Video Fix: Electric Vocabulary

April 26, 2017 5:00 pm

Let’s “shine a historical light” on the creation of electric vocabulary with the help of a brief historical review narrated by science writer James Sheils. In a few minutes we will experience the evolution of vocabulary that we use today but which first appeared in Ancient Greece, 2600 years ago.

VideoFix Electric Vocabulary

The electron is “an elementary entity having the smallest charge of negative or positive electricity. Its rest mass is approximately equal to 1/1840 part of that of the hydrogen atom” according to the definition in IATE database. If we go back to the ancient Greek language, “electron” or “ήλεκτρον” was a word for “amber“. Now, how is amber related to electricity? Well, as stated in Sheils’ article, “the Greek philosopher Thales is documented as being one of the first to observe that a piece of amber, when rubbed with fur, would pick up small pieces of straw”. In other words, he first observed one of what we now call “electrical phenomena“. 2200 years passed after this observation before research on this matter started again. The video “Electric Vocabulary“, which we selected for this week’s Video Fix post, aims to describe this scientific and consequently linguistic evolution.

According to James Sheils, “we all know the words around electricity, “charge,” “positive,” “battery”, and more. But where do they come from and what do they really mean?” So, “let the history of these words illuminate the physics of electric phenomena.”

Technical terms can be very confusing when first introduced to students or people with no scientific background, so when it is possible to explain them plainly, we should spread the word!

Thus, we invite you to watch the full video and find out more about the history behind the linguistic aspect of science!

You might also be interested in some of our previous posts:

The relationship between terminology and lexicology

TermSciences: an extensive scientific terminology database

Enjoy watching, reading and have a nice Wednesday!

Katerina PalamiotiTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.


  • Sheils, James (2012) “Electric Vocabulary”, TED-ed. Available at: (Accessed 25th April, 2017)
  • IATE database Available at: (Accessed 26th April, 2017)

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