What Do You Call It??? Dentil (not Dental) Moldings . . .


“Dentil” mouldings are very common.  You can spot them on many historic houses, as well as newer homes with a classical look.  However, dentil moldings are also one of the most commonly misspelled architecture elements (especially in real estate descriptions) — and it is easy to understand why.  After all, dentil is pronounced the same as “dental.”  And worse yet, dentil mouldings look just like teeth, so it makes sense that so many people assume that they share their name with teeth.  (In fact, the website describes dentils as “projecting like teeth,”  and Wikipedia similarly defines dentil moldings as “small tooth-shaped blocks,” and attributes the etymlogy to the Latin word dens, meaning “a tooth.”  So the root word is probably the same, but the spelling is definitely “dentil”!

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800px-dentilscloseupwestportcttownhall09302007So what are dentil mouldings, anyway?  Wikipedia’s full definition is ” in architecture, a small tooth-shaped block used as a repeating ornament in the bedmould of a cornice.”  You can find dentil moldings not only near a roof line cornice, but also in the crowns above a doorway, inside a house on a fireplace mantle, and even on some fancier interior crown mouldings.  Dentils can be found on most any historic style or period — I have seen them on Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Second Empire (French), Queen Anne Victorian, and Colonial Revival homes.

Wikipedia elaborates:

As a general rule the projection of the dentil is equal to its width, and the intervals between to half the width. In some cases the projecting band has never had the sinkings cut into it to divide up the dentils, as in the Pantheon at Rome, and it is then called a dentil-band. The dentil was the chief decorative feature employed in the bedmould by the Romans and the Italian Revivalists.

So now, we just have to decide on something else . . . are moldings spelled “moldings” or “mouldings”????


  1. by Kelly, on 08.18.09 @ 6:57 PM


    I’ve been known to call dentil, dental! Although I spell mouldings as moldings. Thanks for setting me straight, from this day forward I shall spell dentil correctly! 🙂

  2. by Historic House Blog » Historic Style Spotlight: Georgian Architecture, on 07.21.11 @ 8:25 PM


    […] columns) on doorways and house corners, and some decorative elaboration on cornice, such as dentil moldings (easy to remember b/c look like teeth, though the spelling is […]

  3. by Is that a dentil or a spindle? Decoding the parts of a Garvanza Victorian home | Eastsider LA | Hometown Pasadena |, on 08.30.12 @ 1:09 AM


    […] A dentil molding describes a strip of wood with row of small squares. Dentil molding can be found on the outside of […]

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