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For example, a carpenter works in carpentry and a plumber works in plumbing. So what trade does an electrician work in? Electrical?

I searched the definition for "electrical" and found that it gives the part of speech as an adjective and not a noun like the dictionary does with carpentry or plumbing.

This is confusing to me.

I would like to understand and know how to talk about the trade for an electrician.

I would appreciate it if someone could help clarify and explain this to me.

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    It isn't often but if it were, would it not be 'electrics'? Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 19:10

5 Answers 5

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It is called electrical work (or you could use electrical trade). It is a noun phrase as the adjective electrical modifies the noun work. There isn't a single word noun for the trade of an electrician. Electricians were originally scientists concerned with electricity but this sense is very rare now.

Here is a usage from Wikipedia's "Electrician" article:

Many jurisdictions have regulatory restrictions concerning electrical work for safety reasons due to the many hazards of working with electricity.

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    Yes, there is no term like "carpentry" that refers to the electrician's trade.
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 12:36
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    I've heard "electrics" being used as well. "He works in electrics" or "He came to work on my electrics". Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 14:07
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    @An_Elephant Not sure what you meant.
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 14:09
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    +1 As a former member of the IBEW, 'electrical work' is appropriate and widely used. Electrical work would be in distinction to electrical engineering, which is more technical and academic. IBEW literally represents 'electrical workers' which includes both high and low-voltage electricians. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… -> "The union also represents some workers in the computer, telecommunications, and broadcasting industries, and other fields related to electrical work."
    – J D
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 14:27
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    Isn't "electrics" more or less specific to British English? I rarely hear it in American English.
    – Dave Tweed
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 23:41
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It may seem odd (or it may just be because electrician work is relatively new as a profession compared to the others), but electricians do electrical (or electrical work, which is probably more common than the standalone noun). For example, there is a "Carpentry, Electrical, Plumbing and Masonry" program at Newton College and Career Academy. This is used outside of titles, such as in the news article Surveillance cameras help capture holiday thieves:

“There’s all different types of cameras out there,” says Ken Green who works in electrical at Lowe’s in Waterford [Connecticut] where home security is DIY do it yourself.

And here's another example as a noun, referring to a project where electrical work needs to be done: When the floor/tile guy says, “he can do the electrical” this is what he might mean.

The dictionary may not explain this usage, but it is idiomatic.

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    I think colleges use "electrical" in titles as a short form of "electrical studies/classes/professions" etc. It is not meant as a noun for an electrician's trade. Electrical in "He can do the electrical" is meant for a specific electrical work involved but not the electrical trade. I don't think "He works in electrical." works. I've never heard of it and Google has a very few results for "works in electrical at". Department stores use "electrical" as a short form. Also, "works in electrical at < somewhere >" appears to have a different isolated sense than working in electrical trade.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 15:54
  • OED lists a noun sense of "electrical" (plural, chiefly British) as "Electrical appliances or circuitry.".
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 15:57
  • I've also found a few usages from users in Reddit, LinkedIn etc. as "worked in electrical for < x number of years >". Is it idiomatic in some regions perhaps? Or some electricians adopted "electrical" as a short form to define their work or "electrical field"?
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 16:26
  • @ermanen All of the examples I found seem to be from the US, so it's possible (or just a coincidence).
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 16:29
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    As in the standaloning of 'nuclear' in 'we need a mix of coal, gas, electric and nuclear'. Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 16:57
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The word you're looking for is "electrics".

However, it's not often used in this context. Most people would say "electrical work".

It's also worth noting that if you modify the type of work to be on electrical devices (say phones, computers, etc.), rather than power delivery, you'd typically refer to that as "electronics".

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    "Electrics" is reasonably common in Britain but so is "Electrical work". Source: Anecdata.
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 19:10
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There does not seem to be a single word derived from the word electricity, no doubt because electricity appeared late in the history of trades. The first electrical device seems to have been the telegraph by Francis Ronalds in 1816, not much more than a hundred years ago. Those were the times when engineering came to the for in all sorts of ways, and the profession of engineers.

Those who go into peoples homes to sort out or install electrical devices are generally called electricians. They can also be referred to a electrical engineers. The trade itself can be called electrical engineering. It is, alas, two words, but surely two words are better than none?

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    That's two hundred years ago!
    – Dave Tweed
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 23:39
  • Today, the field of electrical engineering largely deals with things that have to do with electronics, which varies from semiconductors, lasers, cameras, radios, to mathematics like video compression and robot walking. If you want somebody to deal with electrical power, you'd generally specify it as a power engineer, who specializes in power engineering. If you asked an EE about home wiring or power lines, they'd wouldn't know much, because the detailed study of power systems for a degree hasn't been required for maybe 50+ years.
    – user71659
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 8:18
-1

One word which might fit is

Wiring

Of course there are features of electrical installation which are not purely related to fitting wires, but fitting wires certainly does take a significant fraction of the job. More to the point though, anyone else you're talking to will understand.

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  • Wiring is not a trade.
    – user207421
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 1:12

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