An Overview of the Difference Between Wire, Cord, and Cable

Published By Greg Anixter, 26 Sep 2017

An Overview of the Difference Between Wire, Cord, and Cable

When it comes to electrical projects, the terminology can become convoluted and technical. Particularly for those who work in the industry on a regular basis, the words wire, cord, cable, and cable cord each have a particular meaning, and if unfamiliar with the specific product that each designates, it can become confusing to follow directions in a project.

Therefore, this article will distil the differences between a wire, cord, and cable, and explain the exact use for each within your home, office, or other building projects. To make things more complicated, a component called the cable cord is also used in certain wiring projects.

What is a Wire?
The electrical wire can be most simply defined as the medium through which an electrical current is carried. By the very nature of this definition, any material that makes up a wire must be able to conduct electricity. Of course, there is wiring used in other products such as a wire fence, but here we are looking specifically at a wire’s use and definition within a home and building electrical systems.

A gauge number differentiates the size and width of wires. These numbers run from 0000 to 40. The thickest wire is the highest number, No. 40, while the thinnest wire, often used in small electronic components and switchboards are 0000. Most American households have size 10 or 20 electrical wire that powers appliances and electronics, such as your television.

The most common material used in home wiring is copper because the metal is great as a conductor, but also easy to shape. Copper is also resistant to corrosion, heat, and other extreme elements, which makes it a reliable choice when used in everything from cellphones to telecommunication wiring.

In specific devices, such as inside a portable electronic or gaming system, the electrical wire might be a single strand that connects two other component. However, electrical wiring is most commonly a system. The system as a whole is connected to switches distribution boards, sockets, and light fixtures. When you turn on a switch or a power board, the system allows the electricity already conducted through the wires to flow into a device; when the power is switched off the movement of electricity is also stopped.

What is a Cable?
Essentially, a cable is a grouping of two or more independent electrical wires. The individual wires become the basic building blocks, and when grouped are instead called a cable. Therefore, a cable can be thought of as an electrical unit.

Within a single cable will always be two wires, and there can be a third. The first wire is called the hot wire. This wire is the one carrying the electrical current to your device or appliance. The second wire is needed to complete the loop of electricity. Many cables will also have a grounding wire, which makes installation and maintenance of the cable safer. The ground wire helps prevent electrical shocks to individuals who are repairing a cable or installing new cables by returning the electricity to the service panel.

For all three of these wires, copper is still the most commonly used material. It is found within the majority of cables installed in American homes, and there is no indication that popularity of this material is waning. First, there are few alternatives to copper in electrical cabling, and second, it has remained a significantly less expensive option to silver.

There are some different cables used in the average household. Some examples of cable cord or other cables that you are likely to find on EWCS Wire or through other retailers include paired cable, twisted pair, unbalanced coaxial, and ribbon cable. Each of these types of cables has a specific purpose.

What is a Cord?
In contrast to a cable or wire, a cord is connected to a specific appliance or device. Essentially, a cord is a cable that runs from a socket, outlet, or power board to power one specific piece of equipment. Within the home, we often see cords attached to lamps, televisions, vacuum cleaners, and stereo systems. The alternative to hooking up these devices to electrical wiring and cables, through cords, is powering them by battery, which rarely happens in today’s homes and offices.

There are many different types of cords. Extension cords, appliance cords, and washer/dryer cords all have different construction and design that makes them useful for an intended purpose. In addition to power cords and extension cords, the cable cord, which connects home networks and telecommunication devices into the overhead or ground phone lines through a jack, is found in nearly every home in the United States.

Find it all at EWCS Wire
Whether you are looking for cable cord, electrical wiring or cables, you can find what you need at EWSC Wire. Our online shop has everything you need to start and complete an electrical project in your home, office building, or new construction. Visit our website at or give us a call at 800-262-1598.

For more information about Fire Alarm Cables and Marine Battery Cable Please visit : Electric Wire & Cable Specialists (EWCS).