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OF. estandard, -art, -estendard, -art (mod.F. étendard) = med.L. standardum, -us, standarium, etc. Pr. estandard, -art, Sp., Pg. estandarte, It. stendardo; according to most scholars f. com. Rom. estend-ere (L. extend-re to stretch out: see EXTEND v.) + -ARD; a parallel synonymous formation with different suffix is It. stendale, late OF. estandale, -deille (med.L. standale, -lis). The Fr. word has passed into all the living Teut. langs.: MHG. stanthart (by popular etymology, as if ‘stand hard’), later standart, standert (mod.G. standarte), MDu. standaert (mod.Du. standaard, standerd), Da. standart, Sw. standar.

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  • A. n. I. A military or naval ensign.
1. a. A flag, sculptured figure, or other conspicuous object, raised on a pole to indicate the rallying-point of an army (or fleet), or of one of its component portions; the distinctive ensign of a king, great noble, or commander, or of a nation or city. standard-general: the principal standard of an army.

In Eng. the word appears first with reference to the ‘Battle of the Standard’ in 1138. A contemporary writer, Richard of Hexham, relating the story of the battle, describes the ‘standard’ there used as a mast of a ship, with flags at the top, mounted in the middle of a machine which was brought into the field. He quotes a Latin couplet written on the occasion, which says that the standard was so called from ‘stand’, because ‘it was there that valour took its stand to conquer or die’.

b. In many phrases used with pregnant sense, the standard being taken as typifying the army or its leaders; e.g. to raise one's standard, take up arms; under the standard of, serving in the army of; so to join the standard of; and the like.
2. a. In a more restricted sense, a military or naval flag of some particular kind.

Ordinarily, the standard is understood to be distinguished from a banner by being long and tapering instead of square, and from a pennon by its greater breadth. The British royal standard, however, which is flown when the king or a member of the royal family is present, is now a square flag (thus technically a ‘banner’), divided into four compartments bearing the emblems of England (twice), Scotland, and Ireland. In the British army, the regimental flags of the cavalry are called standards, those of the infantry being ‘colours’. In the U.S. army the flag of a cavalry regiment is called its standard.

b. In certain occasional uses. standard of trade: a merchant ensign. standard of truce: a flag of truce hoisted on a pole. Obs.
4. A body of troops kept in reserve in the earlier part of an engagement. Obs.
5. A company of cavalry. Obs.
6. Head-quarters. Obs.
7. Bot. The uppermost petal of a papilionaceous corolla: = VEXILLUM.
8. Ornith. Each of the two lengthened wing-feathers characteristic of certain birds. Cf. STANDARD-WING.
  • II. Exemplar of measure or weight.
9. a. The authorized exemplar of a unit of measure or weight; e.g. a measuring rod of unit length; a vessel of unit capacity, or a mass of metal of unit weight, preserved in the custody of public officers as a permanent evidence of the legally prescribed magnitude of the unit.

original standard: the standard of which the others are copies, and to which the ultimate appeal must be made.

b. In abstract sense: The legal magnitude of a unit of measure or weight.
c. A normal uniform size or amount; a prescribed minimum size or amount.
d. A unit of measurement. Obs. rare.
e. Sometimes misused for: Actual stature.
f. The substance or thing which is chosen to afford the unit measure of any physical quantity, such as specific gravity.
g. Bowls. A light reed or cane used to measure the distance of rival bowls from the jack.
10. a. (Originally fig. from 9.) An authoritative or recognized exemplar of correctness, perfection, or some definite degree of any quality.
b. A rule, principle, or means of judgement or estimation; a criterion, measure. Also double standard: see DOUBLE a. 6.
c. pl. The books or documents accepted by a church as the authoritative statement of its creed. Hence occas. in sing.
11. a. Legal rate of intrinsic value for coins; also, the prescribed degree of fineness for gold or silver.
b. (Originally, standard of commerce.) A commodity, the value of which is treated as invariable, in order that it may serve as a measure of value for all other commodities.
12. a. A definite level of excellence, attainment, wealth, or the like, or a definite degree of any quality, viewed as a prescribed object of endeavour or as the measure of what is adequate for some purpose.

standard of living, life, comfort: the view prevailing in a community or class with regard to the minimum of material comfort with which it is reasonable to be content.

b. In British and Commonwealth elementary schools: Each of the recognized degrees of proficiency, as tested by examination, according to which school children may be classified. Also transf., the form or class in which pupils are prepared for a particular standard.

