What are the (maybe subtle) differences between the three words in the question? Which one would you prefer in which context?
I am translating a text from German where the word “Sockel” is used, and in the text it has the three meanings:
- basis or ground layer of a natural structure
- metaphorically, something which serves as a base for higher (mental or spiritual) achievements
- something on which you put a statue
Ideally, the English word should have all these connotations too.
Additional question: Could a simple “base” or “foundation” work too?
‘socle’ is a rare technical term in English. That is, though they may be almost identical words in the two languages, the English term is almost unrecognizable.
‘plinth’ is technical term but not as rare as socle. it is a low base, the bottom slab on which a column rests.
‘pedestal’ is a common term definitely something you put a statue on, but also metaphorically for putting something aspirational on. This may be a column itself and then a statue or another even another column goes on top of it.
‘base’ or ‘foundation’ are often used metaphorically and aren’t as technical feeling.
I would not recommend ‘socle’ or ‘plinth’ for your criteria. In increasing interest and specificity (start with boring and going to interesting) the others go: “base’, ‘foundation’, ‘pedestal’. ‘Pedestal’ is the most evocative and visually specific.