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Oct 12, 2020

Wire and Cable Acronyms Explained

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There are acronyms used in every industry and some of them can be very confusing. There are many different types of wire and cable that use abbreviations and acronyms to describe them. Well, sometimes the acronym becomes a more popular description of the product than the actual name, which leaves the consumer confused. Hopefully, this post will help clear the air.

What Does TFFN / THHN / THWN Mean?

Thermoplastic Flexible Fixture Nylon“, “Thermoplastic High Heat Nylon” and “Thermoplastic Heat Water Nylon” are the descriptions of the insulation used on the most popular type of electrical building wire. These three types of electrical wire are used in homes and buildings running power from the electrical box to your outlets, lights and appliances. “Thermoplastic” defines the insulation and “Nylon” describes a nylon coating over the insulation for added protection and lubrication for conduit installations. The middle 2 letters in each acronym represent what the wire can resist or withstand.

Buy THHN Wire here

What Do NM-B and UF-B Stand For?

These stand for Non-Metallic and Underground Feeder. Both of these electrical cables have multiple THHN / THWN wires bundled together to run more than one wire at a time.NMB cables are used indoors only while UFB cables can run directly underground without conduit or raceway.

Buy UFB Cable here

What Does Type MC Mean?

Metal Clad cables have a metallic jacket engineered with aluminum interlocked armor to give it enough protection to be used outdoors and in conduit applications.

Buy MC Cable here


Each letter stands for something in this case and there could be any combination of all letters.

S – Service Cord
J – Junior (300 volts instead of 600 volts)
T – Thermoplastic – A cheaper insulation used for cost-effective jobs not needing rubber insulation
E – Elastomer – Usually hand in hand with the “T” for thermoplastic insulation
O – Oil resistant conductor insulation
O – Oil resistant Jacket
W – Water-resistant jacket (Not approved to be submersed in water)

Buy SJOOW Cable here

Buy SOOW Cable here

What Does AWG Stand For?

American Wire Gauge is the association that determines the diameter of each gauge size and the tolerance needed to be approved as a particular gauge. You might see “…a 4 AWG wire is…”.

What Do PVC and PTFE Stand For?

Polyvinyl Chloride and Polytetrafluoroethylene are both acronyms for hook up wire. PVC is used in applications up to 105ºC and PTFE is used in applications up to 200ºC. Otherwise, they are used in very similar applications such as wire harnesses, appliances and electronics.

Buy PTFE Wire here

What Do SER and SEU Stand For?

Service Entrance (“R” for round and “U” for flat) cables are used to bring power from the telephone pole on your street to your electrical box in order to supply it will enough power to fill your home. The only difference is one is round compared to flat. Flat cables have all of the conductors lying next to each other compared to bundled or twisted inside the jacket.

Buy SER and SEU Cable here

What Does DLO and Type SC Mean?

Diesel Locomotive and Stage Cable are both single conductor portable cord cables. Stage lighting cable is used to connect high power lighting displays for concerts and DLO cable is used for industrial applications requiring a very powerful and protective cable reaching as high as 2000 volts with a dual insulation.

Buy DLO Cable here

There are more acronyms out there that you can call to ask us about if you’re unsure. Never mind acronyms, we also get all kinds of application-based requests such as “a cable for my welder”, “generator cable”, “appliance wire” or “automotive wire” that we have to break down with the customer. Call us with all of the information you have and we’ll help you find exactly what you need.

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