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World's Best Lighting Glossary

Last Updated on April 28, 2015 by Steve Brielmaier | 0 comments

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Learn about all the terms of Lighting, light fixtures and lamps with this lighting glossary

Accent Lamps- Used for mood lighting, a decorative accent, or to draw attention to a particular area.

Adjustable – An accent light that you can aim on a particular object. The technical term is “adjustable accent light”. Most of the accent lighting fixtures are adjustable in some way. 

Alabaster - A type of material which lamp shades are made. Lighting fixtures can be fitted with either alabaster stone or alabaster glass. Alabaster stone is similar to marble that comes from a rock quarry, cut and shaped into the desired design which is usually expensive. Alabaster glass is less expensive.

Ambient- Ambient light, also known as "general light", is an overall level of lighting in your room. Ambient light should provide a comfortable amount of light to suit how the room is used.

Antique Finish – A type of finish that mimics the normal aging of materials like wood or metal. The effect is achieved by coating the surface of the chosen material with a dark pigment

Banker's Lamp- A type of desk lamp, traditionally with a green glass "pharmacy" shade. Newer styles come in blue, white, or yellow or even Tiffany glass.

Baffle Reflector- A device, which reflects, light downward and diffuses light upward to reduce glare. Generally used on shades with large top diameters.

Base- The decorative body of the lamp, a base can be constructed from an array of materials: metal, brass, porcelain, crystal, hydrocal, or wood to name a few. Bases should be solidly constructed to resist tipping during normal use.

Base Switch- Found on the base of a lamp, base switches add convenience when turning the lamp on/off.

Boudoir Lamp- A lamp suited for the bedroom.

Buffet Candlestick- A tall, slender accent lamp used primarily on sofa-back tables, consoles, mantels, or buffets. Buffet candlesticks are also great on bedside tables.

Candelabrum Lamp- A lamp base comprised of a decorative candlestick with several arms or branches.

Chandelier – A common overhead lighting fixture that can add style and class to an entryway, dining room, foyer, or even over a piano. It should hang around 30 inches above a tabletop or its bottom should hand 7 feet off the ground. It may come with halogen or incandescent bulbs. A dimmer switch works well with chandeliers to control the amount of light.

Color Rendering Index (CRI) - measures of the ability of a light source to reveal true colors faithfully in comparison with the perfect natural light source. Seniors should look for bulbs and lamps with CRI of 80 and above, which will especially help distinguish blue and green.

Compact Fluorescent (CFL)- Small fluorescent bulbs which often can be used in a standard medium-base socket. CFL's use 20-40% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and are color adjusted to produce light close to real sunlight.

Cove Lighting – a type of lighting system using light sources that are hidden by a recess or a ledge. It distributes light over the ceiling and the upper portion of a wall.

Decorative Bulbs – Decorative bulbs come in different shapes and wattages. From the name alone, these bulbs may have interesting shapes like teardrop, flame, candelabra and others.

Dark Sky-Dark-sky fixtures reduce "nocturnal glow & glare" from urban & coastal areas. By casting light only downward , dark sky compliant fixtures allow people to see the stars, use less energy, and reduce the effects of unnatural lighting on nocturnal animals.

Desk Lamps - Used on desks for work or study. Light source should be about 15" above work area.

Dimmer Switch- Gradually increases/decreases light intensity. Most torchieres are equipped with dimmers or high/low switches.

Downlight – A small light fixture that is hidden or recessed into a ceiling. The fixture focuses light in a downward direction.  But other designers use “downlight” for any fixture that aims light downward.

Drum-style Shade - Like a cylinder, the diameter of a drum shade is the same at top and bottom.

Empire-style Shade - Narrow on top and slightly wider at the bottom, creating a triangular shape.

Eyeball –An adjustable recessed accent light that sticks out slightly below the ceiling.  
Floodlight – A high intensity light source that creates a wide beam of light. The light produced can illuminate a wall, a large object or a sign. The floodlight should come with a louver or shield to prevent unnecessary glare.

Faux - Fake. Refers to finishes and materials, such as faux marble.

Finial - Decorative ornament which fastens the shade to the harp.

Fitter - Within the top diameter of a shade, three prongs meet in a center ring where the shade fits to the harp. Also known as "Spider".

Floor Lamp - Standing lamp, sometimes referred to as "Stick", used for general lighting.

Fluorescent - Energy efficient bulbs, using 20-40% less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs.

Fluting- Deliberate vertical lines as a conscious part of design. Fluting was first found in Greek and Roman columns.

Footcandle - the light received on a surface by a one-candela source one foot away. A foot-candle equals one lumen per square foot = 10.76 lux.

Glare – Glare refers to light coming straight at the eye of the viewer from a light source or it can be light reflected from a surface aimed in the direction of the eye. Glare can create discomfort and even harm to the delicate eye tissues.

Halogen- Small, hot-burning bulbs, often used for task or accent lighting. Halogen bulbs have a longer life and provide more light per watt.

Hard-Back Shade- A shade made with a paper or vinyl lining.

Hardwired – This is a technical term which means the light fixture is permanently fixed to an electrical source. It is not hardwired if you plug a fixture into a socket.

Hardwire Lighting- Fixtures wired directly to the buildings electrical system rather than plugged into the wall socket. These include overhead, bathroom, wall sconces and track and recessed lighting.