The sixth used to be the highest standard which children were ordinarily required to pass, the seventh being intended mainly for those who were to become teachers.

13. a. Some fixed numerical quantity. (? A quarter hundred, 25.) Obs.
b. A definite quantity of timber, differing in different countries. (Cf. standard deal, B.1c.)
14. A kind of arrow (distinguished from ‘bearing arrow’ and ‘flight’). Obs.

Perh. short for ‘standard arrow’, which occurs in later citations of 16th c. documents. See quot. 1465.

15. The market price per ton of copper in the ore.
16. Short for: a. standard book (see STANDARD a. 3b);
b. (Dyeing) standard solution (see STANDARD a. 1b).
c. standard lamp, sense 30.
d. A standard form of a language (see STANDARD a. 3e). Modified (also Received) Standard: see the first element.
  • III. Senses associated with the verb stand.
17. A lofty erection of timber or stone, containing a vertical conduit pipe with spouts and taps, for the supply of water to the public. Obs.

‘The Standard in Cornhill’ continued as the name of a point from which distances were measured, long after the ‘standard’ had disappeared.

18. a. A tall candlestick. Now spec. a tall candlestick (or, in recent use, an upright gas candelabrum) rising directly from the floor of a church.
b. (See quot.) Cf. OF. estandart, a kind of torch. Obs.
19. a. An upright timber, bar, or rod; e.g. a tall pole erected for display on an occasion of rejoicing or festivity (obs.); an upright scaffold pole; an upright bar for a window; an upright support or pedestal in various machines. In recent use often, a slender and lofty iron pillar carrying an electric or gas lamp, overhead electric wires, or the like.
b. Naut. An inverted knee-timber, having the vertical portion turned upwards.
c. Coach-building. ? Each of the four corner posts of a coach. Obs.
d. In a plough: = SHEATH n.4
e. Figure-weaving.
20. a. Forestry. A tree or shoot from a stump left standing when a coppice is cut down.
b. Gardening. A tree or shrub growing on an erect stem of full height, not dwarfed or trained on a wall or espalier.
21. A kind of collar of mail or plate armour. Obs. exc. Hist.
22. Some kind of service-book. Obs.
23. A large packing-case or chest. Obs.
24. s.w. dial. ‘A large standing tub used for washing purposes, for containing salted meat, etc.’ (Eng. Dial. Dict.).
25. a. Something permanent; something that has lasted a long time. In pl., permanent or necessary furniture or apparatus (of a household, etc.). Obs.
b. One who has been long in a position; an old resident, official, servant, etc. Now only old standard (rare exc. dial.).
c. A tune or song of established popularity, esp. in Jazz.


A technical standard is an established norm or requirement. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices.

A technical standard can also be a controlled artifact or similar formal means used for calibration. Reference Standards and certified reference materials have an assigned value by direct comparison with a reference base. A primary standard is usually under the jurisdiction of a national standards body. Secondary, tertiary, check standards and standard materials may be used for reference in a metrology system. A key requirement in this case is (metrological) traceability, an unbroken paper trail of calibrations back to the primary standard.

A technical standard may be developed privately or unilaterally, for example by a corporation, regulatory body, military, etc. Standards can also be developed by groups such as trade unions, and trade associations. Standards organizations often have more diverse input and usually develop voluntary standards: these might become mandatory if adopted by a government, business contract, etc. The standardization process may be by edict or may involve the formal consensus [1] of technical experts.[1]


At first life was a struggle for existence; now, for a standard of living; next it will be for quality of thinking, the coming earthly goal of human existence. [2]

See Also

Lessons on the topic of Standards.