A tripod is a portable three-legged frame or stand, used as a platform for supporting the weight and maintaining the stability of some other object. The three-legged (triangular stance) design provides good stability against gravitational loads as well as horizontal shear forces, and better leverage for resisting tipping over due to lateral forces can be achieved by spreading the legs away from the vertical centre. Variations with one, two, and four legs are termed monopod, bipod, and quadripod (similar to a table).


First attested in English in the early 17th century, the word tripod comes via Latin tripodis (GEN of tripus),[1][2] which is the romanization of Greek τρίπους (tripous), "three-footed" (GEN τρίποδος, tripodos),[3] ultimately from τρι- (tri-), "three times"[4] (from τρία, tria, "three")[5] + πούς (pous), "foot".[6] The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek 𐀴𐀪𐀠, ti-ri-po, written in Linear B syllabic script.[7]

Cultural use

Main article: Sacrificial tripod

A ding (Chinese ceremonial cauldron) from late Shang Dynasty.

Many cultures, including the ancient peoples of China and Greece, used tripods as ornaments, trophies, sacrificial altars, cooking vessels or cauldrons, and decorative ceramic pottery. Tripod pottery have been part of the archaeological assemblage in China since the earliest Neolithic cultures of Cishan and Peiligang in the 7th and 8th millennium BC.[8] Sacrificial tripods were found in use in ancient China usually cast in bronze but sometimes appearing in ceramic form.[9] They are often referred to as "dings" and usually have three legs, but in some usages have four legs.

The Chinese use sacrificial tripods symbolically in modern times, such as in 2005, when a "National Unity Tripod" made of bronze was presented by the central Chinese government to the government of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to mark its fiftieth birthday. It was described as a traditional Chinese sacrificial vessel symbolizing unity.[10]

In ancient Greece, tripods were frequently used to support lebes, or cauldrons, sometimes for cooking and other uses such as supporting vases.


Main article: Weapon mount

Seabees train with the M240B mounted on the M122 tripod.

Tripods are commonly used on machine guns to provide a stable mount for the weapon when firing.[11]

Tripods are generally restricted to heavier weapons where the weight would be an encumbrance. For lighter weapons such as rifles, a bipod is more common. However, in recent times tripod saddles have become popular for precision rifle shooting sports, with the weapon placed in a vise-like rest which is mounted to a tripod head[12][13] or with the weapon mounted directly to the tripod head.


A photographic tripod
In photography, a tripod is a portable device used to support, stabilize and elevate a camera, a flash unit, or other videographic or observational/measuring equipment. All photographic tripods have three legs and a mounting head to couple with a camera. The mounting head usually includes a thumbscrew that mates to a female-threaded receptacle on the camera, as well as a mechanism to be able to rotate and tilt the camera when it is mounted on the tripod. Tripod legs are usually made to telescope, in order to save space when not in use. Tripods are usually made from aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, wood or plastic.


A surveyor's tripod is a device used to support any one of a number of surveying instruments, such as theodolites, total stations, levels or transits.


The astronomical tripod is a sturdy three-leg stand used to support telescopes or binoculars, though they may also be used to support attached cameras or ancillary equipment. The astronomical tripod is normally fitted with an altazimuth or equatorial mount to assist in tracking celestial bodies.[14][15]


Laboratory tripod
A laboratory tripod is a three-legged platform used to support flasks and beakers. Tripods are usually made of stainless steel or aluminium and made light-weight for efficient portability within the lab. Often a wire gauze is placed on top of the tripod to provide a flat base for glassware. Tripods are generally tall enough for a bunsen burner to be placed underneath.[16]

See also


  1. ^ tripus. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "tripod". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ τρίπους. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  4. ^ τρι- in Liddell and Scott.
  5. ^ τρία in Liddell and Scott.
  6. ^ πούς in Liddell and Scott.
  7. ^ ti-ri-po is found on the PY Ta 641 and PY Ta 709 tablets. 𐀴𐀪𐀠𐀆, ti-ri-po-de (found on the PY Ta 641 tablet), is the NOM dual form of the word. "The Linear B word ti-ri-po-de". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of ancient languages. Raymoure, K.A. "ti-ri-po". Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean. "PY 641 Ta (2)". "PY 709 Ta (2)". DĀMOS: Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
  8. ^ Stark, Miriam T. (2006). Archaeology of Asia. Blackwell Publishing. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-4051-0213-1.
  9. ^ Wolfram, Eberhard. A History of China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 3rd edition, 1969. Cf. p.49 for illustration of Ancient bronze tripod found at Anyang.
  10. ^ "National Unity Tripod presented to mark Xinjiang's 50th birthday". China: People's Daily. October 1, 2005.
  11. ^ "M122 Tripod". Army Study Guide. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  12. ^ Zant, Cal (26 March 2014). "Shooting Rest: HOG Saddle & PIG Saddle Review". Precision Rifle Blog. Archived from the original on 21 June 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  13. ^ Ewing, Melvin (30 August 2021). "Other Product Review HOG SADDLE – FULL REVIEW". Sniper Central. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  14. ^ "Telescope and Tripod". Universe Today. 21 May 2008.
  15. ^ Rotoni, Vito (23 May 2003). "Telescope Support Stand System: Background of the Invention". U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 7048238. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
  16. ^ "Laboratory tripod". www.edulabworld.com. Retrieved 2017-02-17.