of elastic)

5a: strip (as of living tissue or rock) or a stripe (as on an animal) differentiable (as by color, texture, or structure) from the adjacent material or area

5b: a more or less well-defined range of wavelengths, frequencies, or energies

5c: range 7a


I particularly like the wavelength example; in science, we can refer to a spectral line (very narrow, specific wavelength emitted or absorbed) vs. a band, which indicates a wide range of wavelengths.

As I'm thinking about this, I'll also suggest for discussion "lane" or "track" as alternatives, though to me those both suggest motion along them.

  • Thank you for your contribution Nick. Could you edit your answer to provide a reference, dictionary definition or the like to support your suggestion for band as a common term for row and column. If rather you are suggesting a new usage, perhaps you could make that clear. – David Aug 6 '17 at 9:58

One possibility is series. This is the term used in pandas for either a row or a column taken from a rectangular DataFrame. Pandas is a widely used open-source data analysis package written in Python.

The key idea is that a series is iterable, and that the elements have indices, which can be column headers (to index a row) or row names (to index a column). However, it doesn't matter whether the series itself comes from a row or a column.

As you might expect, it is possible in pandas to assemble a DataFrame from a list of series, which can become either the rows or the columns, depending on the construction technique.

A series can be converted to a numpy array or to a Python list, i.e. these are common terms for a one-dimensional data structure. However, neither of these have arbitrary labels like a series, which is possibly why the designers of pandas chose the term, and why it might be a plausible choice for the application you hint at in the original question.

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