Electrician Terminology and Slang – Know Your Lingo by Livewire Electrical

Like many professions, electricians have their own dictionary of terminology and slang. As a hands-on industry with a heavy reliance on health and safety, these terms have an important role to play, allowing for precision and ease of communication between contractors and customers, teams and individuals.

The job of an electrician is extremely varied. Spanning both domestic and commercial, the range of tasks required may include wiring and rewiring, installations, inspections and testing. Each and every job calls for the use of different tools, equipment and expertise, which is why the list of electrician terminology is so extensive. Whether you’re a trainee electrician, a homeowner or construction worker, it’s likely you will have come across some of this terminology. By using our extensive list for reference, you can familiarise yourself with some of the lesser known terms, and better understand more commonly used slang.

Electrician Terminology and Slang Reference List

Accessory: An electrical device or product including switches, sockets, adapters and connectors.

Alternating current (AC): An electrical current that changes its direction of flow many times per second – used in mains electricity supplies.

Amp or Ampere (A): The single unit of electrical current.

Bayonet cap (BC): A lamp base with a pin mechanism, requiring a push-and-turn to insert into the lamp holder.

Bonding: Connections on exposed wires to prevent electric shock.

BS 7671: The British Standard Requirements for Electrical Installations, formerly known as the IEE Wiring Regulations. This document details the requirements for electrical installations in the UK.

Cartridge fuse: A fuse typically found in a ceramic tube topped and tailed with a metal contact cap, and available in a range of sizes and current ratings.

Circuit: The means of distributing electricity, consisting of cable and accessories.

Circuit breaker (CB): A device which automatically breaks an electrical circuit when a fault is detected.

Circuit protective conductor (CPC): Used to prevent metal components becoming ‘live’; otherwise referred to as the earth wire in a cable.

Circuit tester: A device that plugs into a conventional outlet to check the circuit is properly grounded.

Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL): A type of energy-saving lamp.

Conductors: Any material, substance of device that allows the flow of electricity.

Conduit: Tubing – usually rigid metal or plastic – used for electrical cables.

Consumer unit or Fuse box or Fuse Board or Mains: A distribution board containing a main switch or main RCD, along with one or more circuit breakers, RCBOs or RCDs. This connects the incoming supply to the final circuits, and protects the fixed wiring in the building while providing a point of isolation.

Continuity tester: A small battery-operated continuity tester used to check that electrical circuits are complete.

Direct current (DC): An electrical current which flows in one direction, such as from a battery.

Double pole (DP): A switch with two blades – allowing simultaneous opening or closing both sides of a circuit.

Edison screw (ES): A type of lamp base developed by Thomas Edison which literally screws into a lamp holder.

Electrical installation condition report (EICR): A report detailing the condition of a property’s existing electrical installation.

Final circuit: An electrical circuit which directly supplies socket outlets, lighting and appliances.

Floor plan: A simple scaled drawing to depict rooms as seen from above.

Flush: The way in which electrical accessories are sunk into the wall, so only the faceplate protrudes.

Fuse: A safety device which melts the wire inside it when an excessive current flows.

Hertz (Hz): Unit of measure of frequency.

Insulation resistance (IR): The measurement of how an electrical circuit or equipment is able to resist the leakage of electricity.

Lamp: A source of light or light bulb.

Live: The collective name for the conductors which carry the normal operating current.

Live Conductors: Wires with electrical current running through them.

Neutral conductor: The conductor that, under normal conditions, will carry no current.

Luminaire: A light fitting.

Megger: A brand of electrical test equipment.

Miniature circuit breaker (MCB): A small circuit breaker.

Multi-function tester (MFT): An electrical installation tester used to measure continuity, insulation resistance, loop impedance and more.

Ohm: The unit of measure for electric resistance.

Over current: A condition when the normal load current is exceeded in a circuit. This may result in an overload or a short circuit.

Overload: An over current exceeding the normal full load current of a circuit.

Passive Infra Red (PIR): A sensor often used in alarm systems or outdoor lights, used to detect movement of objects.
Pendant: A light hanging from the ceiling.

Radial circuit: A circuit arranged so that the cable runs from the consumer unit or fuse box to one or more accessories or loads without returning to the origin.

Recessed lighting: A light fixture installed into a hollow opening, also known as ‘spots or down light’.

Residual current circuit breaker (RCCB): See residual current device (RCD).

Residual current circuit breaker with over current protection (RCBO): A device designed to protect a circuit, combining features of a circuit breaker and an RCD.

Residual current device (RCD): A circuit protection device which detects the difference in current between the live conductors and disconnects it if the differential current exceeds a specific value.

Resistance: The property of an electrical circuit measured in ohms that restrict the flow of current.

Ring final circuit (RFC): A final circuit often used for socket outlets, where the cable runs from the CU or fuse box via several accessories and back to the origin.

Small bayonet cap (SBC): A type of lamp base needing a push-and-turn action to insert into lamp holder.

Small Edison screw (SES): A type of lamp base which screws into a lamp holder.

Spur: A cable supplying a socket or other accessory, which branches off a circuit typically from a RFC.

Steel wire armoured (SWA): A cable, suitable for use outdoors and underground, with a layer of steel wire strands around the central conductors.

Trunking: A long, usually rectangular metal or plastic container with removable lid for keeping cables.

Two Gang: A type of electrical box which holds either two switches and two receptacles, or one switch and one receptacle.

Volt (V): A unit of electrical pressure.

Voltage Rating: The maximum open circuit voltage in which a fuse can be used.

Watts: The energy consumed by a light bulb or appliance per second is expressed in watts.

Wiring Regs: Electrical UK wiring regulations BS 7671.

If you would like any advice or to discuss your requirements on a face-to-face basis and design a FREE electrical quotation to suit your present and future needs, please contact us on the details below.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Nathan Lane
Livewire Electrical Design & Installation Ltd
07899 946079
01242 300400

Livewire Electrical – Big enough to cope, small enough to care.