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Reading documentation it is clear to me that "attitude" means the study of orientation of a body. However sometimes it seems to be used loosely for the motion tracking of a body (both translational and rotational, not rotational only).

Is it a mistake or a common abuse of language?

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  • $\begingroup$ Attitude defines the logitudional axis of the plane in relation to the local vertical. What you are refering to is the Flight Path Vector, which is a the result of alle forces acting on the plane. $\endgroup$ – Julian Bernhuber Sep 18 '18 at 15:29
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Attitude is orientation in space, that is the value of three angles:

  • heading or yaw (around the yaw axis)
  • pitch (around the lateral axis)
  • roll or bank (around the longitudinal axis).

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Source.

In some strict definitions, the attitude of an aircraft is only pitch and roll, that is an orientation related to the horizon. But for applications that compute attitude, the yaw angle is also included. Its reference -- e.g. geographic North, or magnetic North -- must be specified. Attitude can be quantified as a quaternion or a matrix of angles, usually Euler's angles (actually Tait–Bryan's angles).

Attitude can be visualized using an attitude indicator or artificial horizon for roll and pitch, and an horizontal situation indicator or directional gyro for yaw:

enter image description here
Source.

Both can be combined into a single instrument, this is often the case for head up displays:

enter image description here
Source.

No translation is involved.
Attitude can be understood as a shortcut for attitude of flight.

In aerospace, the craft motion would be described in the horizontal plane (horizontal route) and vertical plane (altitude profile).

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