Glossary of Electrical Wire and Cable Terms

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A

Abrasion Resistance
Ability of wire or cable to withstand surface wear
 
AC (Alternating current)
Electrical current that reverses direction
 
Aerial Cable
Cable positioned in the air on an overhead structure
 
AES/EBU
Unofficial name of a digital audio standard established jointly by the AES (Audio Engineering Society) and EBU (European Broadcast Union)
 
AF
Audio frequency
 
Aging
Irreversible change of a material's properties after exposure to an environment for a period of time
 
Alloy
Metal created through the combination of two or more dissimilar metals for the final required properties
 
Ambient
Conditions in the surrounding environment of the cable
 
American Wire Gauge (AWG)
A common standard for expressing wire diameter. Wire diameter gets larger as the AWG number gets smaller
 
Ampacity
Maximum current carried by a conductor without being heated beyond a safe limit (Expressed in amperes)
 
Ampere
A unit of current equal to the current flowing through one ohm of resistance at one volt potential
 
Amplitude
Magnitude of a voltage or current
 
Annealed Wire
Wire that has been heated and cooled, eliminating the effects of cold working
 
ANSI
American National Standards Institute. An organization that publishes nationally recognized standards
 
ASA
American Standards Association
 
ASME
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
 
ASTM
American Society for Testing and Materials
 
Attenuation
Decrease in the power of a signal as it travels through a cable
 
Audio Frequency
Frequencies that fall within the range of human hearing (approximately 20 Hz to 20 kHz)
 
AWG (American Wire Gage)
A common wire diameter specification. The smaller the AWG number, the larger the diameter
 
AWM (Appliance Wiring Material)
A UL designation for a type of wire
 

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B

Balanced Line
Cable with two identical conductors that carry voltages with opposite polarities and equal magnitudes
 
Ballast
Device constructed to stabilize current flow
 
Bare conductor
A conductor with no insulation or jacket
 
Bonded
Application of a metallic shielding tape to the dielectric of coaxial cable
 
Bonding
Method used to create good electrical contact between metallic parts
 
Booster
An amplifier put into a cable for increased signal amplitude to make up for signal loss
 
Braid
A group of filaments interconnected to form a tubular structure that may be utilized over one or more wires
 
Braid Angle
Smaller of the two angles formed by the shielding strand and the axis of the cable shielded
 
Breakdown Voltage
Voltage at which the insulation between two conductors is ruined
 
Breakout
Point at which a conductor or conductors are removed from a multi-conductor cable to complete circuits at other points along the main cable
 
Broadband
Technique used to multiplex more than one network on a single cable with no interference between the two
 
Bunch Strand
Conductors twisted together with the same lay and direction with no consideration to geometric pattern
 
Buried
Cables that are required to go underground
 
Buss Bar
Uninsulated, tinned copper wire used as a common lead wire
 

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C

C
Stands for Capacitance (electrical) or Celsius (temperature)
 
Cable
Group of individually insulated conductors twisted helically
 
Cable Assembly
A length of cable that has connectors on one or both ends
 
Cabling
Grouping together of two or more insulated conductors to form a cable
 
Canadian Electric Code (CEC)
Canada's version of the US National Electric Code
 
Capacitance
Storage of electrically separated charges between two plates having dissimilar potentials
 
Capacitor
Two individual conducting surfaces separated by a dielectric material
 
Category
Rating of a local area network (LAN) cable to designate the level of electrical performance
 
CATV
Community Antenna Television
 
CCTV
Closed-circuit Television
 
CE
European Economic Community approval that shows a product complies with a European Directive
 
CENELEC
European Economic Community Committee for Standardization of technical requirements
 
Certificate of Compliance (C of C)
A certificate made by a Quality Control Department that shows the product being shipped meets appropriate specifications
 
Circuit
A system assembled to pass an electric current
 
Coated Wire
Wire covered by a relatively thin coating of a metal by a dip bath and wipe process
 
Coaxial Cable
Cable made of two cylindrical conductors with a common axis separated by a dielectric
 
Color Code
Colors or stripes used for the identification of individual components of cables
 
Composite Cable
Cables having conductors with two or more AWG sizes or more than one cable type
 
Concentricity
Measurement of the location of the center of the conductor in a wire with respect to the geometric center of the insulation
 
Conductivity
Ability of a material to transmit electrical current
 
Conductor
Material that transports electrical energy
 
Conduit
Tubing, constructed of metal or plastic, through which wire or cable can run
 
Connectors
Device that allows electrical flow from one wire or cable to a device on another cable
 
Control Cable
A multiconductor cable constructed for operation in control or signal circuits
 
