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​ABANDON – To desert or forsake entirely. To voluntarily relinquish possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in any other person. In determining whether one has abandoned his property or rights, intent is the paramount object of inquiry for to abandon, one must intend to abandon. The intent must be clear and the act must be complete. To abandon a homestead one must leave with the intention of never returning. To abandon a mining claim held by location without patent, the holder must leave voluntarily without any intention to retake or resume the claim and regardless of what may become of it in the future. Even in prescriptive rights, nonuse is not abandonment. However, See TUNNEL LOCATIONS. Also See PRESCRIPTIVE, HIGHWAY ABANDONMENT, ABANDONED MILITARY RESERVATION. 

ABANDONED MILITARY RESERVATION – A military reservation which has been transferred to the Department of the Interior for Administration. 

ABROGATE – To abolish by authoritative action. To do away with or annul. 

ABSENTEE OWNER – By law, one cannot be both a resident and an absentee of a given area, state or country. Therefore, an owner who lives in an area other than the one in which land he owns is situated is an absentee owner. 

ABSTRACT – (noun) A summary or abridgment. A shortened form of a work or record retaining the general sense and unity of the original. (verb) To summarize. To shorten or condense by the omission of words without sacrifice of sense or continuity. See ABSTRACT OF TITLE. 

ABSTRACT OF TITLE – A condensed history of the title to land, consisting of a synopsis or summary of the material or operative position of all the conveyances, which in any manner affects said land or any estate or interest therein, together with a statement of all liens, charges, or liabilities to which the same may be subject. 

ABUT – To reach; to touch. In old law, the ends were said to abut, the sides to adjoin. The term “abutting” implies a closer proximity than the term “adjacent.” 

ABUTTING PROPERTY – The buttings or boundings of lands, showing to what other lands they adjoin. 

ACCEPTED SURVEY – A survey accepted by the official having Cadastral Survey approval authority. See CADASTRAL SURVEY APPROVAL AUTHORITY and OFFICIAL CADASTRAL SURVEY. 

ACCESS – The right to enter and leave over the lands of another. See EGRESS; REGRESS. 


ACCRETION – Derived from the Latin “accrescere” which means to grow or increase, it is the gradual and imperceptible addition of soil or other material by the natural processes of water-borne sedimentation or by the action of currents against shores and banks. Accretion is the washing up of sand, silt or soil so as to form firm ground, called alluvion. In common practice the terms alluvion and accretion have been used almost interchangeably. Usually, however, alluvion means the deposit itself while accretion usually denotes the act. See ALLUVION, RELICTION, EROSION, AVULSION, RIPARIAN RIGHTS. 

ACCRETION, ARTIFICIAL – Additions to a riparian owner’s soil by the imperceptible process of accretion which was induced by man’s activities. 

ACCURACY (USC&GS. S.P. 242) – Degree of conformity with a standard, or accepted value. Accuracy relates to the quality of a result, and is distinguished from precision which relates to the quality of the operation by which the result is obtained. See PRECISION. 

ACEQUIA – A ditch, channel or canal through which water, diverted from its natural course, is conducted for use in irrigation or other purposes. Public ditches. 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – In regard to a legal instrument or document, formal declaration before an authorized official such as a Notary Public, by the person who executed the instrument, that it is his free act and deed. Also refers to the Notary’s statement itself. 

ACQUIESCENCE – Some act of concurrence by the adjoining owners bearing on the practical location of their common boundary where the definite or more accurate position of the line or lines has not or cannot be defined by survey. Acquiescence may be the tacit consent of one owner by not interposing a formal objection to what might be an encroachment by another, all subject to judicial review as to the legal effect. 

ACQUIRED LANDS – Federal lands obtained by purchase, condemnation, exchange, or gift under laws other than public land laws. Legally defined as: “… land obtained by the United States through purchase or transfer from a State or private individual and normally dedicated to a specific use.” McKenna v. Wallis, 200 F. Supp. 468 (1961). See also Bobby Lee Moore, et al, 72 I.D. 505 (1965). See FEDERAL LAND, PUBLIC LANDS, PUBLIC DOMAIN. 

ACRE – A unit of area measurement. An acre equals 10 square chains or 43,560 square feet. 640 acres equal 1 square mile. See CHAIN. 