Harp- Brass finished hardware used to secure a lampshade to the base. Harps vary in size depending on the shade depth, usually 8", 10", or 12".

Hurricane Lamp- Decorative lamp with a cylindrical glass shade. Original hurricane lamps were used with candles or kerosene and the glass cylinder prevented the candle from being blown out by "hurricane" winds. Hurricane lamps are now equipped with electric light bulbs.

Incandescent- Standard bulbs, generally from 15-150 watts. These "screw-in" type bulbs provide a warm, yellowish light that offers a cozy soft glow to a room.

LED- A Light Emitting Diode, historically used as small indicator lights on electronic devices and increasingly in higher power applications such as flashlights, desk lamps, and light fixtures. LEDs are very efficient, fully dimmable, and can even change colors.

LRV - Light Reflective Value is a measure of light that is reflected from a surface when illuminated by a light source. LRV is often seen on paint swatches and is used by designers to determine sufficient light levels.

Lumen- The amount of light a bulb emits in all directions.  AKA "luminous flux", a lumen has become the standard way to compare incandescent, LED, and CFL light sources.  One lumen per square foot = one footcandle = 10.76 lux.

Lux - Lumens spread out over a given area.  1 lumen - 10.76 lux.  Lux are probably a better way to make sure you have sufficient lighting for tasks, but since measuring lux accurately requires photometers few of us have, most comparisons use lumens. (A full moon = 1 lux, office lighting = 500 lux, Direct sunlight =50,000 lux)

Mica – A natural mineral that is used to create a translucent shade that gives off a warm glow. Mica is often used its natural color or dyed amber.

Mini Lamp- An accent lamp under 15" in height.

Mission- An early 20th century American offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement, furniture was called "mission" because it had a "utility of design" or Mission. Mission furniture had a simple, rectilinear style with exposed construction techniques, unpretentious materials (usually oak, with coverings of leather, canvas or plain cloth) and little or no decoration.

Pharmacy Lamp- Generally used for reading, the pharmacy can be adjusted to a comfortable height according to reading level. The metal or glass shade, usually in a tent or shell shape, swivels for direct lighting.

Pleat- A straight, flat vertical fold of cloth, common on lampshades. Soft pleats are gentle and "wavy". Hard or "knife" pleats have sharp, defined edges like a serrated knife blade.

Portable Lighting- Light fixtures that can be plugged-in to a wall socket, and that are easily moved. (i.e. Lamps)

Reflector Luminaire Manufacturer (RLM) - A fixture designed to project light downward, so barn lights might have been the original electric light RLMs.  Lighting designers today specify RLMs to prevent "light pollution" so they can comply with Dark Sky ordinances.

Sconce – A sconce is an ornamental or decorative light fixture attached to a wall. It is also called a wall sconce.

Socket- Electrical connector into which the bulb is screwed, usually having a switch located at its base. Most lamps are equipped with 3-way standard sockets. Never exceed the maximum wattage, generally shown on the socket.

Spill light – This is the light that extends beyond the object being lit

Six-Way Floor Lamp- A 3-way "mogul" bulb surrounded by three additional bulbs allows six different lighting levels. Reaching a maximum of up to 600 watts, this variation of the club floor lamp can light large areas.

Soft Shade- A shade made with a fabric inner lining and outer material. Soft shades create an elegant look.

Step Light - a lighting fixtures that is especially designed to light up stairs

Swag- Decorative motif, image of a garland of fruit and flowers or of a length of cloth, tied with ribbons and attached to a background. If tied at both ends and suspended from them in a loop, a swag is generally called a festoon.

Swing-Arm Floor Lamp- A functional floor lamp with a horizontal double-arm. Light source can be moved from side to side for reading or project lighting.

Task Lamp- Used to illuminate the area where a visual activity like reading, sewing or preparing food occurs.

Task Lighting – A lighting fixture installed to provide illumination to perform a specific task, like in the kitchen to provide more light for food preparation.

Tiffany - Loosely refers to glass-shaded lamps made from a mosaic of glass panels. Louis Comfort Tiffany applied the Art Nouveau style in his lamp designs in the early 20th century.

Title 24- The California Energy Efficiency Standards for Buildings established in 1978 to reduce energy consumption. The standards are updated periodically to reflect new energy efficiency technologies and methods. When building or remodeling in CA, be sure to comply withTitle 24 standards.We have lots of energy efficient options.

Torchette- An accent table lamp that directs light upward.

Torchiere- A standing floor lamp which directs light upward.

Tray-Table Floor Lamp- A club floor with the addition of a glass or wood tray which serves as an occasional table.

Twin-Pull Desk Lamp- Convenient and decorative pulls allow for easy on/off of one or both bulbs. Well-suited for bedside lighting.

Uplight – This refers to the percentage of light directed from a light fixture at or more than 90 degrees.

Wall grazing – A lighting term that refers to the highlighting and shadow effects on surfaces like stone, brick, and drapes. Grazing creates distinctive high and low levels of light on an irregular surface. 

Wall washing – A lighting technique that creates a more or less smooth and even level of illumination on a wall. This attempts to smoothen out the texture of the surface.

Wattage- The amount of electricity consumed by a bulb.

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