Counterscarp of a Napoleon era polygonal fort (Fort Napoleon, Ostend). Counterscarps had become vertical by this time. The housing at the bottom of the ditch is a caponier from where the defenders could fire on attackers that managed to climb down into the ditch, while being protected from cannon fire themselves.

A scarp and a counterscarp are the inner and outer sides of a ditch used in fortifications. In permanent fortifications the scarp and counterscarp may be encased in stone. In less permanent fortifications, the counterscarp may be lined with paling fence set at an angle so as to give no cover to the attackers but to make advancing and retreating more difficult.

If an attacker succeeds in breaching a wall a coupure can be built on the inside of the wall to hinder the forlorn hope in which case the counterscarp is also the side of the ditch farthest from the breached wall and closest to the centre of the fortification.[1][2]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  from the article COUNTERSCARP

Further reading


  1. ^ Clonmel: Its Monastery, and Siege by Cromwell From Duffy's Hibernian Magazine, Vol. III, No. 14, August 1861
  2. ^ The term "scarp" is from the same origin as a "scarp slope", the leading edge of escarpment, and in this case the escarpment is the ditch and wall of a fortress. So if a defensive ditch is dug on the inner side of a wall then there can be a counterscarp on both side of the wall.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Counterscarp — Coun ter*scarp (koun t[ e]r*sk[aum]rp ) n. [Counter + scarp: cf. F. contrescarpe.] (Fort.) The exterior slope or wall of the ditch; sometimes, the whole covered way, beyond the ditch, with its parapet and glacis; as, the enemy have lodged… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • counterscarp — [kount′ər skärp΄] n. [Fr contrescarpe: see COUNTER & SCARP] the outer slope or wall of a ditch or moat in a fortification …   English World dictionary

  • counterscarp — /kown teuhr skahrp /, n. Fort. the exterior slope or wall of the ditch of a fort, supporting the covered way. See diag. under bastion. [1565 75; COUNTER + SCARP1 (modeled on It contrascarpa); r. counterscarfe, with scarfe obs. var. of SCARP1] * * …   Universalium

  • counterscarp — noun The outer slope of a defensive or fortified ditch …   Wiktionary

  • counterscarp — n. narrow earth band on the outer wall of a defensive ditch …   English contemporary dictionary

  • counterscarp — noun the outer wall of a ditch in a fortification …   English new terms dictionary

  • counterscarp — coun·ter·scarp …   English syllables

  • counterscarp — coun•ter•scarp [[t]ˈkaʊn tərˌskɑrp[/t]] n. for the outer slope or wall of the ditch of a fortification • Etymology: 1565–75; < It contrascarpa …   From formal English to slang

  • counterscarp — /ˈkaʊntəskap/ (say kowntuhskahp) noun Fortifications 1. the exterior slope or wall of the ditch of a fort, supporting the covered way. 2. this slope with the covered way and glacis. {French contrescarpe, from Italian contrascarpa, from contra… …   Australian English dictionary

  • counterscarp — n. Mil. the outer wall or slope of a ditch in a fortification. Etymology: F contrescarpe f. It. contrascarpa (as CONTRA , SCARP) …   Useful english dictionary

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