Talking about a control panel with multiple switches, dials, knobs, lights and buttons, I am looking for a synonym for "controls" (and the singular "control"). I have "instrument panel" or "dashboard" as synonyms for "control panel", but nothing else that exactly seems to cover the collection itself.

"Instruments" is the closest I can find, but to me that implies larger items such as a speedometer that can include multiple dials and buttons, rather than just the buttons or switches themselves. So it works in the second example, less well in the first and not in the third.

Example uses:

"All the "x" on the dashboard had been set to their emergency positions"

"George swept his hand over the "x" rapidly preparing for liftoff."

"This "x" was a three-way switch instead of the usual button."

  • The only two synonyms the OED offers for that sense of "control" are "regulator" and "instrument".
    – WS2
    May 16, 2018 at 16:06
  • 2
    Why do you need a synonym? What is it about controls that doesn't work? Without more explanation, controls seems like the best choice in all of your examples . . . May 17, 2018 at 5:06
  • @JasonBassford When describing the systems behind some "control panels" there is a need to talk about "logic controllers" and "control loops" so it would be useful to have a more distinguishable word for the "controls". And when I couldn't find one I was curious enough to ask here to see if it really was the only precise word for it.
    – Dragonel
    May 17, 2018 at 14:34
  • Okay, but that's unrelated to the example sentences you gave. What you just described is more like system processes that aren't visible—software that's running on the hardware. I can't see anybody confusing the two. In fact, you can use the term control software to distinguish that from the controls. May 17, 2018 at 14:38
  • Ah. Unless you're already talking about logic controllers specifically and fear that mentioning just controls immediately before or after could be confusing. Any rephrasing would need to be contextual: this switch was up,that button was depressed, the flight computer was set to manual, and so on. If you don't mind repeating the word control as part of a phrase, you could say the control element, control device, or interactive control. May 17, 2018 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Interface is the common term for such a collection of controls and displays.

interface, n.: A device or program for connecting two [or more] items of hardware or software so that they can be operated jointly or communicate with each other.

For your examples:

All interfaces on the dashboard had been set to their emergency positions.

George swept his hand over the interface, rapidly preparing for liftoff.

This interface was a three-way switch instead of the usual button.

  • I think of "interface" primarily with regards to computer software, and "user interface" is usually the collection of items used for control more akin to the "control panel" or "dashboard". What would you call an individual element on the Interface?
    – Dragonel
    May 17, 2018 at 14:38
  • Note that the Oxford Dictionaries definition quoted says "a device... for connecting... items of hardware or software." An individual knob, switch, or slider on an interface is still a control; in most UI toolkits, such elements are usually referred to as widgets, however.
    – Gnawme
    May 17, 2018 at 14:58

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