The original luminous billboard (probably the first ever installed was the famous 'zipper' at One-Times-Square) was made of dots, created by light bulbs, like this one, but this is the only one that shows up in an image-google-search, and a general search gives only a few hundred hits.

Dot matrix display on motorway

What is the usual specific name for such type of billboard?

  • I'd generally call it a "matrix display". But then I'm a techie.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 24, 2016 at 12:26
  • I don't think they actually have a 'usual' name - that is, one used by the general public. The answers so far seem to be about technical terms used by e.g. highway engineers.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 24, 2016 at 17:29

4 Answers 4


This is known as a variable message sign, or a matrix sign.

A variable- (also changeable-, electronic-, or dynamic-) message sign, often abbreviated VMS, CMS, or DMS, and in the UK known as a matrix sign, is an electronic traffic sign often used on roadways to give travelers information about special events. Such signs warn of traffic congestion, accidents, incidents, roadwork zones, or speed limits on a specific highway segment.

According to Ngram, "matrix sign" is slightly more common.

Here's a picture, from Wikipedia:

enter image description here


I would call it an LED matrix, an LED sign, or an LED billboard.

From a quick search on Google Images I find that the term LED matrix seems to be mostly used for smaller scale devices which you could keep in your pocket.

Calling it an LED sign or an LED billboard would indicate that you are talking about something larger. A Google Images search for either of those terms will mostly find more modern technology with RGB and higher resolution.

If you specifically want to talk about the kind with only one colour as in your picture, the term to use is monochrome as in monochrome LED sign or monochrome LED billboard.

  • Except that the road signs are rarely LED-based.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 18, 2016 at 12:22
  • 1
    @HotLicks Older signs might not be. But for any newly manufactured sign I doubt there is a better suited technology than LED.
    – kasperd
    Aug 20, 2016 at 0:32

In the UK Traffic Signs Regulations they are called 'Matrix Signs', but in my experience people tend to refer to them colloquially as 'dot matrixes' or 'dot matrix signs'.


These are known as marquee signs, commonly used by theaters to advertise the attractions. Use the google to find images with the search term

marquee sign "light bulb"

The name is slightly more general, as it can apply to signs in which the light bulbs are used only to provide an illuminated border.

  • I think VMS is the better name. Marquee signs don't change their text.
    – NVZ
    Apr 24, 2016 at 5:40
  • 1
    @NVZ VMS are signs that can change their message without someone physically changing the sign. Some of these use LCD, which don't use light-bulb "dots" at all.
    – deadrat
    Apr 24, 2016 at 16:44

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