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In French it's called a trémie,. This element is unlikely to be a hopper or funnel. What is it called in English?

Would "Stairs aperture" be good enough for people to understand?

Illustration of "trémie"

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    Julien, I've done a fairly major edit, but I don't believe it's done damage to your question. Feel free to change it again if you disagree.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 14, 2021 at 10:14
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    maybe you should add something saying how you wish to use this word. I might just call it the stair opening. “Be careful of the stair opening over here. There’s no railing around it.”
    – Jim
    Nov 14, 2021 at 13:53
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    What's wrong with "stairway"?
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 14, 2021 at 15:29
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    The point is this: It is an "opening in the floor" aka floor opening. into which you place the stairs by nailing them in place. Aperture is not right in this context, at all.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2021 at 18:04
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    In building and construction, the term is opening. First, there is a rough opening, then a finish opening. This applies to windows and doors.
    – Lambie
    Nov 16, 2021 at 14:36

11 Answers 11

8

This is a slab opening, or a floor void

In construction, a floor void is typically a vertical opening or hole that is left in the floor construction either to accommodate services, or allow the installation of a staircase or, as an aesthetic feature.
www.designingbuildings.co.uk

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    While these terms are more accurate than hatchway, they're also less likely to be recognizable to non-architects. I'd probably prefer this answer for in technical writing, but not in literature.
    – Brian
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:36
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    opening, rough opening, finish opening. Not floor void or slab opening. Wood cannot be a slab. And floor void is what is under a floor.
    – Lambie
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:22
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    @Brian I would say that trémie is also unlikely to be understood by non-architects, so it is quite fitting.
    – Richard
    Nov 17, 2021 at 8:58
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    @Richard Native French here, I fully concur. Trémie is specialized vocabulary, not at all mainstream. It has three different meanings, one of which very much match what I see about "floor void" in the posted link. "Slab opening" would be ouverture dans la dalle which works too, especially if it is a dalle béton (concrete).
    – jlliagre
    Nov 17, 2021 at 14:44
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There is a picture of a "trémie" at https://www.archiexpo.com/prod/rector/product-56991-2265269.html essentially it is a hole.

A trémie is a hatchway.

OED

hatchway, n.

Originally and chiefly Nautical. A square or oblong opening in the deck of a ship providing access to the hold and through which cargo or other items may be lowered (= hatch n.1 5c); a similar opening forming a passageway between decks.

3. An opening in the floor, ceiling, etc., of a building, which may be closed with a trapdoor or hatch.

2010 Portland (Maine) Press Herald (Nexis) 20 Sept. a1 I had to stay near the hatchway to the attic. At one point, I clumsily knocked into the heavy hatchway door, and it bonked me solidly on the head.

Hatch is to hatchway as door is to doorway.

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    But it's not a hatchway if there isn't any hatch. Nov 15, 2021 at 1:40
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    One might understand hatchway to be a way into which a hatch might be fitted, whether or not there is actually, or ever will be an actual hatch. Likewise, mutatis mutants a doorway. Nov 15, 2021 at 5:40
  • Oh, and when I wrote my earlier comments I damn well wrote mutatis mutandis and not the abomination that spelling corekshun has made of my remaining Latin. Nov 15, 2021 at 17:08
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    @JohnBollinger But it's not a hatchway if there isn't any hatch. Please see Hatch is to hatchway as door is to doorway.
    – Greybeard
    Nov 16, 2021 at 14:20
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    I did see that, @Greybeard. And I say, (1) some people deny that there can be a doorway without a door, too, and (2) even people who accept doorways without doors are not bound to accept hatchways without hatches, notwithstanding the analogy of form and subject. Nov 16, 2021 at 19:11
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My French is not great, but it's good enough to recognize that you are using the trémie corresponding to this definition from the Larousse dictionary:

  1. [...] espace réservé dans un plancher pour une circulation verticale (gaine, cage d'escalier, etc.)

That clarifies that it is indeed the opening in the floor that you are talking about, not the stairs, not the floor near the opening, not the framing of the opening, etc.. That's consistent with your picture, description, and suggestion of "stairs aperture", too, so you may be wondering why you've received such a diversity of answers. The thing is, this is a concept for which there is no term in common use in English (or American English, at least). In fact, in more than half a century of communicating in English, I have never discussed such an opening specifically or heard it mentioned.

Perhaps there is a technical term for it in the field of architecture or building, but if so, then the Larousse has not found it. Its French / English dictionary translates "trémie d'escalier" as "stairwell", but a stairwell is not just the opening in the floor, but rather the whole volume in which a stairway is set. Perhaps bare "trémie" would be understood differently, but the Larousse doesn't offer an applicable translation for that.

