Looking at all the adjective forms, I wonder what is the differences between "electric", "electrical", and "electronic"?

I get so confused and want to know the usage.

  • 3
    Did you compare the dictionary definitions? Perhaps you could expand on the area of your confusion.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 3:42
  • "Electronic" means devices that use semiconductors -- transistors or integrated circuits -- or if older, vacuum tubes. "Electric" means devices that use electricity but don't use semiconductors, like lights or motors. "Electric" and "electrical" both mean "having to do with electricity", but "electric" is generally used when talking about a particular device, e.g. "an electric light", while "electrical" is used when speaking of the use of electricity more generally, e.g. "I studied electrical engineering", "we build electrical circuits".
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 14:24
  • already answered in english.stackexchange.com/questions/5699/electronic-vs-electric/… Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


Electrical means something relating to electricity, and it’s used for things that generate or process electricity. For example, electrical generators.

Devices that run on electricity are called electric. For example, electric lights, electric heaters, electric cars.

And the term Electronic used in a system of operation which involves the control of electric current by various devices: an electronic gamesboard; electronic gadgets; electronic devices.

  • To elaborate: "electronic" comes from "electron". Electronic devices are ones that became possible after science understood about electrons. Such devices include ones based on vacuum tubes, transistors or microchips.
    – jpa
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 8:40
  • This is a decent answer, but IMO would be improved by further examples to clarify the distinction. E.g. electrical wiring, electrical tape, electrical engineering; electronic mail (email), electronic faxing, electronic sports. The definition you gave doesn't really distinguish electronic from electric, but I wouldn't call a flashlight "electronic" unless it made lightsaber noises on demand or something. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 23:05

To answer this question in the most basic technical terms

Electrical means higher voltages with alternating current like 240 VAC or 410 VAC. ie. All Electrical objects work at these ratings.

Electronics means lower voltages with direct current like 24 VDC or 12 VDC or 5VDC. ie. All Electronic objects work at these ratings.

Electric is the term which is associated with current both AC & DC

  • Do you have a source for this distinction? I have never heard these words used this way.
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 14:19
  • That is the most general distinction between Electrical circuits & Electronic circuit. I'll search for a website to claim the same Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 14:29
  • Even if this turns out to be the technical distinction in certain fields, on ELL it's probably more helpful to talk about the common usage, which this definitely isn't. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 22:58

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