ACT OF APRIL 25, 1812 – Provided “that there shall be established in the Department of the Treasury an office to be denominated as the General Land Office; the chief officer of which shall be called the Commissioner of the General Land Office …” Edward Tiffin was the first Commissioner of the General Land Office. See GENERAL LAND OFFICE. 


ACT OF AUGUST 4, 1842 – An act to “provide for the armed occupation and settlement of the unsettled parts” of Florida. By meeting certain conditions and fulfilling certain requirements, a settler was to receive 160 acres as an armed occupation donation. 


ACT OF JULY 22, 1854 – Donation of 160 acres to each male white resident of New Mexico who resided there on January 1, 1853, and to male white citizens or intended citizens of the United States who emigrated there by January 1, 1858. According to the Public Land Commission of 1904, only 4,640 acres had been approved for patent under this act. 

ACT OF MARCH 1, 1800 – This act established a precedent for the important principle that corners regularly set by a cadastral surveyor in the field are held to be the true corners, although later surveys may show they were placed incorrectly. 

ACT OF MARCH 3, 1877 – See DESERT LAND ENTRY. Also See CAREY ACTS, which provided for grants of desert lands to states. 

ACT OF MAY 10, 1800 – This Act contained the authorization for the creation of the first “Land Districts” and the provision for the placement of errors of measurement and convergence in the northern and western tiers of sections. In the old Northwest Territory these errors were placed in the last half mile, but in Louisiana the errors were placed equally in each half mile of the last mile. In Florida they were sometimes placed on the south and east side of a township. The general instructions in the Manual of Surveying Instructions, 1855, directed all survey districts to handle the matter in the same way, however, irregular procedures continued to be used in some areas for a short time. See LAND DISTRICT. 

ACT OF MAY 18, 1796 – Provided for administration, survey and sale of public lands in the central part of the Northwest Territory, north of the Ohio River. Also established the position of executive Surveyor General, who supervised work of professional surveyors under contract to the Government. The rectangular system of surveys inaugurated under the Ordinance of May 20, 1785 was continued, and the present numerical arrangement of the 36 sections was adopted. 

ACT OF MAY 20, 1785 – See ORDINANCE OF MAY 20, 1785. 

ACT OF MAY 27, 1908 (35 Stat. 347) – Provided “for the purchase of metal monuments to be used for public land survey corners wherever practicable.” See REGULATION IRON POST. 


ADDITIONAL HOMESTEAD ENTRY – An application for title which is made by an individual for public lands additional to those already acquired under the homestead laws. The total area covered by an original homestead and additional homestead entries could not exceed the maximum area allowed for the class of homestead entry involved. 

AD HOC – For this; for this special purpose. An attorney ad hoc, or a committee ad hoc, is one appointed or selected for the particular case at hand without consideration of wider application. 

AD INFINITUM – Without end or limit. To an infinite extent; indefinitely. 

ADIT – In mining, an entrance or approach; a horizontal excavation used as an entrance to a mine, or a vent by which ore or water are removed. See SHAFT, DRIFT, TUNNEL. 

ADJACENT – Lying near or close to; sometimes contiguous; neighboring. The term “adjacent” implies that the two objects or parcels of land are not widely separated, though they may not actually touch, while “adjoining” implies that they are so joined or united to each other that no third object or parcel of land intervenes. See ABUT. 

ADJOINER – An owner of land which touches the land of another, his name being given in the deed or instrument by which the land is conveyed. 

ADJOINING – Touching or contiguous, as distinguished from lying near to or adjacent. To be in contact with; to abut upon. 

ADJOINING FARM HOMESTEAD ENTRY – A homestead entry on public lands which are adjacent to land owned by the entryman (which he had obtained other than by homestead entry) and which, together with the land owned, does not exceed 160 acres. 

ADJUDICATION – The pronouncing of a judgment or decree in a cause; also the judgment given. The legal processing of applications, entries, claims, etc., to assure full compliance with the public-land laws and regulations; also the interpretation of statutes and regulations and their application to a particular set of facts. 

ADJUSTMENT – State or condition of an instrument which has its parts in proper relationship. See ADJUSTMENT*. 

ADMINISTRATIVE SITE – A reservation of public lands for use as a site for public buildings, ranger stations, or other administrative facilities. 

ADVANCE FIELD COMPLETION – A process in USGS map production which shows boundary information which is available but not found on final topographic maps. 

