Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo
College Physics for AP® Courses


College Physics for AP® CoursesGlossary

an instrument that measures current
analog meter
a measuring instrument that gives a readout in the form of a needle movement over a marked gauge
bridge device
a device that forms a bridge between two branches of a circuit; some bridge devices are used to make null measurements in circuits
the maximum amount of electric potential energy that can be stored (or separated) for a given electric potential
an electrical component used to store energy by separating electric charge on two opposing plates
conservation laws
require that energy and charge be conserved in a system
the flow of charge through an electric circuit past a given point of measurement
current sensitivity
the maximum current that a galvanometer can read
digital meter
a measuring instrument that gives a readout in a digital form
electromotive force (emf)
the potential difference of a source of electricity when no current is flowing; measured in volts
full-scale deflection
the maximum deflection of a galvanometer needle, also known as current sensitivity; a galvanometer with a full-scale deflection of 50 μA50 μA size 12{"50" mA} {} has a maximum deflection of its needle when 50 μA50 μA size 12{"50" μA} {} flows through it
an analog measuring device, denoted by G, that measures current flow using a needle deflection caused by a magnetic field force acting upon a current-carrying wire
internal resistance
the amount of resistance within the voltage source
Joule’s law
the relationship between potential electrical power, voltage, and resistance in an electrical circuit, given by: Pe=IVPe=IV size 12{P rSub { size 8{e} } = ital "IV"} {}
junction rule
Kirchhoff’s first rule, which applies the conservation of charge to a junction; current is the flow of charge; thus, whatever charge flows into the junction must flow out; the rule can be stated I1=I2+I3I1=I2+I3 size 12{I rSub { size 8{1} } =I rSub { size 8{2} } +I rSub { size 8{3} } } {}
Kirchhoff’s rules
a set of two rules, based on conservation of charge and energy, governing current and changes in potential in an electric circuit
loop rule
Kirchhoff’s second rule, which states that in a closed loop, whatever energy is supplied by emf must be transferred into other forms by devices in the loop, since there are no other ways in which energy can be transferred into or out of the circuit. Thus, the emf equals the sum of the IRIR size 12{ ital "IR"} {} (voltage) drops in the loop and can be stated: emf=Ir+IR1+IR2emf=Ir+IR1+IR2 size 12{"emf"= ital "Ir"+ ital "IR" rSub { size 8{1} } + ital "IR" rSub { size 8{2} } } {}
null measurements
methods of measuring current and voltage more accurately by balancing the circuit so that no current flows through the measurement device
Ohm’s law
the relationship between current, voltage, and resistance within an electrical circuit: V=IRV=IR size 12{V= ital "IR"} {}
an instrument that applies a voltage to a resistance, measures the current, calculates the resistance using Ohm’s law, and provides a readout of this calculated resistance
the wiring of resistors or other components in an electrical circuit such that each component receives an equal voltage from the power source; often pictured in a ladder-shaped diagram, with each component on a rung of the ladder
potential difference
the difference in electric potential between two points in an electric circuit, measured in volts
a null measurement device for measuring potentials (voltages)
RC circuit
a circuit that contains both a resistor and a capacitor
causing a loss of electrical power in a circuit
a component that provides resistance to the current flowing through an electrical circuit
a sequence of resistors or other components wired into a circuit one after the other
shunt resistance
a small resistance RR size 12{R} {} placed in parallel with a galvanometer G to produce an ammeter; the larger the current to be measured, the smaller RR size 12{R} {} must be; most of the current flowing through the meter is shunted through RR size 12{R} {} to protect the galvanometer
terminal voltage
the voltage measured across the terminals of a source of potential difference
the electrical potential energy per unit charge; electric pressure created by a power source, such as a battery
voltage drop
the loss of electrical power as a current travels through a resistor, wire or other component
an instrument that measures voltage
Wheatstone bridge
a null measurement device for calculating resistance by balancing potential drops in a circuit
Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Mar 3, 2022 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.