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A direction or plane traveling at a particular place is considered to be vertical in astronomy, geography, and related fields and disciplines if it contains the local gravity direction at that place. If a direction or plane is perpendicular to the vertical direction, it is said to be horizontal. In general, vertical objects, such as the y-axis in the Cartesian coordinate system, can be drawn from top to bottom (or bottom to top).

In his 1636 work Perspective, Girard Desargues defined the vertical as being perpendicular to the horizon.

Horizontal comes from the Latin term horizon, but vertical comes from the late Latin term verticalis, which comes from the same source as vertex, which means “highest point.”

The Latin is a borrowing from Greek v, which means “to separate, to mark a border”; the -t- stems from the word’s original Greek morphology.

The direction identified as vertical in physics, engineering, and building is commonly one along which a plumb-bob hangs. A spirit level, which uses the buoyancy of an air bubble and its inclination to ascend vertically upwards to test for horizontality, is another option. Horizontality can also be established with a water level device.

Modern rotary laser levels that can automatically level themselves are sturdy, sophisticated tools that operate on the same basic concept.

The direction identified as vertical in physics, engineering, and building is commonly one along which a plumb-bob hangs. A spirit level, which uses the buoyancy of an air bubble and its inclination to ascend vertically upwards to test for horizontality, is another option. Horizontality can also be established with a water level device.

Modern rotary laser levels that can automatically level themselves are sturdy, sophisticated tools that operate on the same basic concept.

The earth surface is horizontal and any plane parallel to the earth surface is also horizontal under the flat earth scenario, where the earth is notionally a huge (infinite) flat surface with gravity field at a right angle to the surface. Vertical planes, such as walls, can run parallel to one another or cross at a vertical line. Surfaces that are horizontal do not intersect. Furthermore, a plane cannot be both a horizontal and a vertical plane in the same location.

The plumb line deviates from the radial direction as a function of latitude for a spinning earth. The plumb line only aligns with the local radius at the North and South Poles. Because the earth is not a smooth, homogenous sphere, the issue is significantly more difficult. It’s a knobby, non-spherical planet in motion, and the vertical doesn’t have to follow a radial path; it may even be curved and change over time. A mountain to one side may deflect the plumb bob away from the real zenith on a smaller scale.

On a broader scale, the earth’s gravitational field, which is radial at the surface but not at higher altitudes, is not radial when it is impacted by the moon.

A horizontal line, but not a vertical line in the sense of a plumb bob line, can be drawn on a (horizontal) floor. On the other hand, one may draw both vertical and horizontal lines on a (vertical) wall. A vertical wall provides additional alternatives in this regard. This is mirrored in the equipment a bricklayer employs, which include a plumb line for verticality and a spirit level for checking the horizontality of the mortar courses. In contrast to a wall, a horizontal floor, when considering compass directions, provides more alternatives. Lines may be drawn on the floor in any compass direction, including north, south, east, and west. A wall restricts one’s possibilities. An bug, for example, cannot crawl east on a wall that runs along a longitude.

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