An internal wire is partially broken, or a faulty contact between any two electrical components that need to touch to transmit power or signal. Like a headphone that only works if you hold it just so, a TV that turns off but can be slapped back to life (not recommended), or a button that only works when pressed at an angle. Wireless problems not included.

In Portuguese it's called a "bad contact".

You don't have to buy new headphones, it's just (a) _________. You can fix it in five minutes with a soldering iron.

Don't slap your TV, it'll work now but will make the _________ worse in the long run.

This washing machine model had a lot of bad reviews due to ________ problems.

You have to know the trick to press this button, it has (a) ________.

I'm looking for an idiomatic way of expressing this. Doesn't necessarily have to be a noun or a single word, but it shouldn't be overly technical.

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    In English, it's called a "bad contact". Commented Mar 4 at 14:18
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    I agree that the term for this is "bad contact", but its usage is much more technical in English than it seems it would be in Portuguese. You'd never say "Don't hit the TV you'll cause a bad contact" in English, you'd just say something like "Don't hit the TV, you'll mess it up."
    – YonKuma
    Commented Mar 4 at 14:21
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    Sometimes I hear the term "short circuit" misused for this situation. It tends to be a layman's term for "fault in the circuit." Commented Mar 4 at 15:07
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    bad contact in Portuguese, mau contato, is a faulty connection in English. And it's not highly technical.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 4 at 15:29
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    @AndyBonner - I have been an electronics hobbyist and later salaried technician between the ages of 13 and 40, and used to make money repairing TVs going right back to the days of vacuum tubes and CRTs. There are plenty of people these days who think they may be able to fix a modern smart LCD TV merely by finding one 'bad capacitor'. Commented Mar 4 at 15:30

3 Answers 3


The English term for this would also be a "bad contact" (or a "faulty contact"). That said, at least in America, most people would not attribute this kind of technical issue to something so specific as a "bad contact". For the most part, the object itself would be described as bad or not working properly, without thought to the underlying cause.

You don't have to buy new headphones, it's just a bad contact. You can fix it in five minutes with a soldering iron.

If you're talking about a soldering iron, you're assuming the person you're talking to is competent enough to understand the term "bad contact". This phrasing is good.

Don't slap your TV, it'll work now but you'll screw it up in the long run.

It's very unlikely that the speaker of this sentence would attribute the TV getting worse in the future to a bad contact specifically.

This washing machine model had a lot of bad reviews due to contact problems.

This washing machine model had a lot of bad reviews due to build issues.

This sentence could go either way depending on how technically adept the audience is.

You have to know the trick to press this button, it's janky.

Again, unless you know the person you're talking to is very adept at technology, you'd be unlikely to attribute this to a bad contact. If the person knows anything about electronics repair, though, "it has a bad contact" is fine.

  • 1
    Interesting, explains why it was hard to find the right term even after years of working in IT, in English. Maybe the problem is more prevalent in my home country because we use cheaper products. I'll wait a few hours for more answers, but I'm perfectly happy with the explanation.
    – BoppreH
    Commented Mar 4 at 14:46
  • faulty connection, not contact. And anybody can use it. No expertise required, particularly.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 4 at 15:29
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    Believe me, as someone who has been using a soldering for work and pleasure for decades, very few people know how to use one properly. Commented Mar 4 at 15:31

faulty connection or bad connection are the standard terms used to describe electrical issues in electricity or machines. The first is more technical than the second.

For the Portuguese: mau contato

bad connection is also specifically used for telephones, landlines or mobile phones.

From Ludwig.Guru [you have to sign up]

In the UK, the recall affects some 25,000 Rand and Hilux models bought between June 2004 and December 2010; these cars have a faulty connection from the steering wheel to the airbag, meaning that a certain turn of the wheel could cause the airbag to deactivate.

4 The Guardian - Business


By: David Howard | G+ What is an electrical contact? An electrical contact is an electrically controlled switch that completes or interrupts a circuit affecting an electrical current. Unlike relays, electrical contacts carry higher current loads and are designed to be directly connected to high voltage feeds.

So, contact in English refers specifically to a switch that is connected to or carries electricity.


A common generic term for this sort of thing is the word "glitch".


Other forms: glitches; glitching; glitched A glitch is a problem or malfunction, usually a temporary one, in a system or machine. Your science fair team might experience a major glitch in your plans if you lose your data tables as the result of a computer glitch. Glitch is a pretty new word, introduced in the 1960s when the science and technology of space flight was being developed. It originally meant a sudden surge of electrical current that caused a disturbance or malfunction. The word can also be used more broadly to describe any unexpected difficultly, like the glitch in your travel plans that resulted from airport delays.


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