Cord
An insulated cable
 
Corrosion
Deterioration of a material by chemical reaction
 
Coupling
Transfer of energy between cables of a circuit with no direct electrical contact
 
CPE
Chlorinated Polyethylene
 
Cross-linked
Term referring to intermolecular bonds between long chain thermoplastic polymers
 
CSA
Canadian Standards Association
 
Current Carrying Capacity
Ampacity
 
Cut-Through Resistance
Ability of a material to withstand the application of blades or sharp edges without being cut
 
Cycle Life
Number of repetitive flex motions a wire will withstand prior to breakdown
 

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D

DC
Direct current
 
Decibel (dB)
Unit to express difference in power level
 
Dielectric
Insulating material between two conductors that allows electrostatic attraction and repulsion to occur across it
 
Dielectric Breakdown
A modification in the properties of a dielectric that makes it become conductive
 
Dielectric Loss
The power lost in a dielectric that results from the friction created by molecular motion when an alternating electric field is applied
 
Dielectric Strength
The voltage that insulation will withstand before breaking down
 
Drain Wire
The uninsulated wire in a cable that is in close contact with a shield to provide for easier termination of such a shield to ground
 
Drop Cable
Transmission cable in a CATV system from the distribution cable to a dwelling
 
Duct
An underground or overhead tube for carrying electrical cables
 

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E

Elastomer
Material that will return to its original dimensions after being stretched or distorted
 
Elongation
The increase in length of a wire or cable as a result of longitudinal tension
 
EMI
Electromagnetic Interference
 
EPDM
Ethylene-propylene-diene monomer rubber. A chemically crossed-linked elastomer that possesses excellent insulating properties and flexibility at extreme temperatures
 
EPR
Ethylene-propylene copolymer rubber. A material with good insulating properties
 
Equilay
Multiple layers of helically laid wires with the same lay for each layer
 
ET
A UL cable type. Elevator lighting and control cable with thermoplastic insulation, three braids, flame-retardant and moisture-retardant finish
 
Expanded Diameter
Diameter of shrink tubing
 
Extruded Cable
Conductors are insulated at the same time and the cable is formed by a continuous extrusion process
 

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F

F
Frequency
 
Feedback
Energy that is taken from a high level point in circuit and applied to a lower level
 
Ferrous
Composed of and/or containing iron
 
Field
Area through which electric or magnetic lines of force go through
 
Flame Resistance
The ability of a material not to propagate flames once the source of heat is removed
 
Flammability
The measure of the material's ability to sustain combustion
 
Flat Cable
A cable that possesses two or more parallel conductors in the same plane covered by an insulating material. Also known as planar and/or ribbon cable
 
Flat Conductor
A conductor with a width-to-thickness ratio of 5 to 1 or greater
 
Flat Conductor Cable
A flat cable with a plurality of flat conductors
 
Flex Life
The number of times a cable may bend before breaking
 
Flexibility
Ability of a cable to bend in a short radius
 
Fluorocopolymer
Generic term for PVDF
 
Frequency
Number of times in one second an intermittent action occurs
 

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G

Gauge
The diameter of a wire
 
Gain
Increase of voltage, current, or power over a standard reading
 
Ground
An electrical connection between a circuit and the earth or other large connecting body
 
Ground Conductor
A conductor in a transmission cable or line that is grounded
 

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H

Harmonized
Products that meet requirements of CENELEC for use in the European Economic Community
 
Harness
An assembly of wires and cables, typically with many breakouts, that have been tied together or pulled into a rubber or plastic sheath, used to connect electric circuits
 
Hazardous Location
Flammable vapors or fibers that may cause fire or explosion as defined by the NEC
 
Helical Stripe
A spiral stripe applied to a conductor for circuit identification
 
High Frequency
The band from 3 to 30 MHz in the radio spectrum, designated by the Federal Communications Commission
 
High Tension Cables
High voltage ignition wires for combustion engines, gas and oil igniters
 
Hook Up Wire
Single insulated conductor wire
 

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I

IEEE
Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
 
Impedance
The total opposition offered by a circuit to the flow of alternating current or any varying current at a specific frequency
 
Impedance Match
Occurs when the impedance of a particular circuit, cable or component is equal to the impedance of the circuit, cable or device to which it is connected
 
Inductance
Property of wire which stores electrical current in a magnetic field around a wire
 
Induction
The phenomenon of a voltage or magnetic field being generated in an object from the source of such fields
 
Insulation
Material used to separate close electrical components that has good dielectric properties
 
Insulation Resistance
The resistance offered by an insulation to an impressed dc voltage, likely to produce a leakage current through the insulation
 
