Homepage Electrical stuff


This page is to clarify some of the technical terminology in use on this website and the reasons for my usage of those terms.

European vs American terms

Technical terminology about electrical installations can often vary between North America and Europe. I generally tend to use European terms on this website (and on other places online), as that's what I'm used to, however I occasionally also use American terms for clarity, depending on the context.

For convenience, I have compiled a list of European technical terms, alongside their North American counterparts:

European word American word
Earth, Earthing Ground, Grounding
Line wire Hot wire
RCBO GFCI breaker
Socket with shutters Tamper-resistant (TR) outlet

Light switch nomenclature

Even the names used to refer to different types of light switches vary between American and British English. In general, it seems like the AmE terms are derived from the number of terminals the device has, while the BrE ones refer to what the switch actually does.

BrE term: One-way switch
AmE term: Two-way switch
Meaning: Switch used for controlling a light from one position
BrE term: Two-way switch
AmE term: Three-way switch
Meaning: Switches used together to control a light from two different points
BrE term: Intermediate switch
AmE term: Four-way switch
Meaning: Switch used together with the previous type of switch, to control a light from more than two points.

Voltage ratings

On the various pages present here, different variations of a certain voltage may be used, depending on the context; for example, 220, 230, 240 and 250V, or 110, 120 and 125V.

While in practice the difference between the various voltages is minimal, it's generally preferrable to use the specific one when talking, depending on the specific context (though at the end of the day it's not the end of the world if you get it wrong). Below is a list of where I generally use these voltages and for what reason: