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Pillar vs. Column: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 4, 2023
A pillar is a structural element, often decorative, supporting a building or structure, while a column is a vertical, cylindrical support, usually structural and often decorated.

Key Differences

Pillars and columns both serve as structural supports, but their design and cultural significance can differ. Pillars are often associated with strength and stability, used symbolically in various contexts, whereas columns are primarily structural elements, integral to the architectural design, known for their cylindrical shape and capital styles.
The term 'pillar' is used more broadly, sometimes referring to non-structural, decorative elements, or even metaphorically in literature. In contrast, a 'column' is specifically a structural element, usually cylindrical, with a base, shaft, and capital, following classical architectural orders.
In historical contexts, pillars are seen in various shapes and styles, from the ancient Stonehenge megaliths to the ornate pillars of Indian temples. Columns, however, are closely associated with Greek and Roman architecture, with distinct styles like Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
Pillars can be made from various materials, including stone, wood, or metal, and may not always be circular. Columns, on the other hand, are typically made of stone or concrete and are usually circular, designed to distribute weight evenly.
In modern architecture, the use of the term 'pillar' is more flexible, sometimes referring to figurative support, such as in a community or organization. 'Column', however, retains its architectural specificity, essential in building design for its load-bearing capacity and aesthetic contribution.

Comparison Chart


Varied, not necessarily cylindrical
Typically cylindrical


Structural or decorative
Primarily structural


Can be stone, wood, metal
Often stone or concrete


Represents strength, stability
Symbolizes order, architectural design

Historical Context

Diverse, from Stonehenge to Indian temples
Associated with Greek and Roman architecture

Pillar and Column Definitions


In geology, a pillar is a tall column of rock, shaped by erosion.
The sandstone pillars in the national park are a natural wonder.


In journalism, a column is a regular feature or article in a newspaper or magazine.
She writes a weekly column on environmental issues.


A pillar can be a person or thing regarded as reliably providing essential support.
She was considered a pillar of her community.


In computing, a column is a vertical division of data in a table or spreadsheet.
The column in the spreadsheet lists all the employee names.


A pillar is a vertical support structure in architecture.
The ancient temple was supported by large stone pillars.


A column is a vertical structural element in architecture, supporting a weight.
The building's roof was supported by large marble columns.


In a metaphorical sense, a pillar is something that is a central or essential part of a system.
Trust is a pillar of a healthy relationship.


In military terms, a column is a formation of troops marching in line.
The soldiers marched in a column during the parade.


A pillar can be a tall, vertical column of fire or cloud.
A pillar of smoke rose from the distant fire.


A column is a cylindrical object or structure.
The glass column in the exhibit displayed rare butterflies.


A slender, freestanding, vertical support; a column.


A vertical structure usually consisting of a base, a cylindrical shaft, and a capital, used as a support or standing alone as a monument.


Such a structure or one similar to it used for decoration.


Do columns have to be circular?

Traditionally, columns are circular, but modern design sometimes varies.

Are pillars always load-bearing?

Not necessarily; pillars can be decorative or symbolic as well.

Can pillars be made of materials other than stone?

Yes, pillars can be made of wood, metal, or other materials.

Is a pillar used in modern architecture?

Yes, pillars are used both for support and aesthetics in modern architecture.

Are columns found in all types of architecture?

Columns are common in many architectural styles, particularly classical.

What are the parts of a column?

A column typically consists of a base, shaft, and capital.

What is a decorative pillar?

A decorative pillar is used for aesthetic purposes, not for support.

What is a pillar?

A pillar is a vertical support structure in architecture, often decorative or symbolic.

Can a pillar have any shape?

Yes, pillars can vary in shape, not always cylindrical.

What is a column?

A column is a cylindrical architectural element that supports a structure.

Can a pillar be part of furniture design?

Yes, pillars can be elements in furniture for support or decoration.

What makes a column Ionic or Corinthian?

Ionic and Corinthian columns are defined by their capitals' design and detailing.

What is a Doric column?

Doric column is a simple, sturdy column style from ancient Greek architecture.

Can pillars be used metaphorically?

Yes, pillars are often used metaphorically to denote support and strength.

Are pillars used in garden design?

Yes, pillars can be decorative elements in gardens and landscapes.

Are columns always vertical?

Yes, columns are typically vertical to effectively support weight.

Are columns purely functional?

Columns are functional but also contribute to aesthetic design.

Can a column be a symbol in literature?

Yes, columns can symbolize stability and order in literature.

Do pillars have a cultural significance?

Yes, pillars often hold cultural or religious significance.

What is the role of a column in structural engineering?

Columns play a crucial role in supporting buildings and distributing loads.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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