Insulation Stress
The molecule separation pressure caused by a potential difference across an insulator
 
Interface
The region where two systems or a major and a minor system can meet and interact with each other
 
Interference
Disturbances of an electrical or electromagnetic nature that introduce undesirable responses into other electronic equipment
 
IR Drop
The designation of a voltage drop in terms of current and resistance
 
Irradiation
In insulations, the exposure of the material to high energy emissions to alter the molecular structure by cross-linking
 
ISO
International Standards Organization
 
Isolation
The ability of a circuit or component to reject interference
 

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J

Jacket
The outer protective covering of wire or cable that may also present additional insulation
 
JIT
Just In Time
 
Joint
Section of the conductor where the ends of groups of wires are joined by brazing, soldering, welding, or by mechanical means
 
Jumper
A short length of conductor or flat cable used to make a connection between terminals or around a break in a circuit or between circuit boards
 

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K

Kynar
North America trade name for polyvinylidene fluoride, a fluorocarbon material typically used as insulation for wire wrap
 

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L

Laminated Cable
Insulated or uninsulated wires encapsulated by two sheets of laminate material to maintain a predetermined pitch
 
LAN
Local Area Network. A data network connecting any number of users, intended to serve a small area
 
Lay
The length calculated along the axis of a wire or cable required for a single strand (in stranded wire) or conductor (in cable) to make one complete turn around the axis of the conductor or cable
 
Lay Direction
The direction of the spiral twist in a cable while looking along the axis of the cable away from the observer
 
Lead Dress
The placement or routing of wiring and component leads in the electrical circuit
 
Lead-in
Cable providing the route for RF energy between the antenna and the receiver
 
Leakage
The undesirable passage of current over the surface of or through an insulator
 
LF
Low Frequency
 
Limpness
Ability of a cable to bend in a short radius
 
Line Drop
Voltage loss occurring between two points in either a transmission or power line
 
Longitudinal Shrinkage
A term most commonly applied to heat shrink tubing that specifies the axial length lost through heating in order to obtain the recovered diameter
 
Loss
Energy or signal lost without accomplishing useful work
 
Low Frequency
International Telecommunications Union designation for the 3 to 30 MHz band of frequencies
 
Low Loss Dielectric
An insulating material that has a relatively low dielectric loss
 

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M

Margin
Distance between reference edge of cable and nearest edge of first conductor or center of first conductor
 
MIL
Military Specification
 
Moisture Absorption
The amount of moisture, in percentage, that a material will absorb under certain conditions
 
Moisture Resistance
The ability of a material to resist absorbing moisture from the air or when immersed in water
 
Molded Cable
Cable assemblies that possess molded connectors on an end
 
MTW
Thermoplastic insulated Machine Tool Wire
 
Multi-Conductor Cable
Cable with more than one conductor
 

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N

National Electric Code (NEC)
A publication of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPE), which outlines requirements for electrical wiring and building construction
 
NEMA
National Manufacturing Electrical Manufacturers Association
 
Neoprene
A synthetic rubber that is resistant to oil, chemicals, and flame
 
NFPA
National Fire Protection Association
 
Nominal
Name or identifying value of a measurable property by which a conductor or property of a conductor is identified
 
Non-Paired Cable
Cable with two or more cabled conductors that are not in a paired configuration
 
Non-Plenum
A description for a cable that does not meet the requirements of UL 910 CMP flame test. A Non-Plenum cable cannot be installed in plenum air spaces
 
Notch
The removal of the web section between conductors of a flat cable to help in stripping, slitting, and termination
 
Nylon
An abrasion-resistant thermoplastic with good chemical resistance used for wire and cable jacketing
 

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O

OD
Outside Diameter
 
OEM
Original Equipment Manufacturer
 
Ohm
The unit of electrical resistance that is the value of resistance through which a potential difference of one volt will maintain a current of one amphere
 
Output
The useful power or signal delivered by a circuit or device
 
Overlap
The amount the trailing edge laps over the leading edge of a tape wrap
 

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P

Paired Cable
Cables with conductors cabled in groups of two
 
Periodicity
Evenly spaced cable impedance variations that result in addition of the reflections of a signal
 
Pitch
Nominal distance from center-to-center of adjacent conductors inside a cable
 
Planar Cable
A cable with two or more parallel conductors in the same plane encapsulated by insulating material. Also referred to as flat and/or ribbon cable
 
Plenum
A compartment to which air ducts are connected and that forms part of the air distribution system
 
Plenum Cable
Cable listed by the Underwriters Laboratories for installation in plenum spaces without the need for conduit
 
