Do British people use the word lightning conductor more frequently than a lightning rod?

  • 4
    Angyang, your question sounds like you think that "lightning rod" is the right expression, and that British people are using a wrong or mistaken version. Apr 22, 2019 at 12:31
  • @ Michael Harvey No wonder you had that kind of feeling, as I also felt my title is a bit ambiguous when I look at it hh.
    – Angyang
    Apr 22, 2019 at 12:53
  • Angyang - I don't mean the title, but rather the text underneath, "when they are talking about a lightning rod?". Apr 22, 2019 at 12:59
  • To be fair, the lightning conductor/rod is more-or-less an American invention. Although I wouldn't be surprised if "lightning conductor" had been the original term.
    – hegel5000
    Apr 22, 2019 at 15:50
  • @MichaelHarvey It's not uncommon to write from one's own perspective, e.g. I might say that British people say "lorry" when they're talking about trucks. I don't think it should be taken as a value judgement.
    – Barmar
    Apr 22, 2019 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


As a British person, I would say that American people often use "lightning rod" when they are talking about what we often call a 'lightning conductor'. This is usually mounted at the highest point of a building, and connected to the ground by an electrically conductive link of copper or other metal. UK and US building and safety professionals tend to talk about "lightning protection systems", of which the rod or conductor (often called the "air termination device") is one part. In figurative language, however, the term "lightning rod" meaning "someone who attracts criticism or anger that could be directed at someone else" is pretty common in the UK.

  • Michael, I was literally using it in a metaphorical way, like I was writing something like "Public are is indeed a lightning rod", as I want to use British English and I want to be consistent, thus I checked the word "lightning rod" and got that the British version is "lightning conductor', that's why I'm asking this here. Also as you said in your last sentence, I suppose you mean a "lightening conductor" is rather common in the UK, am I right?
    – Angyang
    Apr 22, 2019 at 13:00
  • When I was a small (British) boy, my father, a professional electrical engineer with a passion for Norman churches, once told me that the thing atop a steeple, that I had noticed, was called a "lightning conductor". Apr 22, 2019 at 13:01
  • Angyang, try hard not to write "lightening" when you mean "lightning". Apr 22, 2019 at 13:02
  • 1
    "avoid saying, or writing, things like this" Why? It was perfectly understandable and 100% valid/correct/accurate. Apr 22, 2019 at 14:13
  • 3
    As a British person, I know the saftey device on a building as a lightning conductor. If I heard "lightning rod" I would imagine sparks flying from a wizard's wand. Apr 22, 2019 at 14:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .