The word skyscraper was originally a nickname for a tall mast on a sailing ship. Today the word is used exclusively to refer to a tall habitable building, usually higher than 152 metres (500 feet).

Until recent times, buildings of over six stories were rare. The development of buildings framed with steel or reinforced concrete has made possible the construction of extremely tall buildings, some of which are over 300 metres tall. The other development essential to practical skyscraper development was the invention of the elevator.

The skyscraper first emerged in the land strapped areas of New York City and Chicago toward the end of the 19th century. William Le Baron Jenney designed the first skyscraper in Chicago, The Home Insurance Building. The ten story structure was constructed from 1884-1885 and was destroyed in 1931 for the Field's building.

The weight bearing components also differ substantially from other buildings. Buildings of about 4 stories are supported by their walls where are buildings larger than that must be supported by a skeletal frame. The walls then hang off this frame like curtains. Special consideration must then be given for buildings over 40 stories tall because of the force wind puts on the structure.

See world's tallest structures for a discussion of the tallest skyscrapers and other man-made structures, as defining the "world's tallest..." depends greatly on matters of definition.

See also: architecture, building construction, list of tall buildings in London, 50 tallest buildings in the U.S, List of skyscrapers

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