Skip to Content

Glossary of Orienteering terms

Last edited: Sat 1 Apr 2017

The glossary below will help you to get to know the key terms which are associated with orienteering.

British Orienteering also have their own dictionary.

Mole Valley's is pretty good, containing explanations for club abbreviations

Age classYour age class is determined by your sex and year of birth
Aiming offTechnique where you deliberately aim not to hit the control straight on but instead to approach it from a certain direction, usually from either the left or the right
Attack pointWhen the route to a control is not along a line feature, an attack point is somewhere from where the competitor will head on a compass bearing to the control or a catching feature
Badge eventThe old name for a Regional event
Bingo controlNot a good thing! A bingo control is a hidden control which is likely to be found by accident rather than by navigational expertise
BOAn incorrect abbreviation for British Orienteering, the national body which sets the rules and provides the framework for the sport.
BOFBritish Orienteering Federation, now prefers to be known as British Orienteering, but BOF when abbreviated
CairnA stack of stones
Catching featureA line feature which stops the competitor overshooting a control by too far
Clear StationA special box of electronics which clears previous data stored on your dibber
Collecting featuresThe act of taking note of mapped features while you navigate, especially when you are keeping in contact with the map
Compass SportAn independent magazine dedicated to orienteering
Compass Sport CupAn annual inter-club competition. Each region holds a heat, the winners qualify to attend the national final
ContouringA navigation technique involving staying at roughly the same height while navigating across a slope
ControlWhat the competitor is looking for! A course consists of visiting a sequence of controls each of which is marked by a circle on the map. At each control you will find an orange and white "kite" and a punch and possibly an electronic control box.
Control descriptionsA list of controls on the course with a set of symbols describing their positions
ControllerThe person who ensures the competition is fair, appropriately challenging and conducted according to the rules.
Decision pointA place where the competitor needs to decide which way to go, e.g. a path junction
DibberWhen an electronic punching system is used each competitor is given an electronic card. This is a small device which docks with the controls to prove the time at which the control was visited.
DoglegA pair of legs forming a v-shape such that competitors running towards a control will see other competitors running away from that control but towards them
DownloadThe process of reading a dibber at the end of the event
EmitAn electronic punching system by some orienteering clubs. An Emit "brick" is held in the hand which docks into the control to register the punch. As a backup a pattern of pins will mark a card attached to the brick. In some models the brick has a digital display.
EODEntry On The Day. Means it is not necessary to pre-enter
EPSElectronic Punching System. A way of recording when competitors reach a control
Foot-ONormal orienteering, i.e. running or walking between controls
Forest leagueThe local league which takes place every year. Six events take place between Autumn and Spring. There are trophies for the winners in each course.
Gaffled coursesA technique of making courses slightly different by shuffling some of the controls so they are not the same. Often done in large scale relay events.
GaitersLike a sleeve that fits to the lower leg. Often padded to provide protection against brashings
GaloppenThe regional league which takes place every year from the Autumn until the Spring. Each of the nine clubs in the South West puts on one event. Galoppen is the Swedish word for league
HandrailingNavigating by following a line feature
Harris RelayA relay event but in which all team members run simultaneously. Some controls must be visited by all in the team, the rest are to be visited by one of the team. The time for the team is when the last team member finishes. The technique is to divide up the controls equally within the team according to ability.
JKThe JK is a national event that takes place over the Easter weekend each year. JK stands for Jan Kjellstrőm who helped establish orienteering in the UK
Joe LeeAn electronic punching system in which a small green dibber makes electrical contact with the top of a control which then flashes
JOGJunior Orienteering Group. Weekly low key events are held in term-time. These are suitable for juniors and seniors alike
KiteThe orange and white fabric triangle which marks a control
KnollA small earth mound, possibly only 1 metre high
LegThe journey from one control to the next
Leg coverMeans wearing long trousers. Reduces scratches and the chance of catching ticks. Strongly advised in forests! Normally compulsory
LevyPart of the entry fee that the club pays to BOF and SWOA
Line featureA long narrow feature such as a track, path, river, earthbank
Linear courseThe most common type of course. In a linear course all the controls on the map must be visited in the order shown.
Local eventMost events are local events. Most competitors will be club members and it will form part of a local competition. Colour coded courses will be available.
Long-OA much longer distance event than normal. A course probably takes several hours. Not recommended for novices
