A-Z Jargon Buster

Like any sport we have our share of jargon, find out what a ‘Dibber’ is and what a ‘Re-entrant’ looks like, along with many other things.

03rd Aug 06

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These are the main terms that you might see mentioned in printed items. Words that have a similar meaning in general usage are not included. There are also many geographical features and terms that refer to techniques used in the sport. These are best explained by experienced orienteers - so join a club and/or enrol on a course!

Terms are listed alphabetically. Scroll down or use the alphabetic index:

You can download a copy as a PDF: Jargonbuster as PDF


Age group Age groups exist so that everyone can compete against others of similar age. For adults, from age 35, age groups go in 5 year bands, and there is one each for men (M) and women (W). Thus a man aged 50 would normally run as M50, and a woman aged 39 would normally run as W35. The open age categories for adults are known as M21 and W21. Age groups for juniors are in 2 year bands from 10 to 20, though in most events juniors can choose the standard at which they wish to compete. In these events, courses have names such as JW1 or JM5, where J indicates Junior, W and M indicate men's or women's courses, and the number shows length and difficulty, with 1 being the shortest and easiest.
Area Term used specifically to cover the (usually fairly small) area covered by the map for a particular event. Also used to indicate a group of clubs in a geographical region, eg. West Area.
Badge Badges are awarded for achievement of particular standards. "Badge events" are those where a competitor's course is determined by age group. These are now usually known as Regional events or National events. Badges can be obtained from BOF or via your club. You can also get SOA badges when you achieve a particular standard in colour coded courses.
Bearing Most experienced orienteers use a compass to take a bearing so they know which direction to go. But you can start orienteering without being an expert with a compass.
BOF British Orienteering Federation - the British governing body for the sport.
Brikke (pronounced "brick") - the electronic gizmo carried by participants in an event using Emit. The funny spelling is because the word originated in Scandinavia.
Championships Top level competition, often for a particular set of people, eg. Schools Championships, North Area Championships, Scottish Championships. You don't have to be a top-notch orienteer to take part though!
Checkpoint Also known as a control.
Check station A special box of electronics at the start, in which you check that your dibber is OK. Applies only to events using SI.
Circle Each control site is marked on the map with a circle, usually 7mm across. When you are close to the control, you might say you are "in the circle". But you still might not see the control immediately!
Classic The standard, long-ish distance event, held in countryside of some sort.
Clear station A special box of electronics which clears previous data stored on your dibber. The clear station is usually placed prominently on the route to the start. Hold your dibber in it until it bleeps 2 or 3 times. Applies only to events using SI.
Clipper Another word for the old-fashioned pin punch.
Closed event An event or competition which may be entered only by particular people; eg. an event just for schools.
Closing date The last date for acceptance of entries. This applies only to those events that you have to enter in advance.
Code number See control code.
Colour coded Colour coded courses us a particular colour to indicate length and difficulty, and these should be consistent from one event to another. The usual courses are:
  • White: easy and short; all on paths or tracks.
  • Yellow: slightly less easy, and a little longer.
  • Orange: not all on paths, and longer again.
  • Light green: navigation skills needed; longer again.
  • Green: the shortest technically difficult course.
  • Blue: technically difficult, medium length.
  • Brown: technically difficult and long.
  • Black: even more so (only found infrequently).
Some events link a specific colour to particular age classes.
Competition Usually just another word for an event, though sometimes a competition comprises a series of events.
Contour interval The distance between heights shown by contour lines - usually 5m, but check on your map.
Contour-only Some events offer a special map which shows only the contours of the lad (not the vegetation, paths, streams etc.). This makes navigating more difficult, but is excellent practice.
Control Each point marked with a circle on the map, which a competitor is required to visit. Controls are usually marked by a flag, and have a means of proving that you've been there - usually an electronic unit.
Control card Before the days of electronic punching, participants would mark a card with the pin-punch at each control. Now rarely used.
Control code The unique code that identifies a control; usually 2 or 3 numbers, sometimes 2 letters. Sometimes referred to as the number on the control, but of course this is different from the control number. The control code will be clearly visible on the control, and you should always check the code of each control to make sure it really is the one you are looking for.
Control description The description of the feature where the control is placed.
Control description sheet The list of controls that comprise your course. See examples.
Control marker See flag.
Control number The sequence number of a control on a course - 1, 2, 3 etc.. Not to be confused with the control code. You must visit controls in the correct number order.
Controller The person who has ultimate responsibility for the fairness and safety of an event.
Course When you take part in an orienteering event, you usually do one course. A course comprises several controls, plus a start and finish. You must visit the controls in the correct order. Courses usually share the same start point and finish point, and might share some of the controls.
Crossing point To avoid damage to walls and fences, you sometimes have to cross these obstacles only at specific points. These will be shown on your map, and your control description sheet will say "use crossing point". Your control description sheet will say if the crossing point is compulsory. If it is, you can be disqualified for crossing the obstacle anywhere else.
Dibber The electronic gizmo carried by participants in an event using SI.
District event A now defunct term for one of the levels of event.
DNF "Did not finish" - if you don't complete your course, the results will show DNF by your name. The term has become a verb, so you might say that you DNF'd at your last event - but of course this is not to be recommended. If you decide to abandon your course (ie. to DNF), you must report to the finish or Download, otherwise a lot of time and effort could be spent looking for you.
Download After you finish an event that uses electronic punching, you must go to Download to register the fact that you are back safely and find out how long you've taken.
Electronic punching An electronic means of gaining evidence that you have been at a control. Two main electronic punching systems are in use: SI and Emit.
Electronic unit SI and Emit have different electronic units at the control. There will be a sample on display so you can find out what you have to do to punch at each control.
Embargo Anyone who intends taking part in a major competition is not allowed to go onto that specific mapped area for a period before the competition. We say the area is embargoed. The embargo period is determined by the competition rules, not by the level of the event.
Emit One of the types of electronic punching. Full technical details are on www.emituk.com
EOD Entry on Day - turn up at the event and enter there and then. Most events allow this, though there might be a surcharge for EOD at an event with pre-entry.  There will almost certainly be only a small number of maps available for EOD.
Event A competition, at which there will be a number of courses, is usually referred to as an event. This stresses the fact that you can enjoy participating in orienteering without actually competing.
Event officials See Planner, Organiser, and Controller.
Feature A distinct topographical object marked on the map, eg. a stream, boulder or hill.
Finish The point marked on your map with a double circle. Events using electronic punching often don't have officials at the finish, just the electronic unit at which you should punch. Remember then to go to Download!
Fixture Another term for an event.
Fixture list The list of all events or fixtures currently registered and in the calendar. They usually extend up to a year ahead, sometimes more. See http://www.scottish-orienteering.org/soa/category/fixtures-events and if you're confused by the abbreviations in that, look at the Fixture List de-bunker.
Flag A white-and-orange fabric marker that is hung at each control. Also referred to as a kite.
Form line A land shape might not be quite high enough to merit being shown with a contour line, but it is noticeable on the ground. It will probably be shown by a dashed contour line, known as a form line.
  1. On maps, various shades of green indicate different density of vegetation.
  2. See also colour coded.
Home International Competitions (comprising individual and relay events) between teams from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They are held annually at Junior, Senior and Veterans levels.
IOF International Orienteering Federation - the worldwide governing body for the sport. See www.orienteering.org
IOF descriptions Standard pictorial descriptions approved by the IOF and used throughout the world for events are many levels.
Junior All participants under the age of 21.
JWOC Junior World Orienteering Championships
Kite See flag.
Leg Apart from one of the limbs that propel you round the course, a leg is the section of a course from one control to the next.
Line feature Something like a path, track or stream, which you can follow easily. When you are new to the sport you should use these rather than heading just hopefully into the forest.
Map Orienteering maps are very detailed and are produced by specalist map-makers. They are usually at a scale of 1:15,000 or 1:10,000 and cover an irregularly-shaped area of between 1 and 10 sq km. Colours carry different meanings from Ordnance Survey maps - particularly it is worth remembering that white on an orienteering map indicates trees. Most maps have a legend showing the meanings of symbols and colours, but sometimes this is available separately.
Map bag A tough, clear plastic bag to put your map in. You can usually buy, borrow or scrounge one at the events where you need one.  However, most events now use maps printed on waterproof paper, so you rarely need a bag.
Map corrections If things have changed in the area, for instance trees have grown or been felled, or new tracks created, since the maps were printed, there will be a map showing these changes or corrections.  As maps are now normally printed specifically for each event, overprinted or manual map corrections are rarely needed.
Mass start At most events, competitors start at intervals of usually 2 or 4 minutes. Sometimes all or some of the competitors start at the same time. This is called a mass start, and it is only used at events that are in some other way out of the ordinary.
Masters The term for Veterans on the international scene.
Master map Hardly any events use master maps these days, but it's as well to know what is meant.  A master map is one that shows your course, and you have to copy it onto a blank map before you run your course.  If you've never experienced master maps, consider yourself fortunate!  Many a minute has been lost due to careless copying.
Middle distance As the name suggests, a shorter distance than most events, but not as short as a sprint. 
National event Level A events.
Night orienteering Yes, this is simply orienteering in the dark. A good headtorch is essential. This form of orienteering is widely considered one of the most technically challenging.
NOC National Orienteering Centre. Located at Glenmore Lodge, near Aviemore, the NOC organises training and coaching sessions and courses and provides access to many excellent areas for individual or group practice. Check out the website: www.scottish-orienteering.org/natcen.
Organiser The person who sorts out all the organisational, manpower and administrative bits to make an event happen.
Pictorial descriptions Descriptions of the controls, using symbols to describe the feature on which the control is placed. Standard international symbols are agreed by the IOF and can be found on their website.
Planner The person who designs the courses and puts out the controls. He/she works closely with the Organiser and Controller.
Pre-entry Many events require pre-entry, usually via an online system.
Pre-printed At almost all events, the course is already printed onto the map.
Printout After you finish, go do Download, you will be given a printout showing your total time and splits.
Punch Once upon a time you proved you had been at a control by marking a card with a punch (or clipper) which had pins in a particular pattern.
Punching This refers to the process by which you gain evidence that you have been to a control. Although the process is now usually electronic, the term has stuck.
Questions Anything that remains unanswered by this document. Don't be afraid to ask event officials - or indeed one of the seasoned competitors. They're all very friendly really.
Re-entrant A land shape somewhat like a small valley. On the map it usually shows as an indented contour line (or several).
Relay An event in which a team (usually 3 people, but sometimes up to 11) run separate courses, one handing over to the other.  The team's total time is what counts.
Results Interim results are usually displayed at the event, with final results being available on the internet soon after the event.
Route How you went from control to control.  On all but the simples courses there is usually a choice of routes.  A particular pleasure and learning experience comes from discussing your routes with others on your course after the event.
RouteGadget A cunning bit of software which allows you to plot your precise route on the map - online - and to see where others went, and learn!
Scale The scale of most orienteering maps is 1:10,000 or 1:15,000. Always check this when you get your map. A scale of 1:10,000 means that 1cm (about the length of the nail on your little finger) on your map shows 100m on the ground, ie. the length of a football pitch.
Score event A less common type of event, in which you have to find as many controls as possible in a fixed time. The number of points scored for each control varies according to its distance and technical difficulty, you can choose which controls to go to, and there will be a penalty if you take longer than the time allowed.
Senior Adults aged 21-35.
SI One of the types of electronic punching.
SI card Another name for dibber.
Six Day In alternate (odd-numbered) years, Scotland hosts a week-long event. There are 6 separate days of competition with a rest day mid-week. Have a look at the 6 Day Event website
SOA Scottish Orienteering Association, the governing body of the sport in Scotland, and the source of many fantastic initiatives. Have a look at www.scottish-orienteering.org. Clubs (see list) are affiliated to SOA, and SOA is affiliated to BOF.
Splits The time you take to go from one control to the next. If you're serious about improving, you will soon want to compare splits with other participants on your course. At an event using electronic punching, your printout will show your splits. Results on the internet usually show them too, and they appear on RouteGadget too.
SportIdent The full name for SI.
Sprint Short distance orienteering event, often held in a town or park. Good spectator value.
Start control Where 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.
Start time In some events, you are given a specific time at which you start. The time you take to complete the course will be calculated from this time, so make sure you aren't late!
Start unit The electronics box at the start - if you are required to punch at the start.
String course A short course for very young children, in which the route is marked by a continuous line of string, or by easily seen lengths of tape.
Taped route There is usually a taped route to the start for everyone, so you know where to go.
Also, some courses, particularly those for younger children, might have a section where it might be difficult for them to find the right way on the map, so they have to follow bits of plastic tape hung from trees etc..
A taped route on adults' courses must be followed closely - it usually guides you through an area that is otherwise out of bounds or dangerous.
Technical difficulty (TD) Courses are graded from TD 1 (easiest) to TD 5 (hardest). Green, Blue and Brown courses should all be TD 5. Orange courses should be TD 3, and offer a good starting level for adult beginners. See colour coded.
Terrain An area away from paths, tracks and roads.
Trail O Also known as Precision-O, this form of orienteering does not rely on speed and mobility, but challenges your ability to read the map accurately. Usually suitable for everyone, including people in wheelchairs.
Unit As in SI unit - the box of electronics at a control.
Veterans All participants aged 35 and above.
WMOC World Masters' Orienteering Championships - open to all aged 35 and above.
WOC World Orienteering Championships.

