There are definitions for the geometric qualities of polygons and lines:

  • polygonal: Having many angles; hence characteristic of a polygon.

Ref: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/polygonal

  • lineal: of, relating to, or consisting of lines; linear.

Ref: http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/lineal

However, I have been unable to find a scholarly reference for "puntal", that is, having the geometric qualities of a point.

The only solid references to "puntal" (in English) I have found are in the discussions and source code of projects like GEOS and JTS Topology Suite, where there might be classes or interfaces corresponding to Polygonal, Lineal, and Puntal.

Is there a canonical definition of the geometric sense of this term?

  • 4
    AFAIK "puntal" is not even English (it's a Spanish word). However, "punctual" is English and--although it has a completely different colloquial meaning (being on time)--it has been used in a similar technical sense in the geostatistics literature: see, e.g., "punctual kriging." – whuber Aug 27 '13 at 15:22
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    Punctual is also used to mean 'having the characteristics of a point' in maths literature and this definition is listed in many dictionaries. – MappaGnosis Aug 27 '13 at 15:40
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    @MappaGnosis That's right--and you can often find this definition near the end of the list of alternative definitions of "punctual." My sense has been that "punctual" tends to be British (continental) English and is less frequently seen in American English (except, of course, in the writings of ex-patriates). – whuber Aug 27 '13 at 16:00
  • I agree that it sounds like "punctual" is the canonical definition I was looking for. However, what is the etymology of "puntal" as used in the same sense, especially in the geospatial projects I referenced? Is it an Americanization of "punctual"? – blah238 Aug 27 '13 at 21:31
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    @blah238 I studied counterpoint and never encountered "puntal" in the literature. The Wikipedia page you reference doesn't include that word, either: it always appears as part of "contrapuntal." That shares its root with "punctual", coming from Latin punctis (point). The Spanish word "puntal" surely has the same derivation but--I repeat--it is not an English word. I wouldn't lose any sleep over terms introduced in obscure software by unidentified developers and I certainly wouldn't draw any inferences about English from them! – whuber Aug 28 '13 at 18:38

I'd never heard of "puntal" before, but years ago, I was wavering between these real words:

  • punctual -- normally related to time of course, but there's no reason why it shouldn't also be spatial,
  • pointal -- an obvious candidate but not traditionally used in geometry, and
  • nodal -- a good one, as it's already used in geometry and geography (but see the comments below).

Since you mention "polygonal" (for which I'd use "areal") and "lineal", there is also a numerical nomenclature, relating to dimensionality:

  • 2-cell -- polygonal
  • 1-cell -- linear
  • 0-cell -- punctual
  • I think nodal would be good in the context of a graph or topology, but otherwise it seems punctual is the "most correct" form of the term. I am not sure why certain geospatial libraries adopted the "puntal" form. – blah238 Aug 28 '13 at 1:31
  • I know "nodes" are in common use in networks/graphs, but that being the argument against its use here is, I think, weaker than the argument against "punctual" being used out of its usual context. [I hope my reasoning/explanation isn't too twisted ;-)] – Martin F Aug 28 '13 at 18:11
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    "Pointal" is not an English word. "Nodal" has a meaning narrower than "point," because it implies a context in which that point is embedded in a network. The "k-cell" terminology comes from simplicial homology theory and therefore also is narrower in meaning and scope. – whuber Aug 28 '13 at 18:41
  • @whuber "k-cell" terminology may have come from mathematics but has been used in GIS/cartography since at least the early 1980s (see mapcontext.com/autocarto/proceedings/auto-carto-9/pdf/…, eg) – Martin F Oct 26 '13 at 4:43
  • @blah238 (and whuber) You're right about "nodal" being restricted to networks (and thus having meaning similar to "hub"). I was conflating it with another geographic term "nucleated", which roughly means "compact" -- another regional adjective! :-) – Martin F Oct 26 '13 at 5:06

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