Common Electrician Glossary


Most industries have a set of jargon that the average person just doesn’t understand. From the tech world to the medical field, there are some terms and phrases that are reserved for the people who live in those worlds.

The electrical trade is no different. There is a long list of words that electricians understand and that the everyday person will not. However, seeing as how electricity runs everything in your home, it’s not a bad idea to have a grasp on some of the terms that electricians use.

So, we thought we’d come up with an Electrician Glossary so you can learn some of the basics. That way if you ever face a problem with the electrical wiring in your house, or you make a new electrician friend, you’ll be able to talk about the trade like a pro. (Side note: you should definitely call an electrician if you have problems with the wiring in your home.)

Electrician Glossary

Arcing: when a current passes across a gap through the air, as if the air were a wire.

Breaker: a switch that automatically disconnects power to a circuit when the current exceeds a certain level for a length of time.

Circuit: the actual or intended path of a current between points of differing voltage, such as a hot wire and a neutral wire. Each loop the current makes is a circuit.

Current: the flow of electrons in a conductor such as a wire, and measured in amperes (amps).

Device: an item which does not itself consume significant electricity, but interrupts or passes it on. Some examples include a switch, thermostat, a breaker or a fuse.

Electricity: a force generated onto loops of conductive material, transferred through their electrons, and applied as useful energy at stops on these loops.

Fuse: a device that interrupts current to its circuit by melting apart. It will then need to be replaced.

Ground: the common reference point for the voltage of a home’s electrical system, or an intended or unintended connectedness to the earth.

Hot: also referred to as “live”, that which is carrying an electrical force.

Neutral: the normally white wires of a circuit that carry current “back” from a light or appliance.

Outlet: a point along a circuit where a light or appliance is connected to the hot and neutral aspects of the circuit, ie. a point to plug a cord in.

Overload: when a circuit in normal operation has carried too much flow for an extended period of time, which heats the wires to the point of tripping the breaker.

Short: also known as a short circuit, or an unintended continuity from a hot wire to something of different voltage. A short can trip a breaker due to a potentially huge flow of electric power by way of an unintended and (often) very conductive path.

Voltage: the forcefulness with which electricity is ready to flow.

Wire: a wire is bendable conductive metal for carrying electric current.

Wattage: the rate of electric energy used by lights or appliances. Wattage is directly proportional to current and to voltage and is mathematically the product of them (amps times volts). 120 volts driving 15 amps through a resistance means 1800 watts is being used.

There you have it. By studying these terms, you will be able to chat with electricians, or you’ll sound like the smartest person at the party if an electrical topic comes up. But, if you are in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland and have any questions or concerns about the electrical wiring in your home, give us a call at BPM Electrical. We are here to help!