ADVERSE POSSESSION – The possession of land, under such circumstances as indicate that such possession has been commenced and continued under an assertion of rights on the part of the possessor against the original owners. To be “adverse,” possession must be “actual, continued, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile.” Title obtained by adverse possession is a fee-simple title. Possession of land does not operate adversely against the United States or a State. Title to Government land cannot be acquired by adverse possession – however, under the Act of Dec. 22, 1928, Public No. 645, 70th Cong., a patent may be obtained to public lands held for 20 years under “color of title.” See COLOR-OF-TITLE ACT; PRESCRIPTION. 

ADVERSE PROCEEDINGS – Strictly speaking, a contest; often, that portion of the contest proceedings which precede the hearing. 

AFFIDAVIT – A written or printed declaration or statement of facts made voluntarily, and confirmed by oath, without notice to the adverse party and without opportunity to cross-examine. Affidavits are usually attached to field notes in support of corner restorations. See DEPOSITION. 

AGREEMENT LINE – A concurrence between adjoining land owners on the location of their common boundaries. The effect on the location is subject to judicial review. 

AGRICULTURAL LANDS – Land suitable for agricultural purposes. Land may be agricultural in character even though it is covered with trees, grass, weeds or brush. 

AIRBORNE CONTROL SURVEY (ABC) – A control survey using theodolites, electronic distance measuring equipment and a helicopter equipped with a hoversight and flashing light. The helicopter is hovered over a ground station and the position of the flashing light is determined by computations. See ELECTRONIC CONTROL SURVEY, HOVERSIGHT, AIRBORNE CONTROL, SURVEY SYSTEM*. 

AIR NAVIGATION SITE – A reservation of public lands for aviation purposes pursuant to the act of May 24, 1928 (45 Stat. 728, 49 U.S.C. sec 214). 

ALASKA NATIVE CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT – The Act of Congress of December 18, 1971, 85 Stat. 688, 43 
U.S.C. 1601, et. seq., which provides for the settlement of aboriginal land claims of the Natives and Native groups in Alaska. 

ALASKA PURCHASE – Purchase of Alaska from Russia under a convention signed March 30, 1867, and proclaimed June 20, 1867, provided the United States with more than 365 million acres of additional public lands. 

ALIENATION – A legal term applied to the process of transfer of title, or a legal conveyance of property to another. In common BLM usage, alienated lands are lands that have been patented. 

ALINEMENT (alignment) – 1) Formation or position in line, or, more properly, in a common vertical plane. 2) In railway or highway surveying: The ground plan, showing the alinement or direction, and components of the center line, as distinguished from a profile, which shows the vertical element. 

ALIQUOT – Contained an exact number of times in another; a part of a measurement that divides the measurement without a remainder. See ALIQUOT PARTS. 

ALIQUOT PARTS – Legal subdivisions, except fractional lots, or further subdivision of any smaller legal subdivision, except fractional lots by division into halves or fourths ad infinitum. See LEGAL SUBDIVISION; SUBDIVISION, SMALLEST LEGAL and MINOR SUBDIVISION. 

ALIUNDE – From another source. Evidence aliunde is evidence from outside or from another source. A written instrument may be explained by evidence drawn from sources outside the instrument itself, such as the testimony of a witness to conversations, admissions or preliminary negotiations. 


ALLOWED APPLICATION – An application to acquire title to public lands which has been accepted and approved as having been filed in full compliance with the requirements of the regulations; an entry. 


ALLUVION (alluvium) – The soil that is deposited along a river or the sea by gradual and imperceptible action of the water. See ACCRETION. 

AMENDED ENTRY – A process of adjudication under R.S. sec. 2372, as amended February 24, 1909 (35 Stat. 645; 43 U.S.C. sec. 697). This process is used in cases of erroneous location as means of protecting bona fide rights of claimants. See BONA FIDE, ERRONEOUS LOCATION. 


ANALYTICAL PHOTOTRIANGULATION – A mathematical determination of ground positions of paneled points observed in a strip or block of aerial photographs. The positions are determined by computations based on coordinate measurements of the image positions in each photograph. This method, which considers such factors as camera calibration, film distortion, atmospheric refraction and earth curvature during computations, produces data of a higher order of accuracy than that obtained by the mechanical methods. See MECHANICAL PHOTOTRIANGULATION, ANALYTICAL AEROTRIANGULATION*. 