If I had to convey this specific idea, then I would probably say something along the lines of "the opening from the second floor onto the stairs". If I felt obligated to be more brief then "stairway opening" might do, but that would depend on context to communicate which of at least two openings I was talking about. And even then, unless the audience had in mind the particular unusual kind of stairway depicted in the question, I think there is a risk that they would get the idea of a vertical opening (into the stairwell from the side) rather than a horizontal opening in the floor.

If I had some flexibility then I would look for a way to avoid referencing the opening itself in the first place. It would generally be more natural to express an idea in terms of the stairway or the stairwell (if any) in which it is set than to talk specifically about the opening in the floor that serves the stairway. For example, I would not warn someone to avoid falling through the opening, but rather to avoid falling down the stairs.

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Bonjour,

Floor opening is the term to use. Much of what follows was written before I reached that conclusion, thanks to Lambie's comment below.


I do technical and other translations French to English for a living, funnily enough.

I have come across trémie and trémie d'escalier in the course of my activities. A great resource for such questions is Google Images (search on google but then click the "images" tab).

If you look at the images which come up for trémie d'escalier it becomes apparent that it may mean different things for different French people. Look at this, for example: it is entitled "Poser une trémie d'escalier" ("Install a XXX"). Looking at that picture one expression comes immediately to my mind (I am English): "flight of stairs".

From the picture you have given I would instantly say something like "loft hatch". But then you say "pass from one floor to another". If the upper floor in question is not a loft, but a normal floor, the question becomes more tricky. I'm not convinced that there is a simple term for that in English, although architects might just possibly have a specialist term they use.

And the reason for that is apparent to me. I have so rarely seen a building, any building, either in the UK or for that matter in France, which uses an arrangement as in your picture, to pass from one floor to the next, that I immediately assumed that the upper floor was a loft. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, just that it's rare (and rather impractical, probably resulting in people banging their heads rather a lot).

I don't think trémie d'escalier always means that specialist and unusual idea (of a floor opening between two normal floors) in French.

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    For what it's worth, I've seen this kind of stair and opening a few times, either above a garage or leading to an attic. Nov 14, 2021 at 20:08
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    @EricDuminil Yes, it does exist: it may even be something you see in certain rather modernist or bold architectural styles, to lead from one normal domestic floor to another normal domestic floor (i.e. not a garage, not an attic). But in the normal course of life I don't think you see it very often to link 2 domestic floors in typical English-speaking countries. Nov 14, 2021 at 20:33
  • For what it's worth, the OP's trémie appears to be the second definition here: larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/tr%C3%A9mie/79392. I have no idea how common that usage is, but it does make it into the dictionary. And indeed, it is not the only usage, nor the one the dictionary lists first. Nov 15, 2021 at 2:51
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    I do this kind of translation from French to English, too. It is just an opening in the floor or floor opening, as per the OP's picture.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2021 at 18:05
  • @Lambie yes, you're right, at least in the context of staircases (trémie means many other things). I was misled somewhat by that ill-captioned photo ".../poser-une-tremie-escalier.jpg". Poser is the wrong word to use about an opening, obvs. Nov 15, 2021 at 19:36
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If you are looking for the opening in the floor between levels, it is indeed the aperture or opening (PDF link). I was unsure of this (empty space doesn’t tend to have many specific names in architecture).

In this case it is the stairwell aperture or stairwell opening.

A hole that sinks below the ground or floor is called a well (Wiktionary: Noun #10).

As a native U.S English speaker, I would find it most natural to call it the “stairwell opening”.

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  • The picture does not contain a stairwell.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2021 at 17:58
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    @Lambie The single picture OP included looks more like a ladder hatch, but if you do an image-search using the word it appears that the term is used for normal stairwells as well. Nov 15, 2021 at 19:01
  • I was tempted by this answer but OED describes a stairwell as a 'shaft' (not an opening or hole)
    – Dan
    Nov 22, 2021 at 23:53
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That's a hole. In the floor. For a staircase.

Depending on the linguistic register one is speaking or writing in, some people might also call that an opening, which is also perfectly fine. The words "hole" and "opening" are essentially synonymous and almost entirely interchangeable in English.* Their only difference is whether one prefers to use a common and crude monosyllabic word or a more refined and educated sounding trisyllabic one.


*) At least, that is true when those words are used to refer to a gap, passage, vacancy, absence or some other similar feature in some concrete or abstract thing. The word "opening" can, of course, also be used to refer to the action of becoming or making something open, which is only tangentially related to its other meaning and has no such synonym.

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  • Yes, an opening (rather than hole) in the floor.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2021 at 18:06
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This is a scuttle, or access hole. It would also be understandable to call it a "stairway opening", as Dúthomhas suggested. (Stairway aperture is technically correct, and possibly intelligible, but very non-standard.) You could equally well call it a passageway, but that term would not imply the existence of stairs.

The French word "trémie" has no currency as an English loanword and would not be understandable to English speakers. While "hopper" and "funnel" are both English words, no English speaker would imagine this drawing when hearing either of those words.

