The term concrete comes from the Latin word “concretus”, the past participle of “concrescence”. The meaning of “concrescence” can then be derived when broken down into its roots “con” and “crescere”, which means to grow by assimilation or to coalesce. Thus, the term is frequently used biologically to describe the growth of cells, organs or particles into a mass or singular unit.
Presently, the adjective concrete describes a noun that exists in material form. It can therefore be defined scientifically and mathematically and found in time and space. It is then experienced and identified through the bodily senses. A concrete reality is therefore something very specific and requires details and examples to be explained and understood. Thus, the OED also defines the word as something “made up of multiple elements and ingredients”. However, the term concrete can also be used to describe nouns that are not physical in nature, but rather, conceptual. Although these ideas may be hypotheses or theories, by calling them concrete, we give them a sense of being certainties. The term then connotes certainty, strength and gives us a sense of reassurance. We tend to find comfort and place trust in things that are concrete.
In architecture, concrete is “a composition of stone chippings, sand, gravel and pebbles etc. formed into a mass with cement used for building foundations, pavements and walls.” The Romans invented concrete as a structural form of mortar. Historically, it was composed of lime, mortar, volcanic sand, water and small stones. Using this plastic and malleable material, they were able to construct massive buildings quickly, facing them with stone cladding or reinforcing them with bricks for an aesthetically pleasing finish. With the development of arches and concrete, Roman construction went to great heights and scales, particularly in the construction of domes and vaults. The Roman Pantheon is one of the earliest examples of the use of concrete. Today it is one of the most commonly used building materials due to its structural strength. Concrete can either be precast or poured in place on site using a wooden frame and is commonly reinforced with other construction materials.
1. Curl, James Stevens. "concrete." In A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Oxford University Press. (, n.d.). Retrieved 21 Nov. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780198606789.001.0001/acref-9780198606789-e-112
2. "concrete, adj. and n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/38398?rskey=wvINkb&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed November 21, 2012).