ANGLE POINT – A point in a survey where the alinement or boundary deflects from a straight line. 

APEX – In mining, the outcrop of a vein or the highest portion of a fold in a vein. 

APPEAL – A process of civil law origin that entirely removes a controversy to an appellate court for the purpose of 
obtaining review and possible retrial. In general terms, an appeal takes a case to a higher court. See WRIT OF ERROR, CERTIORARI, BOARD OF LAND APPEALS. 

APPELLANT – The party who takes an appeal from one court or jurisdiction to another. Used broadly or nontechnically, the term includes one who sues out a writ of error. See WRIT OF ERROR. 

APPELLEE – The party in a cause against whom an appeal is taken; that is, the party who has an interest adverse to setting aside or reversing the judgment. Sometimes also called the “respondent.” 

APPLICANT – An individual, corporation, State or local government, etc., applying for rights in, or title to, public lands or resources. See APPLICANT, SURVEY. 

APPLICANT, SURVEY – An individual, corporation, State or local government, etc., requesting the execution of a cadastral survey. 

APPLICATION – A formal request for rights in, or eventual title to, public lands or resources. 

APPROPRIATED PUBLIC LANDS – Original public domain lands which are covered by an entry, patent, certification, or other evidence of land disposal; for certain purposes, public lands which are within a reservation, which contain improvements constructed with the aid of Federal funds, or which are covered by certain classes of leases are also considered appropriated. See VACANT AND UNAPPROPRIATED PUBLIC DOMAIN LANDS. 

APPROVED CLEAR LIST – A selection which has been approved by the Secretary of the Interior or the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. See CLEAR LIST. 

APPROVED MINERAL SURVEY – The approval of a mineral survey at the State level is final. No Washington Office acceptance is required as in the case of public land subdivisional surveys. 

APPROVED SURVEY – The terms “approved survey” and “official survey” are often incorrectly used as being synonymous with “accepted survey.” Strictly speaking an “approved survey” is a survey which has the field notes approved and the plat accepted by the BLM official who has been delegated the authority for such action. The proper term is now ACCEPTED SURVEY. (Prior to 1910 the field notes and plats were APPROVED by the Surveyor’s General, which action was equivalent to the present acceptance of the plat. After 1910 they were approved by the Surveyor General, or Supervisor of Surveys, and after examination accepted by the Commissioner of the General Land Office.) The field notes and plat become OFFICIAL records of the BLM when filed in the appropriate land office. The field notes and the plats of Mineral Surveys are both APPROVED at the State Office level. See ACCEPTED SURVEY, OFFICIAL SURVEY and MINERAL SURVEY. 

APPURTENANCE – Anything so annexed to the land or used with it that it will pass with the conveyance of the land. An incidental right (as a right of way) attached to a principal property right and passing in possession with it.
ARBITRATION – The submission for determination of disputed matter to a private unofficial person selected by agreement or in a manner provided by law. Voluntary arbitration is; therefore, by mutual and free consent of the parties. 

ARBITRATOR – A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties to a disputed question for the purpose of hearing their contention and giving judgment between them. The parties to the dispute submit themselves to the arbitrator’s decision (award). 

ARE – A metric unit of area equal to 100 square meters. 

AREA, GROSS – In BLM usage, the total area of all lands, irrespective of ownership, within the boundaries of a township, reservation or other tract of land. See AREA, NET. 

AREA, NET – In BLM usage, the area of public lands within the boundaries of a township, reservation or other tract of land less exclusions. See AREA, GROSS. 

AREAS (BLM) – From the mid-1950’s until 1961 the Bureau of Land Management was composed of the Headquarters Office in Washington, D.C.; a field organization of three “Areas” in the United States and one in Alaska; 11 State Offices and an Eastern States Office which was in Washington, D.C. 

Area 1 had supervision over Washington, Oregon and California. The Area administrative office was in Portland, Oregon. 
Area 2 had supervision over Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The Area administrative office was in Salt Lake City, Utah. 
Area 3 had supervision over Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and the Missouri River Basin surveys. The Area administrative office was in Denver, Colorado. 
Area 4 had supervision over Alaska and the administrative office was in Anchorage, Alaska. See SPECIAL OFFICES (BLM). Also see REGIONS (BLM). 

