I read the question WHY (actually) did Rosetta have to go into hibernation for 2.5 years? that uses the term attitude to refer to the orientation of the Rosetta probe:

It spun itself up to stabilize its attitude, then shut down navigation, attitude control, communication systems as well as some of the heaters

When I read the question, I thought it was a typo for altitude, but now I understand that attitude control refers to:

...controlling the orientation of an object with respect to an inertial frame of reference or another entity (the celestial sphere, certain fields, nearby objects, etc.).

Source: Wikipedia

My question is, what is the origin of using the word 'attitude' to refer to orientation?

  • 1
    Probably related to it's definition posture
    – NVZ
    May 23, 2016 at 12:36

1 Answer 1


Attitude in Aviation is ah extension of its original meaning of "disposition of a figure":

  • the position of the aircraft in the air in relation to the horizon.

Origin & History of “attitude”:

  • In origin, attitude is the same word as aptitude. both come ultimately from late Latin aptitūdō. In Old French this became aptitude, which English acquired in the 15th century, but in Italian it became attitudine, which meant ‘disposition’ or ‘posture’. This was transmitted via French attitude to English, where at first it was used as a technical term in art criticism, meaning the ‘disposition of a figure in a painting’. The metaphorical sense ‘mental position with regard to something’ developed in the early 19th century.

Attitude indicator:

  • is an instrument used in an aircraft to inform the pilot of the orientation of the aircraft relative to Earth's horizon. It indicates pitch (fore and aft tilt) and bank (side to side tilt) and is a primary instrument for flight in instrument meteorological conditions.


Attitudes and movements: (in flights)

  • There are four attitudes and three movements associated with flying. The most important attitude is the cruise attitude, as it is the reference for all other attitudes and movements. The cruise attitude is attained with level flight attitude, a constant altitude, a constant airspeed, and power, and level wings. The nose of the aeroplane (or glareshield) is held approximately one hand-span below the horizon as viewed from the pilot’s seat.

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