You know how a movie theater will sometimes use these ribbons/ropes/chains/beaded-strings on waist-high poles to define a place to form a neat line, divide a larger area, block an entrance, etc.?

For the latter, I think I've heard “velvet rope” used.

But I most commonly see things that are 3 inch wide webbing in a reel that sits on the top of the pole, and this is pulled out to the needed length and the end secured to another such post using a dovetail slot. There are slots every 90° or every 45° (leaving off the one that's the dispenser).

The old fashion kind are simply large linked chains (yellow plastic, typically) that can have any link hooked to a hook on a post, with the extra length hanging free.

If it makes a difference, I specifically want to refer to the modular adjustable kind, as opposed to a short fixed length like the “velvet rope”.

The podium held four dignitaries, and (one of those queue-control rope things like you see in theaters) was set parallel to it, herding the guests past them in single-file.

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    Googling rope barrier (or barrier rope if you're referring to the velvet) brings up relevant links. It brings up the right imagery, though I'm not sure whether it's an industry-standard term.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 12:05
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    I've never thought of this before, but if I suddenly needed the word, I think I would call them aisle ropes, or plastic chains.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 12:23
  • I think crowd control barrier is the most common term if you wanted to buy one.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 14:10
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    I find it interesting that you mention only theatres. To me, they are inexorably connected with airports, much more so than with theatres. Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 15:45
  • In seaside pierrot shows and similar al fresco entertainments, the cheap seats might divided from the premium ones by a rope. 'Moving the rope' in order to put more or fewer seats in each category could be considered an early form of dynamic pricing.
    – Laurence
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:17

6 Answers 6


If it makes a difference, I specifically want to refer to the modular adjustable kind, as opposed to a short fixed length like the “velvet rope”.

In the trade (yes, the "line-&-queue-control" trade), this item is officially called a "retractable-belt barrier", but really, the tradename Tensabarrier is used, which I imagine frustrates their competitors at Queueway and especially Retracta-Belt.

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    I do think that the tradename seems to be quite understandable for the layman as a contraction of tension and barrier, which makes perfect sense. Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 11:25
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    Thanks! I like a lot of the answers posted, and I'll probably use several. For the first mention, the “voice” of the narrative uses the manner of a character who's an engineering Geek type and would use (and know) the official real name.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 22:11
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    @JDługosz -- incidentally, the name "Tensabarrier" actually appears on the standard top of the cartridge that contains the belt itself. For a few extra bucks, the manufacturer will silk-screen your logo there, but most venues use the standard top, so it isn't unlikely that someone who paid attention to such things (like your narrator, or me) would know it. Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 22:26

I believe the term you may be looking for is a "cordon".

  1. a line or circle of police, soldiers, or guards preventing access to or from an area or building.
    "troops threw a cordon around the headquarters"
    synonyms: barrier, line, row, chain, ring, circle; picket line
    "a cordon of 500 police"
  2. an ornamental cord or braid.

from Google Definition: cordon

The fanciest of cordons is, of course, the velvet rope. Cordons can be anything that functions as a barrier from a lowly rope to a police crime scene tape to the ribbon that separates the groom's guests from the bride's to the venerable velvet rope that prevents the riff-raff from accosting the VIPs.

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    I've edited your definition to use quote markup, which is preferred here. You should also add a citation and link for your source; I would add it for you, but I'm not sure where you got it. It looks like this is a variation on the Oxford Dictionaries definition (it's missing ODO's sense 2, the synonyms are slightly different, and the second example is different).
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 5:08
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    That's good. My Stanchion was missing cordon.
    – Rahul
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:35
  • Nah, this is not the answer at all.
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 15:19
  • Thanks; I ended up using “cordon” also to describe the reception line, but for the effect of having a single-file walkway, not the device used. I can only mark one correct answer, but I thought I'd mention that I value your answer as well.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 22:13

The word you are looking for is Stanchion.

In event management a stanchion is an upright bar or post that includes retractable belts, velvet ropes, or plastic chains, sometimes in conjunction with wall-mounted barrier devices, barricades, and printed signage, and often used for crowd control and engineering people flow and construction site safety.

Your example will be:

The podium held four dignitaries, and stanchions were set parallel to it, herding the guests past them in single-file.

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    This is good, but stanchions are the vertical poles. Is there a term for the horizontal ropes?
    – EL_DON
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 14:27
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    I was thinking of balustrade, but that's not quite right.
    – EL_DON
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 14:29
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    Also, in my part of the UK a "stanchion" usually means a substantial vertical steel beam that is holding something up (see rhino-grating.com.au/products/steel-staunchion-kits or vandenbergmfg.com/html/stanchions.html) not a crowd control rope! (I'm not saying that is the only meaning of stanchion - just the first meaning the word might suggest to a reader)
    – alephzero
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 15:26
  • @EL_DON: Any rope tied between two poles is called rope line. But that's a common name.
    – Rahul
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 18:23
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    Cordons run between stanchions. Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 4:32

Actually, the simple phrase queue ropes is well defined on Google as a search phrase for stanchions, Tensa-Belts, etc. of all kinds. I cannot imagine any modern person who has ever stood in line failing to recognize the objects being referred to.


www.uline.ca, who supplies these, calls them "Crowd Control barriers". They have these in several styles, adjustable and otherwise. Not a "single word", but there may not be such a term.

No affiliation here, just happen to have their catalogue in our office.


If I'd bothered to read the post down to the very last line I could have saved myself from expending all that (excess) energy, but in my excitement I failed to give you...

"modular adjustable kind..."

which would be "retractable cordon" or "retractable barrier" which the images will confirm.

It's amazing the simplest of ideas that can make someone rich.

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