1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Taper

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TAPER (probably of Celtic origin, cf. Irish tapar, Welsh tampr, taper, torch), a small thin candle of tallow or wax (see Candle); from its early shape, in which the circumference of the top was smaller than that of the base, the word came to be used in the sense of “slender,” particularly of something diminishing in size at one end. In architecture the word is used of the gradual diminishing of a spire or column as it rises. The spire tapers almost to a point, where it is terminated by a finial or vane: the column tapers only to a less diameter at the top, and as a general rule the more ancient the column the greater its diminution or taper; thus in one of the early temples at Selinus in Sicily the upper diameter is about half the lower diameter, while in the Parthenon it is about one-fifth.