Vocabulary Guide for Holiday Lighting

November 28, 2022

Christmas lights bring sparkle and shine to the holiday season. Decorating and enjoying your festive lighting display is only part of the process. Learning the lingo plays a key role too. When planning a holiday lighting project certain lighting terms and techniques can be daunting to someone inexperienced. Learn lighting terminology like the pros from this Guide for Holiday Lighting and Decor, will create the perfect holiday lightscape for your home.

A-z Guide for Holiday Lighting and Decor

5mm – A mini LED bulb that is also referred to as “wide angle” and “conical”  due to a cone shape molded into the lens to reflect a maximum amount of light. Measuring approximately 5mm across and known to be the brightest of the LED mini light strings, the 5mm bulb directs light extremely well.

Amp (Ampere)- A measure of current for electricity flowing through a light set. 

Amp Capacity – The measurement of how much voltage a conductor or device can carry before sustaining damage.

Bulb Voltage – The measurement of how much voltage a particular bulb can take before sustaining damage. Bulbs in the US run on 110/120 volts.

C6 Strawberry – Smallest of the cone shaped LED lenses, this 6/8 of an inch in diameter mini light has a tapered design similar to the shape of a strawberry.

C7, C9 – Traditional-sized Christmas light bulbs with E12 or E17  bases. Learn more with our Holiday Light Bulbs 101 guide.

Candelabra – Another name for a C7 or E12 socket size. Can also refer to the size of the base of the bulb.

Cascade Lights – Tubes of light with LED bulbs that blink in a dripping pattern to create a cascading effect.

Clips – Used for securing Christmas bulbs to a home or building. Learn more from our blog Christmas Rooflines – Pro Tips.

Commercial – A grade designation given to lighting products or decorations that are heavier duty and can withstand harsh weather condition, compared to retail products.

Corner Tree – A Christmas tree designed with two flat sides to fit snugly into corners.

Current – Current is the rate of flow of electric charge.

Curtain Lights – Multiple strings of lights bunched together to give the appearance of a cascading sheet of twinkling lights. Note that they are not actually curtains.

Dimmable – The ability of a light bulb or decorative lighting product to be dimmed using the product’s dimmer or an external dimming control. For bulbs, non-dimmable indicates that they won’t respond to a dimming switch and are not suited for displays that flash, this will damage them almost immediately.

Diodes – Commonly referred to as LED (light emitting diode) is a small device designed to emit light using a very small amount of electricity.

Drops – The portions of light strings forming vertical legs on icicle and curtain lights.

E12, E17, and E26 – The measure of the size of light cord sockets. E12 = C7 = Candelabra, E17 = C9 = Intermediate, E26 = Medium. 

End to End – A light set that has a male plug on one end and a female plug on the other. The light sets can be connected one into another – “end to end.”

Faceted – An LED bulb style that uses a diamond-shaped gem cut pattern that allows light to reflect from multiple angles.

Fairy Light – Tiny round LED bulbs, also called micro-LEDs, that come in different sizes and colors. Fairy lights are not considered as much as a lighting application rather than a decoration element, since they are not very bright

Female Plug – A plug end designed to receive male plugs to establish electric current between two items.

Flatback Tree – A Christmas tree that sits flush against a wall or flat surface.

Flicker – The flashing that is visually perceptible in LED lights that are not adequately rectified. The waveform of the AC electricity causes the LEDs to turn off and on.

Frame Tree – A Christmas tree designed using an internal structural frame that can be stacked to create large commercial Christmas trees.

Full Wave Rectified – Electrical devices that have circuits that smooth and filter an AC input electricity waveform to prevent noticeable flicker.

Fused Plugs – Plugs that contain fuses as a safety feature to prevent string lights from being overloaded with electricity.

G12, G30, G40, G50 – Sizes of round “globe” bulbs. Available in both glass and LED. The number is the diameter of the bulb in millimeters. 

Head Wire/Lead Wire – Length of wire between the male or female plug and the first or last bulb. 

Hinged Construction (tree) – Artificial Christmas tree branches connected to the center pole using hinges that allow the branches to easily fold up or fold out.

Icicle Lights – Multiple mini light drops hanging down across a single central cord that gives the appearance of icicles. 

Indoor/Outdoor Rated – Specification indicating where a light string, bulb, or accessory can be safely used.

Intermediate – Another name for a C9 or E17 socket size. Can also refer to the size of the base of the bulb.

Kelvin – A unit of measurement used to define light color ranges.

Lamp Lock – On some mini light styles a small tab located externally on the bulb husk locks the bulb into place on the socket, keeping the bulb secure.

Lead Wire – The beginning of a string light from the male plug to the first bulb.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) – A bulb that produces light with semiconductors instead of heating a metallic filament like an incandescent bulb.

LED Filament – A flexible LED designed to look like traditional incandescent filament bulbs.

LED RGB – A lighting style where diodes can be changed between red, green and blue, displaying their colors at different percentages creating thousands of different light color hues. 

Lens – A decorative covering usually made from glass or plastic that fits over a light source to create a finished light bulb.