Point-to-Point Wiring
Wiring that consists of continuous conductors terminated at each end to circuit destination
 
Polyethylene
A thermoplastic material that has superior electrical properties, low dielectric constant, a stable dielectric constant over all frequencies, and high insulation resistance
 
Polymer
A substance made of many repeating chemical units or molecules
 
Polyolefin
Any of the polymers and copolymers of the ethylene family of hydrocarbons, such as polyethylene and polypropylene
 
Polypropylene
Thermoplastic material, primarily used as an insulation material, similar to polyethylene, but stiffer with a higher softening point
 
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
A general purpose thermoplastic used for wire and cable insulation and jackets
 
Portable Cord
Cable with two or more twisted conductors for flexible applications. Also known as flexible cord
 
Power Loss
Difference between the total power delivered to a cable and the power delivered by that device to a load
 
Primary Insulation
The first layer of non-conductive material over a conductor, whose main purpose is to act as an electrical barrier
 
PTFE
Polytetrafluoroethylene
 
Pulling Eye
A device fastened to a cable to which a hook may be attached in order to pull the cable into or from a duct
 
Put-up
Packaging of finished wire or cable
 
PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride
 

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Q

Quad
A four conductor cable
 

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R

Radio Frequency (RF)
Used to transmit information from point to point over the airwaves or cable
 
Rated Temperature
The maximum temperature at which an electric component can operate for extended periods without loss of its basic properties
 
Rated Voltage
The maximum voltage at which an electric component can operate for extended periods without loss of its basic properties
 
Recovered Diameter
Diameter of heat shrink tubing after heating has caused it to return to its extruded diameter
 
Reference Edge
Edge of cable or conductor from which measurements are made
 
Resistance
Measure of the complexity in moving electrical current through a medium when voltage is applied
 
Retractile Cord
A cord having specially treated insulation or jacket in order that it will retract like a spring
 
RFI
Radio Frequency Interference
 
RG/U
RG is the abbreviation for radio guide, a military designation for a coaxial cable, and U stands for "universal"
 
RGB
Abbreviation for the three parts of color video signal: red, green, and blue. Also refers to multi-coaxial cables carrying these signals
 
RHH
Rubber-insulated, heat resistant building wire
 
RHW
Rubber-insulated building wire, heat and moisture resistance
 
Ribbon Cable
A flat cable made with parallel round conductors in the same plane. Also referred to as planar or flat cable
 
Rope Strand
A conductor composed of groups of twisted strands
 
Round Conductor Flat Cable
A cable made with parallel round conductors in the same plane
 
Routing
Path followed by a cable or conductor
 
Rubber Wire Insulation
A general term used to describe wire insulations made of thermosetting elastomers, such as natural or synthetic rubbers, neoprene, and others
 

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S

SAE
Society of Automotive Engineers
 
Self-extinguishing
The characteristic of a material that extinguishes its own flame after the igniting flame is removed
 
Semiconductor
Material possessing electrical conductivity that falls somewhere between that of conductors and insulators
 
Separator
A layer of insulating material, which is placed between a conductor and its dielectric, between a cable jacket and the components it covers, or between various components of a multiple-conductor cable
 
SEW
Silicone Rubber insulated equipment wire
 
Sheath
The outer protective covering, also called jacket, which may provide additional insulation on a wire or cable
 
Shield
A tape, serve or braid placed around electric cables or their components to prevent single leakage or interference
 
Shield Coverage
The physical area of a cable covered by shielding material
 
Shield Effectiveness
The ability of a shield to screen out undesirable interference or prevent signal leakage out of the cable
 
Shrinkage Ratio
Ratio between the expanded diameter and recovered diameter of heat shrink tubing
 
Shrink Temperature
Temperature which effects complete recovery of a heat shrink tubing product from the expanded state
 
Shrink Tubing
Tubing that has been extruded, cross-linked and non cross-linked, and mechanically expanded which when reheated will return to its original diameter. Also called heat shrink tubing
 
Signal Cable
Cable engineered to carry current of usually less than one ampere per conductor
 
SIS
Switchboard wiring made with cross-linked polyethylene insulation
 
SJ
Junior hard service, rubber insulated portable cord
 
SJO
Same as SJ portable cord, but oil-resistant outer jacket
 
SJOO
Same as SJO portable cord, but with oil-resistant insulation as well as an oil-resistant jacket
 
SJT
Junior hard service thermoplastic or rubber-insulated conductors with overall thermoplastic jacket
 
SJTO
Same as SJT portable cord, but with oil-resistant thermoplastic outer jacket
 
