International Power Cables Glossary


ABNT (Associacao Brasilera de Normas Tecnicas): Brazilian standards body
AC (alternating current): current which changes direction periodically.  Used by most electric equipment.  See also DC and Frequency.
Amp: short for ampere, it measures electric current.  Current (I) equals Voltage (V) divided by resistance (R).
Ampacity: the maximum current a cable can carry without exceeding temperature or insulation limits.
Annealing: heating and slowly cooling a metal, e.g. copper, to make it less brittle.
ANSI (American National Standards Institute): a non-profit organisation overseeing USA standards
Approvals: inspection and testing by a national or independent agency for quality and safety.
Armoured cable: cable with a steel braid to prevent accidental cutting or shearing; examples are SWA and GSWB SY cable.
ASTA BEAB (Association for Short circuit Testing Authorities, British Electrotechnical Approvals Board): a UK approvals body.
AWG (American Wire Gauge): measurement of cross-sectional area of the conductors in North American cable. A larger number is a smaller cable size.  The rest of the world uses metric cable.


BASEC (British Approvals Service of Electric Cable): responsible for approvals in the UK on wire and cable.
Breakdown voltage: the voltage at which the insulation between two conductors is no longer guaranteed.
BSI (British Standards Institution): a UK standards agency and approvals body
BSMI (Bureau of Standards Metrology and Inspection): Taiwanese approvals body


Cable: multiple conductors, usually copper, with insulation and outer sheath or jacket.  Used for transmitting electricity.
Call-off: a stocking agreement where future sales of product is held at a supplier’s warehouse at a fixed price.
CE mark: a manufacturer self-declaration that a product may be imported into or sold within the EU.  Not an approval mark.
CEBEC (Comité Electrotechnique Belge): Belgian approvals body.
CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation): promotes harmonisation across Europe
CENELEC (Comité Européen de Normalisation Electrotechnique): publishes standards to promote harmonisation across Europe
Certification: proof that a product meets quality and safety standards, in the form of an approval certificate
CCC (China Compulsory Certificate): Chinese approvals body
Circuit breaker: a safety device that switches off power in the event of overload or short circuit
Class I: equipment that has the case connected to earth to protect against electric shock.  This equipment uses 3 core cables.
Class II: equipment that has two layers of insulation instead of earthing.  This equipment uses 2 core cable.
Colour coding: the colours used on a cable’s core insulation to denote line, neutral and earth.  In North America and Japan this is black-white-green, and rest of world brown-blue-green/yellow.
Commando: a trade name for IEC60309 plugs
Conductance: the degree to which a conductor carries current; the opposite of resistance.
Conductor: a material that allows the free flow of electrons and therefore electrical current.  Usually metals, the most conductive materials are silver, copper and aluminium.
Conflict minerals: minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subject to restriction by USA Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.
Connector: an electrical device used on the end of a length of cable to connect to a piece of equipment.  Usually an IEC60320 connector, and used at the opposite end to the plug.
Contact: current-carrying component within a plug, socket or connector
Continuity: a test to show there are no breaks in the path taken by electrical current.
Cord: a synonym for cable, or short for power cord or cord set
Cord set: a plug, cable and connector used for powering equipment
CSA (Canadian Standards Association): a standards and testing body for Canada


DC (direct current): the flow of electricity in one direction only.  A common example is an electric torch.  The opposite of AC.
DEMKO (Danmarks Elektriske Materielkontrol): Danish approvals body
DENAN: electrical safety legislation in Japan, replacing DENTORI.  The approval mark is PSE.
DIN (Deutches Institut für Normung): German standards organisation


EAC (Eurasian Conformity mark): a marking used in Russian and surrounding countries
Earth: a common safe path to earth for electricity, instead of through, for example, a person in the form of an electric shock.
EN (European Norms): documents issued by CENELEC
ENEC (European Norms Electrical Certification): pan-European approvals body
Europlug: a name for the 2 pin unearthed 2.5A CEE7/16 plug used across Europe and elsewhere.
Extension lead: a lead with a plug one end, a length of cable, and one or more sockets the other to extend the distance between equipment and power outlet.


Ferrite: an iron bead or choke attached to cable to filter out electromagnetic interference.
Ferrule: a metal cylinder fitted over the bared copper in a cable to stop it splaying, also called shoelace or bootlace.  An alternative to soldering.
Filler: in inert material to fill the gaps between conductors and jacket in North American cable.  It may also provide strength.  The opposite is fillerless cable.
FIMKO: Finnish approvals body.
French socket: the CEE7/5 socket with protruding earth pin used in France and Belgium.
Frequency: number of cycles of alternating current in one second.  Measured in Hertz (Hz), sometimes denoted as a sine wave (~).  North America uses 60Hz, generally the rest of the world uses 50Hz, except Japan which uses both. 
Fuse: a small wire within a ceramic cylinder that melts and breaks the circuit over a certain current.


G-mark: manufacturer declaration that a product may be sold into the Gulf states
GS (Geprüfte Sicherung): German safety mark.
Ground: synonym for earth.
GOST: Russian approvals body.


Harmonised cable: approved cable conforming to HD-21 or HD-22, with blue-brown-green/yellow cores.  May be marked <HAR>.
Harness: an arrangement of small wires and cables of various lengths, sizes and colours preassembled for a particular application.
Hertz: an SI unit of frequency of one cycle per second.
Hospital grade: products manufactured to higher and stricter specifications for medical use.  Exists in USA and Canada, Japan, Denmark and Australia.


IEC (International Electrotechnical Commision): creates international agreements to standardise products.  Also used as an abbreviation of IEC 60320 and IEC 60320 C13.
IEC 60320: the international standard setting out requirements for mains power connectors.  Sometime attributed as ‘international electric connector.’  See IEC pages for full details.
IEC 60309: the international standard for high power industrial pin and sleeve devices. 
IMQ (Instituto del Marchio di Qualita): Italian standard and approvals agency
Inlet: a male component that is the electrical input on a piece of equipment.  Usually IEC 60320.
INMETRO (Instituto Nacional de Metrologia Qualidade e Tecnologi): Brazilian approvals body
Insulation: a non-conductive material that prevents voltage leaking, for example the pvc jacket on a cable.
Interstices: the voids between individual cores in a cable.
IP (Ingress Protection) rating: 2 digits which denote protection from solid objects and water, e.g. IP44.
IRAM (Instituto Argentino de Normalizacion y Certificacion): Argentinian standards and approvals body


Jacket: the outer insulation or sheath of a cable.  Usually PVC or rubber.
JIS, JISC (Japanese Industrial Standards Committee): Japanese standards and approvals body


KC (Korea Certification): Korean approvals mark
KEMA (Keuring van Electrotechnische Materialen): Dutch approvals body.
Kettle plug/connector/lead: common name for IEC 30320 C13 connector.
KTL (Korea Testing Laboratory): Korean test house


LCIE (Laboratoire Central des Industries Electriques): French testing house.
Locking: a mechanical device that prevents plugs and sockets from being accidentally disconnected.
LVD (low voltage directive): EU directive setting broad objectives for standardised electrical safety across Europe.
Line: also called live, phase or active, in AC one of the wires that carries current to the equipment. It will include any switch or fuse if fitted.


Mains lead: a cable for powering equipment
Medical grade: see hospital grade.
METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry): Japanese standards agency 
Modern Slavery: a UK act of parliament that requires larger businesses to certify they do not use forced or child labour in their supply chains.
Moulded: plugs and connectors permanently injection moulded onto cable, as opposed to rewireable.


NEC (National Electric code): wiring practices in USA
NEMA (National)Electrical Manufacturers Association):  a body for standardisation of electrical equipment.  Mostly known for the NEMA configurations of plugs and sockets, e.g. NEMA 5-15P
NEMKO (Norges Elektriske Materiellkontroll): approvals body in Norway.
Neutral: one of the wires that carries current to the equipment.
Non-rewireable: products that are moulded or ultrasonically welded to prevent disassembly 
NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland): Irish standards body


OEM (original equipment manufacturer): a company that produces products that are then marketed by another company.
Outlet:  either a mains socket on the wall, or an IEC outlet on equipment for powering another piece of equipment
ÖVE (Österreichischer Verband für Elektrotechnik): Austrian standards and approval body


