Definitions for backstaff

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word backstaff


  1. backstaff(Noun)

    An early navigational instrument for measuring the altitude of the sun and hence calculating latitude

Webster Dictionary

  1. Backstaff(noun)

    an instrument formerly used for taking the altitude of the heavenly bodies, but now superseded by the quadrant and sextant; -- so called because the observer turned his back to the body observed


  1. Backstaff

    The backstaff is a navigational instrument that was used to measure the altitude of a celestial body, in particular the sun or moon. When observing the sun, users kept the sun to their back and observed the shadow cast by the upper vane on a horizon vane. It was invented by the English navigator John Davis that described it in his book Seaman's Secrets in 1594.


Find a translation for the backstaff definition in other languages:

Select another language:

Discuss these backstaff definitions with the community:

Word of the Day

Would you like us to send you a FREE new word definition delivered to your inbox daily?

Please enter your email address:     


Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:


"backstaff." STANDS4 LLC, 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <>.

Are we missing a good definition for backstaff?

The Web's Largest Resource for

Definitions & Translations

A Member Of The STANDS4 Network

Nearby & related entries:

Alternative searches for backstaff: