You are currently offline, waiting for your internet to reconnect

Glossary of charting terminology in Excel

Support for Office 2003 has ended

Microsoft ended support for Office 2003 on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

This article was previously published under Q151364
You can create and modify charts in Microsoft Excel. To do so, you shouldhave a basic understanding of the terminology used in the documentation,dialog boxes, and Help.
The following list contains the definitions of basic terms used incharting in Microsoft Excel.


Similar to template or style, an AutoFormat can change the entire look ofthe chart but does not affect your data. AutoFormats can be custom (user-defined) or built-in.

Category Name

Individual label on x-axis, also known as tick-mark labels.

Chart Area

The entire chart, contains all of the data series, the axes, titles andlegend.

Chart Sheet

A separate sheet in the workbook devoted solely to the chart.

Chart Title

The title or name of chart usually identifying what data depicts, mostoften found at center top of chart area.

Chart Type Group

One or more data series of the same type plotted to the same Value (Y)axis, listed at bottom of Format menu as Column Group, Line Group, AreaGroup, Area Group 2, and so on.

Chart Wizard

A series of dialog boxes that simplifies creation of a chart into a step-by-step process that verifies the data selection, shows possible charttypes to be used, gives options for additional items such as titles andlegend.

Data Label

Value or name assigned to individual data points. Display on chart isoptional.

Data Points

These are values from cells on worksheets, displayed as bars, lines,columns, pie slices, or other shapes in the chart.

Data Series

A group of data points such as the entire line in a chart.

Drop Lines

Vertical lines extending from the data point to the category (x) axis thatcan be used on area and line charts. To set, click the appropriate charttype group on the Format menu and select the check box on the Options tab.

Embedded Chart

This is a chart as an object on the worksheet which can be printed inassociation with other data or as a separate item. Best when the dataneeds to be shown in context of the worksheet data.

Error Bars

Error bars graphically express potential errors relative to each datamarker in a series. Use error bars in charts to indicate the degree ofuncertainty (that is, the "plus or minus" range) for the data plotted in adata series. You can add error bars to data series formatted as area, bar,column, line and xy (scatter) chart groups. All five chart types show yerror bars corresponding to the value axis. XY charts can also display xerror bars of the category axis.


This is the action of pulling the pieces of a pie or doughnut chart awayfrom each other; can be done to one or more slices.

Gap Width

The value that controls the spaces between cluster of columns or bars, thehigher the gap width value, the larger the space between clusters of datamarkers.


Lines across plot area for easy reference back to axes.

High-Low Lines

The lines that connect highest and lowest value for a category across allseries. Can be used on line chart. To set, choose the appropriate charttype group from the Format menu and select the check box on the Optionstab.


Box that shows identifying names and symbols for each data series.

Nonadjacent Selections

Also called discontiguous selections, data that is separated by other dataor blank rows or columns not to be used in the chart.


Refers to data to be charted and whether it is in rows or columns.

Overlap Value

Value that controls the overlap of data points within a cluster of columnsor bars. The higher the overlap value, the more the data markers areoverlapped.

Plot Area

The part of the chart bound by the vertical and horizontal axes and theiropposing sides.

Secondary Value Axis

Additional value axis that appears on the opposite side of the plot areafrom the Primary Value axis. It is used when plotting mixed types of data,such as Quantity and Price, where different scales are desired.

Series line(s)

The lines between stacked columns that connect the top of each serieswithin the stack. Can be used on stacked bar charts. To set, click theappropriate chart type group on the Format menu and select the check boxon the Options tab.


Variation of a basic chart type.


Indicators on the axes used to mark off division of scale and/or categoryor separate series groups on x-axis.


Trendlines graphically illustrate trends in data series. Trendlines arecommonly used when you are charting problems of prediction, also calledregression analysis.

Up-down Bars

Bars that extend between the highest and lowest value for a category. Upbars are white, and down bars are black. They can be used on a line chart.To set, click the appropriate chart type group on the Format menu andselect the check box on the Options tab. Gap width can be set for thesebars.

X-axis Title

Title or name of what the Category (X) axis is showing, for example, anexplanation of labels.

Y-axis Title

Title or name of what the Value (Y) axis is showing, for example, anexplanation of scale. The following are set in the Format 3-D View dialog box:
   Elevation    Height from which you view 3-D chart data.   Rotation     Rotates the chart sideways.   Perspective  The ratio of the width of the front to the back, or how                distant the rear data markers appear to be.   Corner(s)    The points defined by the walls/floor in a 3-D chart plot                area. Can be use to adjust elevation, rotation and                perspective.				
To set the following, click the chart type group on the Format menu andclick the Options tab:
   Chart depth  The shape of the chart base.   Gap depth    The depth between 3-D columns.   Gap width    The spacing between 3-D columns.				
"User's Guide," version 5.0, Part 3, Chapters 15 - 19
5.00a 5.00c 8.00 97 XL XL2003 XL2002 XL98

Article ID: 151364 - Last Review: 01/19/2007 17:39:34 - Revision: 2.2

  • Microsoft Office Excel 2003
  • Microsoft Excel 2002 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 2000 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 97 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 95 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 5.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 98 for Macintosh
  • kbinfo KB151364