Map contactAs in, 'keeping in contact with the map', or knowing where you are at all times
Map memoryAn advanced form of the sport in which competitors are not allowed to carry a map. Maps are hung at controls and the competitor has to memorise sufficient detail to find the next control. A real challenge for experienced adults only.
MBOMountain Bike Orienteering. Competitors must stay on tracks and paths but otherwise quite similar to normal orienteering
Mispunch (mp)Not completing a linear course correctly, either by missing one or more control out or by taking controls out of order. Unfortunately means disqualification
National eventA rare and very large scale event which will attract competitors from all over the country and even from overseas. National events include the British Championships and the JK. Courses will be arranged by age class
Night eventNormal orienteering, but in the dark. Orienteers usually use powerful headtorches.
NopesportAn online community of orienteers, including people who take the sport and their own performances very seriously
NoveltyA less serious event often with an unusual format
OrganiserThe person who organises all aspects of the event except that directly affecting the courses being ran
OvershootingGoing past a control or attack point either i) accidentally - usually by running too fast and not concentrating or ii) deliberately, to hit an attack point beyond the control
Pace countingWorking out the distance between two points by counting number of paces. Distance calculated with reference to the number of footsteps it takes to reach a certain distance e.g. 125 paces to 100m
PermissionsThe role of getting permission to use a piece of land for orienteering
Pin punchWhen no electronic punching system is used, each control has a clip attached which acts like a stapler to punch a pattern of holes in your control card
PlannerThe person who plans the courses at an event
PlatformA flat area, usually a couple of metres across, surrounded by sloping ground
POCA Permanent Orienteering Course - there are over 350 in the UK. Local permanent courses are at Vivary Park and at Ham Hill
Pre-entryWhen competitors have to send in an entry in advance of the day of the event. Usually can be done on-line
PunchThe act of registering your presence at a control. What you depends on the punching system being used - see pin punching, SportIdent, Emit or Joe Lee
QOSurely you know who we are by now!
QOFLOur Forest League
ReentrantAn indent within a slope, like a small valley
Regional eventOccasional large scale events that will attract competitors from across the region. Competitors can score points for the national ranking scheme. Colour coded courses will be available.
Rough bearingAs in 'running on a rough bearing'; running in the general direction of the needle rather than taking an exact reading
Route choiceMaking a decision about which route to take between controls.
RoutegadgetA web-based system in which competitors can record their route after the event, in order to compare their speed and route choices with others
Score eventAs an alternative to a linear course, as many controls as possible are visited in any order within a time period
Setting the mapAlso known as orientating the map, to hold the map so that it reflects the direction in which you are running
ShadowingWhen a junior is followed by an adult as a safety measure, but the adult does not help with the navigation
SIShort for SportIdent, see below
Ski-OOrienteering on cross country skis. Popular in Scandinavia
Spanish ScoreA variant of a score event in which all the controls are visited in any order but in the shortest time possible
SpikeNice when it happens! When you navigate straight to a control
SportIdentAn electronic punching system widely used by orienteering clubs. A dibber attached to one finger is docked into a hole in the control which bleeps and flashes
Sprint eventA short distance event, possibly only taking around 20 minutes. Almost always in urban areas
SpurWhen a piece of land projects out from a slope
StakeThe pole that the control flag and unit is attached to
Start ControlWhere the start triangle is shown on the map, a control flag is placed. In some events with electronic punching, you will punch the start control.
String courseFor the very young. A long string is laid on the ground. Follow the string to find the controls.
SWOASouth West Orienteering Association. Our regional organisation.
Technical difficultyOne of five levels 1= White, 2= Yellow, 3= Orange, 4= Light Green, 5= Green and above
Thumb compassCompass held to the thumb with a elasticated band
ThumbingTechnique involving placing a thumb on the map at the point of current location, and moving the thumb as progress is made
TickA small 8 legged creature found in forests in summer that will attach itself to bare skin and suck blood. In extreme cases this can lead to Lyme disease.
Track runA route choice option, usually referred to in comparison with a direct but more difficult route
Trail-OA variant of orienteering in which the competitor stays on tracks and has to identify control positions from a distance. Can be done by anyone but is particularly popular among disabled
Vegetation boundaryWhen areas of different vegetation meet, e.g. a boundary between evergreen trees and deciduous trees
Whole Sport PlanBritish Orienteering strategy for promoting and continuing the sport
Yvette BakerAn annual inter-club competition for juniors. Each region holds a heat, the winners qualify to attend the national final

Archived under these categories:

Previous level

New to Orienteering?