Panel mount: inlets, outlets and sockets mounted on the quipment, as opposed to in the wall or on cable.  Can be snap in / push fit, or screw/flange mount.
PAT (portable appliance testing): the routine inspection of electrical equipment for safety on UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
PDU (power distribution unit): several sockets, usually in a 19” rack, for power many pieces of equipment, for example a computer server
Pin and sleeve: an American term for IEC60309.
Plug: a male connector with pins, attached to a cable inserted into a socket or outlet.  Has many international variations.
Polarisation: the physical design of a plug to ensure it can only be inserted in one orientation, so that line and neutral have the same polarity on both electrical supply and in the equipment.  The opposite is unpolarised.  
Polychloroprene: a synthetic rubber use for cable insulation trademarked as neoprene.
Power cord: a plug and lead which can be hard wired into equipment
Power supply: either inside the equipment, or as part of the mains plug, a device that transforms AC into DC to power electronics etc.  Laptops are an example.
PSE JET: Japanese approval mark
PU (polyurethane): a class of polymers with abrasion and solvent resistance.
PVC (poly vinyl chloride): a thermoplastic used in most cable insulation




Receptacle: American term for socket.
Rewireable: a plug or connector that can be assembled and wired by hand
Ring main: UK-only system of wiring several socket outlets in a ring or loop, rather than each socket back to the circuit board.  The reason UK plugs have fuses.
RoHS (restriction of hazardous substances): EU legislation to limit toxic chemicals in electrical equipment
Rubber: thermoset material with better flexibility and durability used for cable jackets.


SAA (Standards Association of Australia): issues Australian standards. Collaborates with SNZ.
SASO (Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation): Saudi standards and approvals body
SABS (South African Bureau of Standards): South African standards body
SANS (South African National Standards): South African standards documents
Schuko: a contraction of Schutzkontakt (protective contact) and a trade name for the CEE7/4 plug; now used as a generic term for CEE7/7 and European plugs.
SEMKO (Svenska Elektriska Materielkontrollanstalten): Swedish approvals body.
SEV (Schweizerischer Elektrotechnischer Verein): Swiss standards and approvals body
Shielded cable: a cable whose inner conductors are wrapped in aluminium foil or braid, which absorbs electromagnetic interference.  Used on sensitive electronic equipment, examples are CY and S05V4C4VF.
Shutter: a safety device on sockets that prevents access to the current-carrying terminals when not in use.  Used for child-proofing.
Single phase: normal or domestic electric supply comprising line, neutral and earth.
SII (Standards Institute of Israel): standard and approval body in Israel.
Snap in: see panel mount.
SNZ (Standards New Zealand): issues standards for New Zealand.  Collaborates with SA.
Socket: provides electrical power to plugs
Strain relief: part of a moulded plug or connector that goes over the cable and prevents excess stress and bending.
Surge: a surge or spike of overvoltage, possibly due to lightning strike, that can damage electrical equipment.


Temperature rating: the maximum temperature at which a cable can be used before starting to lose its properties.  Usually measured in degrees centigrade, even for North American cable.
Terminal: conductive component within a plug or connector into which cable is wired up.
Terminations: instead of stripped ends, blade, flag, fork, ring terminals can be crimped on.  These can be insulated and uninsulated.
Textile braid: an outer cable sheath made of cotton or synthetic fibres used on the cables for electric irons etc.
Thermoplastic: a material which softens when heated, e.g. pvc.
Thermoset: a material which permanently hardens when heated, e.g.rubber.  The process is also known as curing or vulcanisation. 
Three phase: electrical supply with three live wires rather than one.
Tinning: dipping exposed copper cores in solder to keep the strands together.  An alternative to ferrules.
Transformer: converts voltage, usually step up (110 to 240V) or step down (240-110V).
TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein): German test house.


UL (Underwriters Laboratories): North American approvals body
Unpolarised: a plug that can be inserted either way round; the polarity of line and neutral is not critical.
UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply): a device with a battery that continues to provide power for a certain time after a power cut.


VDE (Verband Deutscher Electrotechniker): German approvals body
Volt: a unit of electrical potential difference; symbol V.


Watt: measure of power, Volts x Amps (VA) = W.
WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment): an EU directive setting recycling targets for electric equipment




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