The preferred term to talk about those fast network cables (which are called "fibre optique", literally optic[al] fiber, in French) seems to be "fiber optic[s]".

Grammatically there are two ways I can understand it:

  • fiber optic: an optic that's made of fiber
  • fiber optics: the optical characteristics of fiber

None seems to match the meaning I feel it's trying to convey, i.e. a fiber-y material that can transport optical information (i.e. light).

If I were to follow the standard adjective-before-name order we find in English, I'd get something resembling "optical fiber" or "optic fiber".

Why is it like that? Is it a special case or are there other words "made" like this?

  • Fiber-based optics? There is no reason why one noun can't modify another noun. The one doing the modifying is called an attributive noun. May 3, 2019 at 20:41
  • Heh heh. Why do the folks in the UK insist it is maths where folk in the USA will say math?
    – puppetsock
    May 3, 2019 at 20:43
  • @puppetsock Because the word is "Mathematics", not "Mathematic". Did I miss a joke?..
    – Jorgomli
    May 3, 2019 at 21:23
  • @JasonBassford that's the thing I don't get. The thing could be called "optic-stuff-carrying fiber", because its "main" component is fiber. It's just a fiber that carries optical stuff. To me, "fiber-based optics" sounds like you're doing optics with fiber material, which is the other way around
    – zdimension
    May 3, 2019 at 21:26
  • @Jorgomli Yeah, but you wouldn't call a condominium a condom.
    – Eddie Kal
    May 3, 2019 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


It seems to me that it's not quite correct to use "fiber optic" or "fiber optics" as a noun for the cable itself, though it may be a common error or informal usage.

Optics, as we know, means "the area of science that studies light". Thus I interpret fiber optics as "the area of science that studies the transmission of light through fibers".

You could speak of fiber-optic cable, meaning "cable that operates on the principle of the transmission of light through fibers". Or you could speak of optical fiber, meaning "fiber that is related to light (presumably for transmitting it)"

You must log in to answer this question.

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