A level is an optical instrument used to establish or verify points in the same horizontal plane in a process known as levelling, and is used in conjunction with a levelling staff to establish the relative heights levels of objects or marks. It is widely used in surveying and construction to measure height differences and to transfer, measure, and set heights of known objects or marks.
It is also known as a Surveyor’s level, Builder’s level, Dumpy level or the historic “Y” level. It operates on the principle of establishing a visual level relationship between two or more points, for which an inbuilt telescope and a highly accurate bubble level are used to achieve the necessary accuracy. Traditionally the instrument was completely adjusted manually to ensure a level line of sight, but modern automatic versions self-compensate for slight errors in the coarse levelling of the instrument, and are thereby quicker to use.
The optical level should not be confused with a theodolite, which can also measure angles in the vertical plane.