I'm writing a fiction piece where a thief (of sorts) is being "shown the ropes" by a more experienced peer. One of the instructor's primary goals is to instill an awareness of all the elements of a room/building/etc. pertinent to thievery or spycraft: occupants, guards, points of access, shadowy corners, hazards, sensors, squeaky boards, valuables, supplies accessible in an emergency, etc.--generally anything that a covert infiltrator would want to be aware of.

To describe this concept, the instructor uses a word. I've been using the made-up word environmentals (n.) since this particular story has no shortage of made-up words for extremely elaborate concepts with no English descriptors. The word is used frequently enough in the fictional setting that it would certainly be a single word or two-word expression. For example, a conversation might go:

"What were the environmentals in the foyer?"
"Two officers at the desk. No windows. Echoic marble floor. Three spaces not visible from the desk. Maybe some keys in the desk."
"Okay. And what will the environmentals be at 3 PM?"
"The same. I don't know. Why do I even care about the environmentals?"

I prefer to use recognized English terms (even slang ones) when close matches are available. In this case, neither the words features, hazards, nor any of the synonyms for features on thesaurus.com fit the bill, either because they're too broad, they have ambiguous meanings, or they don't refer to everything in the aforementioned list.

It occurs to me, however, that literature on military tactics, spycraft, covert infiltration, etc. might possibly use an accepted word/term with this specific meaning. Even if it's jargon, using it rather than making up my own word seems prudent.

A compound word would be acceptable. A phrase would not.

I'm not hopeful, but I figured I'd ask.

  • 2
    Pertinent features, which one can imagine being abbreviated by pros as “pertinents,” or even “perts.” Status is another possibility. Not an answer, as I’m not looking this stuff up.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 8:46
  • I don't think that there is such a word.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 9:50

1 Answer 1


I would use the singular word "situation."

"What was the situation in the foyer..."

  • Please add a dictionary definition and link showing how "situation" fits the OP's meaning.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 8:28
  • "Situation" and "sit rep" seem to me to refer to events or dynamic affairs specifically. For instance, I wouldn't tend to think of an echoic marble floor, a key in a drawer, or a shadowy corner to be a 'situation' per se. It's a partial fit, but not quite inclusive enough. Having said this, if you happen to know the term "situation" is commonly used to describe "persons, hazards, valuables, and features of interest" in some domain (e.g. law enforcement), I'll run with it.
    – COTO
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 16:00
  • Well, I don't know what goes on in your mind when you hear the word situation, but the work originally means "the putting in place." To situate something is to put it in site or place. A situation can be a putting in place of elements, a placement. As is common with such words that denote actions, it can also refer to the resultant state after a placement of elements. In fact, my subjective sense is that, usually, in modern English, it refers to the result of "putting things in place," that is, the arrangement of salient elements in a a scenario. Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 13:59
  • I see no problem with answering the question, "What was the situation?" with "There was an echoic floor and a key in the drawer" and so on. But that's my idiolect. Yours may be different. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all." Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 14:03

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