In architecture, a cupola (//) is a relatively small, most often dome-like, tall structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.
The word derives, via Italian language. In Italian “cupola” simply means dome, the ornamental top element is called “lanterna”. Italian, from lower Latin cupula (classical Latin cupella), from Ancient Greek κύπελλον (kúpellon) 'small cup' (Latin cupa), indicating a vault resembling an upside-down cup.[a]
The cupola evolved during the Renaissance from the older oculus. Being weatherproof, the cupola was better suited to the wetter climates of northern Europe. The chhatri, seen in Indian architecture, fits the definition of a cupola when it is used atop a larger structure.
Cupolas often serve as a belfry, belvedere, or roof lantern above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a spire, tower, or turret. Barns often have cupolas for ventilation.
Cupolas can also appear as small buildings in their own right.
The square, dome-like segment of a North American railroad train caboose that contains the second-level or "angel" seats is also called a cupola.