Lifetime Hours – An approximate number of hours a Christmas light string would operate in optimal conditions. Used to compare different brands of bulbs or cords but not intended to be a warranty or promise.

Lumens – A measure of the total amount of visible light emitted and of perceived brightness at 36 inches of a bulb or light string.

M5 – Mini LED bulb similar in shape to a traditional Christmas incandescent  and is textured to look like an actual small frozen icicle.

M6 – Mini LED bulb, slightly larger than M5 light. Use them in trees and bushes.

Magnetic Clips – Magnets designed to fit onto the bottom of traditional C7 or C9 Christmas light cord sockets. Use them to install lights on metal surfaces. 

Male Plug – A plug with exposed conductors that fits snugly into a female connector to establish an electric current.

Maximum Connectivity – The maximum number of light strings that can be connected in a series. Exceeding this number can create an electrical hazard by blowing a fuse and should be avoided during installation.

Mini Lights – Traditional glass or LED light strings that are commonly used to light Christmas trees. Also used outside the Christmas season for parties and events. 

Motif – In decorative lighting, motifs refer to products that are designed to look like symbols, characters, or shapes by contouring lights around a corresponding frame design.

Net Lights – Mini light strings with bulbs spaced evenly and connected to form a square or rectangular grid. Net lights are used to cover bushes, shrubs, and trees.

Outdoor Rated Tree – A tree designed to withstand outdoor weathering, typically featuring galvanized or powder coated metal and UV coated branches.

Parallel Wired – Refers to how traditional 18 AWG Christmas light cords are electrically manufactured with constant voltage allowing them to be cut to fit.

PE Tips – Lifelike branches formed using flexible polyethylene needles, providing a hyper-realistic look and feel to your Christmas tree. These needles are molded using a natural tree model, giving them a lifelike close-up appearance.

Polarized – A polarized plug is a male connector plug with one prong wider than the other. Polarized plugs cannot be connected to non-polarized plugs.

Prelamped – Bulbs that come either pre-installed or hard wired into a string light set.

PVC Tips (Polyvinyl Chloride) – Some artificial Christmas trees have a combination of both PE and PVC materials. PE is used on the tips, while the PVC is used as a filler to make the tree look thick and full. 

Retrofit Bulb – A bulb that is separate from the string and must be manually placed in the socket.

Rice Light – LED bulbs that are slightly larger than fairy lights with a thin and short stick-like shape.

Series Wired  – String of lights that employ a 2 or 3-wire harness and are electrically manufactured to be constant current. Cannot be cut to fit.

Splicing – Joining two separate pieces of a wire or other material together.

SPT-1 & SPT-2 (Stranded Parallel Thermoplastic) – Denotes the insulation thickness of a wire. SPT2 is thicker than SPT1. The most common wire used for Christmas lighting is 18-gauge, which is rated for 10 amps.

Stackable Plugs – Plugs that have male connector on one side and a female connector on the other side that allows multiple plugs to be connected. These are the types of plugs often seen installed on Christmas trees. Each set is plugged into several others.

String Lights – Are transparent bulbs hanging from a cable, symmetrically spaced apart. They are used indoor and outdoor and are the classic garland lights we are familiar with. Common varieties include globe lights, rope lights, and Christmas lights. 

Tail Wire – Length of wire between the last bulb on a string light to the end plug.

Tip Count – The number of individual branch tips on a tree.

Topiary – Trees or shrubs that have been trimmed to create ornamental shapes often resembling geometric or animal designs.

Tower Tree – A term used to describe large commercial Christmas trees that use a frame structure rather than a pole.

Tree Height – Measurement taken from the floor to the top of a tree.

Tree Width – Measurement is taken at the base of the tree. Branches at the widest point are pulled flat and are measured from tip to tip.

Triple Dipped – Bulbs that are dipped 3 times in paint, resulting in a more vibrant and long-lasting color than double and single dipped bulbs.

Twinkle Lights – Bulbs that blink on and off. Depending on the light set or bulb this may be a fast or slow effect.

UL Commercial Grade – If a product comes with a UL mark, it signifies that it has passed Underwriter Laboratories’ (UL’s) safety requirements for use by consumers.

Voltage – Voltage, also called electromotive force, is the energy per unit charge. In other words, voltage is the difference in electric potential between two points. 

Watts – Watts = Voltage x Current. If you increase either the voltage or the current, the power coming out increases. Watts is a measure of power.

Wire Gauge Measures the thickness of solid or stranded wire and determines the amount of electrical current a wire can carry. The smaller the gauge the larger the wire. For example, 22 AWG wiring is smaller than 16 AWG wiring.

Now you know the lingo from this Vocabulary Guide for Holiday Lighting and Decor

Now you know the lingo of the pros from this Guide for Holiday Lighting and Decor
and have a better understanding of the mastery needed to design, plan, and install a holiday lightscape. The experts at Mobile Illumination strive to deliver exceptional service, while helping you achieve your vision of a beautiful holiday lighting display. Click here and call us today!

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