SJTOO
Same as STJO portable cord, but with oil-resistant insulation
 
Sleeving
A braided, extruded or woven tube
 
SO
Hard service cord with oil-resistant thermoset jacket
 
Solid Conductor
A conductor consisting of a single wire
 
SOO
Same as SO portable cord with oil-resistant insulation
 
SOOW-A
A UL cable portable cord type
 
SOW
Water resistant thermoset jacketed portable cord
 
Span
The distance between the center of the first conductor and the center of the last conductor in a flat cable
 
Spiral Wrap
The helical wrap of a material over a core
 
SP-1
All thermoset, parallel-jacketed, two conductor light duty cord for pendant or portable cord used in damp locations
 
SP-2
Same as SP-1 with heavier construction
 
STO
All thermoset, parallel-jacketed, two conductor light duty cord for pendant or portable cord used in damp locations
 
STOO
Same as STO portable cord with oil-resistant insulation
 
Strand
A single uninsulated wire
 
Stranded Conductor
A conductor composed of several strands or groups of uninsulated wires
 
Strip
To remove insulation from a cable or wire
 
Surge
Temporary and relatively large increase in the voltage in an electric circuit or cable
 
SV
Vacuum cleaner cord, two or three conductor, rubber insulated
 
SVO
Same as SV portable cord except with oil resistant thermoset jacket
 
SVT
Same as SV portable cord except with thermoplastic jacket
 
SVTO
SVT portable cord with oil-resistant thermoplastic jacket
 
SW
Rubber jacketed power supply cable
 
SWO
Same as SW except neoprene jacketed
 
SWT
Plastic jacketed power supply cable
 

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T

Tape Wrap
Tape spirally applied over wire
 
Temperature Rating
The maximum and minimum temperature at which an insulating material may be used in continuous operation without loss of its basic properties
 
Tensile Strength
Pull stress necessary to break a given specimen
 
TEW
Canadian Standard Association type appliance wires
 
TFE
Tetrafluoroethylene. A theromoplastic material with good electrical insulating properties and chemical and heat resistance
 
Thermocouple
Device consisting of two dissimilar metals in physical contact
 
Thermocouple Extension Cable
Cable comprised of one or more twisted thermocouple extension wires under a common sheath
 
Thermocouple Extension Wire
Pair of wires of dissimilar alloys having such EMF-temperature characteristics complimenting the thermocouple which is intended to be used that when properly connected allows the EMF to be faithfully transmitted to the reference junction
 
Thermocouple Wire (Grade)
Pair of wires of dissimilar alloys having EMF-temperature characteristics calibrated to higher levels than the extension type of thermocouple wire
 
Thermoplastic
Material that softens when heated or reheated and becomes firm upon cooling
 
Thermoset
Material which hardens or sets by heat, chemical or radiation cross-linking techniques and which once set cannot be resoftened by heating
 
THHN
Nylon jacketed building wire
 
Tinned Copper
Tin coating added to copper to help in soldering and slow down corrosion
 
TPE
Thermoplastic Elastomer
 
Tray
A cable tray system in a unit or assembly of units made of non-combustible materials shaping a rigid structural system used to support cables
 
Tray Cable
A multiconductor or multipair control, signal or power cable explicitly approved under the National Electrical Code for installation in trays
 
Triaxial Cable
Cable construction having three coincident axes, such as conductor, first shield and second shield all insulated from one another
 
Triple
Cable possessing three insulated single conductors twisted together
 
Tubing
A tube of extruded non-supported plastic or metallic material
 
Twisted Pair
Two lengths of insulated conductors twisted together
 

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U

UL
Abbreviation for Underwriters Laboratories, a non-profit organization that operates a listing service for electrical and electronic materials and equipment
 
UTP
Unshielded Twisted Pair cable
 
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V

VDE
German Society of Engineers that establishes standards and testing requirements
 
Volt
A unit of electromotive force
 
Voltage
Term most often used in place of electromotive force, potential, or potential difference to denote the electric pressure existing between two points
 
Voltage Drop
Voltage generated across a component or conductor by the current flow through the resistance or impedance of the component or conductor
 
Voltage Rating
Highest voltage that can be continuously applied to a wire in conformance with standards or specifications
 
VW-1
Flammability rating created by Underwriters Laboratories for wire and cable that pass a specially designed vertical flame test
 

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W

Wall Thickness
The thickness of an insulation or jacket
 
Welding
Joining the ends of two wires or groups of wires
 
Wire
A slender rod or filament of drawn metal
 

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X

XHHW
High temperature cross-linked polyethylene jacketed small diameter building wire
 
XLP
Cross-linked polyethylene
 

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