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Hi All,

I have been tasked with producing a jargon busting list of electrical terms for none engineering personnel.

This will need to cover the full gamut of domestic, commercial and industrial terms relating to the design, installation, testing and certification.
I started to list terms and phrases but realised quit early on this is going to be a mammoth task.
I’ve googled a lot of reference sites and looked for pre written books and have found quite a few.
I was wondering I anybody here has a good reference document or publication they could recommend?
To give you an example of the type of thing I’m looking for one of my none technical colleagues asked me what a ‘Ryefield board’ was and another ‘what do they mean by Header’.

Any and all suggestions welcome and thank you in advance for any help.
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You could start with the Definition section of BS7671

That should slow them down a bit...


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3
Cheers Taylortwocities,

Excellent idea.
Another thing I was thinking of doing was a cross section of a house/office/factory with the wiring, fittings shown. I could then label certain things to aid visual representation.
I I'm planning a short tour of my office buildings switch rooms and plant rooms so I can point out some of the installations.


We used to do a similar thing with tool lists for military vehicles, no mean feet when a Challenger recovery tank has over 2000 items. Very handy once completed but a complete pain to finish.

With the amount of protective devices, switchgear etc I think you have a very long job ahead of you.

Good luck, you're going to need it.

Richard Burns

A mammoth task indeed, there are just too many possibilities, and then something new will come out.
This thread of acronyms may be useful for definitions.
I think the start would be to cover the generic names for the more common items referenced to the brand names often used instead,
then work up to the specialised equipment.
Hope you have lots of time on your hands!


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6
Cheers Strima,
Your not kidding. I don't intend to go to deep. I just want the sort of thing you average guy in the street might ask.
Imagine this:

Sparky: "that circuit is going to need an RCD love"
Customer: "What?" (With a blank expression)
Sparky: "a residual current device!"
Customer: "Uh" (expression starting to glaze over)
Sparky: "A residual-current device is an electrical wiring device that disconnects a circuit whenever it detects that the electric current is not balanced between the energized conductor and the return neutral conductor. Such an imbalance may indicate current leakage through the body of a person who is grounded and accidentally touching the energized part of the circuit. A lethal shock can result from these conditions. RCDs are designed to disconnect quickly enough to prevent injury caused by such shocks. They are not intended to provide protection against overcurrent (overload) or short-circuit conditions."(thank you Wikipedia)
Customer: (crying) "Get out of my house."

I need something like:
Sparky: "that circuit is going to need an RCD love"
Customer: "What?" (with a blank expression)
Sparky: in this case an RCD is used to protect circuits that go into areas that might get wet. Like bathrooms, shower rooms and outside." (Smiling patiently).

Just something simple :)


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7
Why are you doing this for non-technical personnel? Seems strange to me.


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #8
Nice one Richard
Just plagiarized the entire thread :)

That’s the plan. The people I work with are pretty smart and pick this stuff up quickly. Usually if it gets to technical they pass it me or one of my equivalents.

Just need to give them a heads up about how engineers talk. So if they hear “Ryfield Board” or “Split board” they will understand to basically ignore the prefix and just think of it as a board or distribution point.


If done properly it could be a very useful aid to apprentices and Electrical Trainee. I know I could do with some reference for some switchgear etc.


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10

My colleagues come into contact with engineers regarding our products on a daily basis.
If you called a company to purchase an electrically related product do you think it would be helpful if that individual had a good understanding of what terminology engineers used?
Imagine what it’s like for a new starter at Neweys or CEF, I do not work for any electrical wholesaler by the way. Having a crib sheet could be very useful for them and les frustrating for you.


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12
This seem's to be a mission impossible for yourself........tradesmen tend to call thingy's they wont from wholesalers all sorts of things often accompanied with various hand and arm actions to try and illustrate what we want.

Over time the wholesaler gets to know (or more likely workout) what i want when i ask for a flux capacitor thingy for XXXXX machine/light/supply/etc...

Gotta admit liked i'm in the same boat as Tony here, a list for the non skilled seem's more than alittle odd to say the least......maybe yet another scheme to take any sort of skill needed out of the economy.


  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #13
@Swicade & Tony,
To put your minds at rest this exercise is not to allow unskilled personnel to do the job of a skilled engineer. The people I’m organising this information for have absolutely no intension of ever using it in the electrical/engineering field.
As for mission impossible you may be right. I will do my best to help them but I’ll have to draw a line under it somewhere. I’m thinking just the BS 7671 and various guides and websites.
Once completed I’d be happy to show this forum and you can decide if it would be useful tool.
Or on a lighter note....

Guide to Electricity
1. Most electricity is manufactured at power stations, where it is fed into wires which are then wound onto large drums for delivery to the customer.

2. Some electricity, however, does not need to go round in wires. That which is used for lightning and in portable radios, for example. This kind of electricity is not generated, but just lies around loose.

3. Electricity makes a low humming noise. This noise may be pitched at different levels for use in door bells, telephones and electric organs.

4. Electricity must be earthed. That is to say, it has to be connected to the ground before it can function, except in the case of aeroplanes, which have separate arrangements.

5. Although electricity does not leak from an empty light socket, that light socket is nevertheless live if you happen to put your finger in it when the switch is on.

6. Electricity is made up of two ingredients, positive and negative. One ingredient travels along a wire covered in brown plastic, and the other along a wire covered in blue plastic. When these two wires meet in what we call a plug, the two different ingredients mix together to form electricity.

7. Electricity may be stored in batteries. Big batteries do not necessarily hold more electricity than small batteries. In big ones the electricity is just shovelled in, while in small ones, the electricity is packed flat.

8. With the invention of coloured electricity, so came a great easing of traffic problems. Hitherto policemen were used at road junctions.

9. An even bigger breakthrough came in 1929 with the invention of Negative electricity, this resulted in the electric refrigerator.

[h=1]A few notes on the functions of various electrical apparatus[/h]
1. The Light Switch
The lever controls a small vice or clamp which grip the wires very tightly and thus prevents the electricity from passing that point when the switch is in the off position.

2. The Light Bulb
This is one of the few times when we can see electricity. This takes the form of a tiny spark magnified many hundreds of times by the curved glass of the bulb. Unfortunately, these bulbs have a limited life, as any one can tell you, because the heat generated by the magnified spark causes the oxygen in the bulb to condense into moisture which then quenches the spark.

3. The Fuse Box
This is where all the wires in the house come together and join (or fuse) with the wires from the power station. This is prone to failure due to the fact that the manufacturers of this device put in wires that are too thin.
(NB, There is a brand of chicken wire that is an excellent substitute for fuse wire and much more reliable. Use this and even though your spin drier bursts into flame, your fuse box will not let you down.)

Don't forget to include Kettle-
The most important piece of equipment on any work site, used for boiling water to make tea and coffee.
And Apprentice-
Used for operating the above and for sending to the shop for food.
(Alt) Useful for sending into dirty, unpleasant areas to pull in cables
(Alt) A piece of equipment which will, in the early parts of apprenticeship, bombard you with stupid questions, mess about on his/her mobile phone while supposedly working.

I'm sure there are other definitions:)


A real basic tutorial on electricity principles can be found here [video=youtube;ptgsul5JSOI]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptgsul5JSOI[/video]

It's worth waiting to the end where it is revealed how the electricity suppliers are ripping us all off!

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