Surveyor slang compilation

by Measure Australia

MA works very closely with surveyors, capturing LiDAR and photogrammetry. Having heard jargon used by the surveyors, we set out to find and compile a list of the common and less common surveyor slang.

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We’ve ended with a long list that may, to some extent, be archaic – however, some of the slang is rather fun, so we’ve put it together. The list is also heavily influenced by USA surveyors, as they were the most prolific forum users we found online. We’d love to hear your views on whether the slang included in this list is in use or not, and if some is archaic. If much of the list is archaic, at the very least it may be helpful if a surveyor from the past (particularly if from USA) time travels to visit us here in the future!



Slang word



Slang for numeric .00, as in 4-balls (4.00)



Verb. To use a magnetic detector to look for iron pipe, etc.


To raise the levels rod some number of inches so as to be visible to the instrument man, e.g. ‘Boot 6!’ means ‘raise it 6 inches.’

Blue topping

In road or grading work the surveyor sets stakes and paints their tops blue to represent the required elevation. Graders then work to just cover the blue tops of the stakes.



To use a magnetic locator to search for an iron pipe.


Zero degrees of inclination.


See shoot

Burn one

Measure from the one foot mark on the tape rather than from the end of the tape in order to increase the accuracy of the measurement.

Cut line

To clear vegetation for a line of sight between two survey control points.

Double nickel

Slang for .55, as in 6-double nickel (6.55)

Dummy or dummy-end

The base or zero end of a tape, as in ‘hold dummy at the face of the curb.’


Electromagnetic Distance Measurement device, the instrument used by modern surveyors that replaces the use of measurement chains. It determines distance by measuring the time it takes for laser light to reflect off a prism on top of a rod at the target location.


A wooden dowel 6-9 inches in length with a sharpened end. Set in the ground to mark survey points.


The EDM prism.


Originally, a transit, but potentially any measurement instrument in use, e.g. theodolite, EDM, or Total Station.


Degrees (which doesn’t sound overly jargonistic or slang to us, but it was described to us as slang, so here we are!).

Hub and Tack

A 2" by 2" stake that is set in the ground and that contains a nail (or tack) that precisely marks the point being set.


Transit (apparently only for Australia and New Zealand – which may be correct, as we’ve definitely heard this one!).




Prism pole.


See railroad.


Slang for eleven, as in 42-railroad (42.11)


The person holding the rod with the EDM prism. This person is the modern version of a chain carrier or chain man (again, we’ve definitely heard this one in common use).


Measure distance with an EDM.


Usually a 60 penny nail used to mark survey points in hard ground.


In SE USA, a wooden stake or post, but in modern surveying, a piece of rebar used to mark a property boundary.


To locate something with the transit or other measuring device.


Slang for eleven. See railroad.


Slang for triple digits, as in trip5 means 555, and 43trip7 means 43.777.


The rodman is told to stay in place while the gun or level is moved to a new location.


Zero degrees, minutes, and seconds. A perfect zero.


Let us know your experience with these terms!


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