Glossary of Electricity Terms

The average person uses a lot of electricity in the many things they do every day. We are used to being able to turn on a light, watch the television, use our mobile devices, and stream music or videos. Because electricity is so much a part of our lives, we should know something about it.

Here are some of the most common terms used in the field of electricity:

Ampere:  Also called “amp.” The ampere is the standard unit of measure of electric current.

Alternating current (AC) – An electric current that reverses direction on a periodic basis. It is the most popular use to transport power on power lines.

Attraction: In magnetism, opposite poles (north and south) can attract each other and “stick” to each other.

Battery: A device that stores and produces electricity from chemical cells that can then be released. A battery has a limited storage ability and has to be replaced or recharged.


Capacitor: A basic electrical component that stores electric charge that are made from an insulator that separates to electrical conductors.

Conductor: A material or element that allows the free flow of electric charge. The most popular historic electrical conductor was once copper.

Coulomb: The standard unit for electric charge.

Coulomb’s law: One of the laws of physics that describes the electrostatic interaction between charged particles.

Diode: An electronic component that keeps the current flow going in only one direction.

Direct current (DC): A type of electric current that only flows in only one direction; opposite of AC (alternating current) that can periodically reverse direction.

Electric charge: A main characteristic of matter that is based on the balance of protons that have a positive charge and electrons that have a negative charge.

Electric circuit: A collection of electronic components that are connected by a conductive wire that allows for the flow of an electric current.

electric circuit

Electric current: The flow of an electric charge through a conductive material.

Electric potential: Another name for electrical potential is called “voltage.” The difference in electrical charge between two points in a circuit. It is also called the voltage.

Electromagnetism: The interaction between electric currents and magnetic fields.

Electron: One of the basic subatomic particles found in all atoms. The word “electricity” derived its name from electron. Electrons carry electricity by flowing from one atom to the next in a conductive material.

Farad: Named after the English physicist, Michael Faraday, a “Farad” is the standard unit of measure for capacitance.

Henry: Named after the American physicist, Joseph Henry, the “Henry” is the standard unit of measure for inductance.

Inductor: In electricity, an inductor is a passive component that resists electric current changes. Inductors are generally made by coiling or wnding a wire, often around a magnetic core.

Insulator: An element or material that doesn’t allow the free flow of an electronic charge and doesn’t conduct an electric current flow.

Magnetic field: The area of influence produced by magnets from electric currents and magnetic materials.

Magnetism: a physical phenomenon produced by the motion of electric charge, resulting in attractive and repulsive forces between objects

Ohm: Named after a German physicist, Georg Ohm, the “ohm” is the standard unit of measure for resistance.

Ohm’s Law: A law of physics discovered by Georg Ohm, a German physicist that describes the relationship between voltage, current, and resistance in the formula: V-IR.

Repel: To push away. In magnetism, like poles (north to north or south to south) repel or push each other away.

Resistor: A basic electronic component that prevents or “resists” the flow of electric current.

Semiconductor: A material or element that behaves or performs a function between an insulator and conductor, depending upon the material and conditions.  The most widely used substance for electronics semiconductors is Silicon.

Static electricity: The electric charge buildup on the surface of an object.  This charge will remain in the single area instead of flowing to other areas and can be released when an opposing pole surface is touched.

Transformer: An electrical component that transfers electrical energy using inductive coupling between two winding circuits.

Transistor: A semiconductor device used in an electric circuit to regulate current flow to act as a gate, switch, or amplifier for electronic signals.

Volt: Also known as “voltage.” The standard unit of measure for electric potential.

Watt – The standard unit of measure used for electric power.