ARKANSAS DRAINAGE ENTRY – An entry on public lands to which, under Federal statutory authority, Arkansas State drainage charges attach. 

ARKANSAS SWAMP LANDS COMPROMISE ACT – Under the terms of this act of April 29, 1898, Arkansas relinquished all rights, title and interest to the remaining unappropriated swamp and overflowed lands within its boundaries (43 U.S.C. sec. 987). 

ARROW – An obsolete term for chaining pin. 

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION – The name of the instrument embodying the compact made between the Thirteen Original States prior to the adoption of the present constitution. 

ASSESSMENT WORK – The annual labor or improvements which must be performed on a valid mining claim location in order for the claimant(s) to maintain a possessory right to the claim as against the United States or third parties. The statutory requirement (43 U.S.C. 28) is that $100 worth of labor or improvements must be made annually on valid claims for which a patent has not been issued. 

ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS – Written instructions to a cadastral surveyor authorizing him to execute a specific part, or all, of a particular survey. Even if the survey has been authorized, a surveyor may not execute it or any part of it without instructions containing his specific assignment. See SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS. 


ASTRONOMIC AZIMUTH – At the point of observation, the angle measured from the vertical plane through the celestial pole to the vertical plane through the observed object. Astronomic azimuth is the terrestrial azimuth which results directly from observations on a celestial body: It is measured in the plane of the horizon and is usually reckoned from south (0o), through west (90o), north (180o), and east (270o) back to south (360o or 0o). It is affected by the local deflection of the vertical (station error) which, in the United States, produces differences between astronomic and geodetic azimuths of as much as 26” in the mountain regions of the Western States and 10” in the less rugged Eastern States. Astronomic azimuths are sometimes reckoned clockwise or counterclockwise through 180 degrees. 

ATTEST – To affirm to be true or genuine. Specifically, to authenticate by signing as a witness; to establish or verify the usage of; to bear witness. See TESTIMONY. 

AUTHORITY, PUBLIC LANDS – Article IV Sec. 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United States established the fundamental authority for public land and resource management upon the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. It states: “Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting territory and property belonging to the United States…” It has been held that this power of Congress is without limitation. See CADASTRAL SURVEY AUTHORITY. 

AUTO SURVEYOR – Trade name for an Inertial Positioning System. 

AUXILIARY GUIDE MERIDIAN – Where guide meridians have been placed at intervals exceeding the distance of 24 miles (under practice permissible prior to issuance of the 1881 Manual of Surveying Instructions which specified 24 mile tracts), and new governing lines are required, a new guide meridian is established, and a local name is assigned, such as “Twelfth Auxiliary Guide Meridian West,” or “Grass Valley Guide Meridian.” Auxiliary guide meridians are surveyed, in the same manner as guide meridians. 

AUXILIARY MEANDER CORNER – An auxiliary meander corner is established at a suitable point on the meander line of a lake lying entirely within a quarter section or on the meander line of an island falling entirely within a section and which is found to be too small to subdivide. A line is run connecting the monument to a regular corner on the section boundary. See SPECIAL MEANDER CORNER. 

AVULSION – A river’s sudden change in flow alignment out from its previous left and right banks to a new channel, leaving an identifiable upland area between the abandoned channel and the new channel. The new flow alignment will generally be a shortcut in channel length because of hydraulic considerations. The U.S. Supreme Court in Iowa v. Nebraska 143 US 359 distinguished avulsion from rapid erosion, but some State courts have established different definitions. See Goins v. Merryman 183 Okla. 155. Frequently the elements of sudden and perceptible changes are included in the definitions. See ACCRETION, AVULSION*. 

AVULSION, ARTIFICIAL – Man-made or man-induced changes in flow alignment of a river such as to leave an identifiable area of upland between the old and new channels. AVULSIVE CUTOFF – A river’s action when avulsion takes place; also, describes the area of land enclosed by the old and the new channels. AZIMUTH – The horizontal direction reckoned clockwise from the meridian plane. See ASTRONOMIC AZIMUTH, GEODETIC AZIMUTH, GRID AZIMUTH. 

Source:  Glossary of Cadastral Surveying Terms, 1980,  Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Department of the Interior 
                 * = consult separate BLM Glossary of Mapping Terms, not included herein.

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