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  • Alas, “scuttle” is a nautical term. While there was a short time at the turn of the last century where many people in the UK would have recognized the term, it has, AFAIK, never translated to use on land. Particularly because a scuttle specifically refers to a ship and its ability to sink by letting water through said hole.
    – Dúthomhas
    Nov 15, 2021 at 16:15
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    Almost every house in the US has a "scuttle hole", used to access the attic. In that case, it generally has a pull-down set of stairs, not permanent stairs, but it is essentially equivalent and should be readily understood.
    – Cody Gray
    Nov 16, 2021 at 1:18
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    You are making generalizations. Many houses do have pull-down attic stairs, but many many more do not — It is a real stretch to say “almost every house” has one. Further, having one is not relevant to what it is called! I have never heard “scuttle hole” used for the attic access, and I have been mobile across almost the entire northern US my entire life. And I suspect most US citizens have not heard it called that either. However, Google agrees that the small attic access is so called: it is too small to match what the OP’s image indicates. :-(
    – Dúthomhas
    Nov 16, 2021 at 2:14
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    I can't understand the controversy here. There are literally thousands of references to scuttle holes on the web in this exact context, including videos of people creating them. Those exactly capture the red square in OP's picture. OP specifies English, not US English. The highest voted answer of hatchway was also adapted from a nautical term. I wish I could downvote comments!
    – jimm101
    Nov 16, 2021 at 14:50
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Depending on the use (eg if it is in literature), the phrases "up/down through the stairs" is mostly likely to naturally convey of an object/person in this position. For example: "halfway down the stairs, she turned and looked back at the man on the floor above her".

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I would think that "portal" would be more generic than hatch, hatchway or doorway and a little more appropriate than "hole".
Etymology of Portal

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The part labeled in your picture is called the nosing, specifically the landing nosing.

The nosing is the wood that trims any part that has a vertical drop. Beneath it is the apron (between floor and ceiling) or the riser (between the treads of each step).

I suppose it is so named because it pokes out a little like the nose does from the face, but it has the practical purpose of protecting edges from damage as well as rounding them to inflict less damage to people when they fall on / trip into / impact them.

Not all nosing actually has a rounded nose, BTW. For places where a door closes to join with the flooring it can be perfectly square.

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  • Your link says "Nosing is the horizontal, protruding edge of a stair where most foot traffic frequently occurs," and your description is consistent with that. That's not what the OP's picture is showing. Nov 15, 2021 at 1:44
  • The Wikipedia link also says “The landing nosing will often travel into the landing area to border the bottom of the balusters.” Most homes do not have openings as described by OP. While most commonly found on stairs, nosing is —as I explained in the answer— for any finished drop, exactly correlating to OP’s picture. The link in my answer to Google’s Image Search shows eight examples of that on the first page alone.
    – Dúthomhas
    Nov 15, 2021 at 2:11
  • I agree that most homes do not have openings such as the OP describes. But from their picture, their description, and their suggestion of "stairs aperature", they seem to be talking about the opening itself, not the trim / framing around it. Nov 15, 2021 at 2:14
  • Sure, if that’s what trémie means in French. OP did say it is “unlikely to be a hopper or funnel”. Combined with the picture only highlighting the nosing... I think it a fair error to make. I suppose OP will have to accept or reject my suggestion.
    – Dúthomhas
    Nov 15, 2021 at 2:18
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    The OP is looking for the word that describes the concept of "opening for a stairwell/ladder" rather than a word for a kind of trim/edging. Nov 15, 2021 at 19:11
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Mayby landing:

Merriam-Webster landing

3 : a level part of a staircase (as at the end of a flight of stairs)

American Heritage Dictionary landing

  1. a. An intermediate platform on a flight of stairs.
    b. The area at the top or bottom of a staircase.

For trémie, wordreference.com offers stairwell in addition to hopper. But that would be the entire vertical space occupied by the stairs.

It's clear from all the other answers that this should not be the accepted answer, and that landing and staircase/stairwell aren't what is meant by trémie, which seems to refer to the hole. (Jack O'Flaherty, 11/14/2020)

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    The landing is the floor itself, not a protective element surrounding the aperture. Perhaps I misunderstood the illustration in my edit.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 14, 2021 at 10:40
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    Yes: the coloured line in the illustration could indeed be indicating the stairwell... Sigh.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 14, 2021 at 10:57
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    @JulienReszka Then stairwell or stairway seems right. Nov 14, 2021 at 11:12
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    A landing is a flat surface at the top of a flight of stairs. It seems the at OP is referring to the hole.
    – Greybeard
    Nov 14, 2021 at 11:38
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    The opening depict6ed is just one end of the stairwell. The stairwell itself is the whole space in which the stairs are set -- a volume that one traverses while climbing or descending the stairs within. Nov 15, 2021 at 1:51

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