GABLE, in architecture, the upper portion of a wall from the level of the eaves or gutter to the ridge of the roof. The word is a southern English form of the Scottish gavel, or of an O. Fr. word gable or jable, both ultimately derived from O. Norwegian gaff. In other Teutonic languages, similar words, such as Ger. Gabel and Dutch gaffel, mean "fork," cf. Lat. gabalus, gallows, which is Teutonic in origin; "gable" is represented by such forms as Ger. Giebel and Dutch gevel. According to the New English Dictionary the primary meaning of all these words is probably "top" or "head," cf. Gr. K€ aX7 1 7, and refers to the forking timbers at the end of a roof. The gable corresponds to the pediment in classic buildings where the roof was of low pitch. If the roof is carried across on the top of the wall so that the purlins project beyond its face, they are masked or hidden by a "barge board," but as a rule the roof butts up against the back of the wall which is raised so as to form a parapet. In the middle ages the gable end was invariably parallel to the roof and was crowned by coping stones properly weathered on both sides to throw off the rain. In the 16th century in England variety was given to the outline of the gable by a series of alternating semicircular and ogee curves. In Holland, Belgium and Scotland a succession of steps was employed, which in the latter country are known as crow gables or corbie steps. In Germany and the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries the step gables assume very elaborate forms of an extremely rococo character, and they are sometimes of immense size, with windows in two or three storeys. Designs of a similar rococo character are found in England, but only in crestings such as those which surmount the towers of Wollaton and the gatehouse of Hardwick Hall.
Gabled Towers, in architecture, are those towers which are finished with gables instead of parapets, as at Sompting, Sussex. Many of the German Romanesque towers are gabled.
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