1

What are the (maybe subtle) differences between the three words in the question? Which one would you prefer in which context?

I am translating a text from German where the word "Sockel" is used, and in the text it has the three meanings:

  • basis or ground layer of a natural structure
  • metaphorically, something which serves as a base for higher (mental or spiritual) achievements
  • something on which you put a statue

Ideally, the English word should have all these connotations too.

Additional question: Could a simple "base" or "foundation" work too?

3
  • 'socle' is a rare technical term in English. That is, though they may be almost identical words in the two languages, the English term is almost unrecognizable.

  • 'plinth' is technical term but not as rare as socle. it is a low base, the bottom slab on which a column rests.

  • 'pedestal' is a common term definitely something you put a statue on, but also metaphorically for putting something aspirational on. This may be a column itself and then a statue or another even another column goes on top of it.

  • 'base' or 'foundation' are often used metaphorically and aren't as technical feeling.

I would not recommend 'socle' or 'plinth' for your criteria. In increasing interest and specificity (start with boring and going to interesting) the others go: "base', 'foundation', 'pedestal'. 'Pedestal' is the most evocative and visually specific.

  • 2
    I really don't think you would say "this introductory course gives you a firm pedestal for further study of the language" (so pedestal is completely wrong for meaning number 2). The word base might be the best compromise to encompass all three meanings. – Peter Shor Sep 30 '17 at 22:56
  • @PeterShor I agree you wouldn't say that. I wasn't clear about the stretch of the metaphors. – Mitch Oct 1 '17 at 2:34

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