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Clubs in Scotland

Some clubs cover overlapping areas; There is nothing that says you have to join a particular club if your home address is in a particular area. This list shows the approximate areas covered by clubs. You can find links to individual clubs from the SOA website, and contact details for all of them. Alternatively, phone the National Orienteering Centre - 01479 861374 - for the name of your local club's secretary. (OC means "Orienteering Club")

Abbreviation Full name Where based
AYROC Ayr OC Ayrshire
BASOC Badenoch & Strathspey OC Speyside and outlying parts west and north
CLYDE Clydeside Orienteers Glasgow, Renfrewshire & Dunbartonshire
ECKO Loch Eck Orienteers Argyll
ELO East Lothian Orienteers East Lothian
ESOC Edinburgh Southern OC Edinburgh & Mid Lothian
FVO Forth Valley Orienteers Stirlingshire
GRAMP Grampian Orienteers Aberdeen & surrounding area
INT Interløpers Edinburgh & Mid Lothian
INVOC Inverness OC Inverness & surrounding area
KFO Kingdom of Fife Orienteers Fife
LINOC Linlithgow OC West Lothian
MAROC Mar OC Deeside
MOR Moravian OC Morayshire
RR Roxburgh Reivers Borders
SOLWAY Solway Orienteers Dumfries & Galloway
STAG St Andrews (Glasgow) Glasgow & N Lanarkshire
TAY Tayside Orienteers Perth & Tayside
TINTO Tinto OC South Lanarkshire

Some universities have orienteering clubs; the main ones are:

EUOC Edinburgh

There is also a Scottish Schools Orienteering Association, known as the SSOA. You can get details of how to contact the secretary from the National Orienteering Centre - tel. 01479 861374.

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Fixture List de-bunker

The fixture list contains all sorts of abbreviations. Some become clear when spelled out in full; others are explained more in the Jargon Buster.

BEOC British Elite Orienteering Championships - a closed event purely for the seriously good guys (and girls!)!
Bl Blue. See colour coded in Jargon Buster.
BOC British Orienteering Championships.
BOF British Orienteering Federation. See Jargon Buster.
Br Brown. See colour coded in Jargon Buster.
CATI Come And Try It - event intended primarily for complete beginners. Easy courses and lots of help available.
CC Colour coded - see Jargon Buster.
CD Closing date - see Jargon Buster.
Emit See Jargon Buster.
EOD Entry on day - see Jargon Buster.
EPS Electronic punching system - see Jargon Buster.
FCC Future Champions Cup - a series of events which focus on talented juniors.
Fees Entry fees for this event; usually one rate for adults (seniors) and one for juniors/students/unwaged. Some events also offer a special rate for families.
G Green. See colour coded in Jargon Buster.
Grid ref. Ordnance Survey grid reference of the car park. This might be a public car park, a field, or forest tracks.
Harvester An overnight relay event - not for the faint-hearted!
JHI Junior Home International.
JK A 3-day international orienteering festival (open to all) held in the UK each Easter, named after Jan Kjellstrom.
LG Light green. See colour coded in Jargon Buster.
Ltd. EOD or Lim. EOD Limited EOD - only a certain number of extra maps will be available, so only a limited number of people can enter on the day.
M21, M35 etc. Men's age group. See Jargon Buster.
MM Mountain Marathon - a VERY long form of orienteering.
MTBO Mountain Bike Orienteering.
O Either:
  • Orienteering. Or:
  • Orange. See colour coded in Jargon Buster. Or:
  • Other type of event (ie. not S, C or R).
OC Orienteering Club - as in ESOC, MAROC etc.. See list above.
OL Orienteering League - a series of events.
Org Organiser. See Jargon Buster.
S5 Score event at level 5. See C4, C5.
SHI Senior Home International.
SI Sportident. See Jargon Buster.
SOL Scottish Orienteering League
SOSOL South of Scotland Orienteering League
Tba To be announced.
UKCup A series of top quality ranking events.
VHI Veterans' Home International.
W White. See colour coded in Jargon Buster.
W21, W35 etc. Women's age group. See Jargon Buster.
Y Yellow. See colour coded in Jargon Buster.

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Photo of authorPosted on 03rd Aug 06
by Hilary Quick