Once, twice, thrice. There’s probably at least a time when you end up misusing a word. Sometimes, it’s just hard to remember things and the first thing that pops into the mind just comes out of the mouth! It’s also common for people to mislabel or associate words that are not precisely related or alike. When you go deeper into the technicalities of lighting, you’ll be surprised that the synonyms you use can have an entirely different meaning!

Light bulb, lamp, fixture, luminaries. How different are they from each other? It’s really easy to confuse one for the other because they seem identical or synonymous. Well, that’s where the problem begins. If you want to find the product you need quickly, you should familiarise yourself with the terms and their correct definition. So, to help you out, here are some words that are used in an ambiguous way.

What are the lighting terms that can confuse you?

Light bulb, lamp, light source, luminaire, light fixture, and illuminant. Simple lighting terms become more puzzling as people continue to misuse them. How are they different, and how should you be using each?

Light and Lamp

The terms light and lamp are one of the most confusing terms in the lighting dictionary. If you visit a lighting shop and request a lamp, the seller will most likely not understand what you want. It’s only possible if you combine it with other works like a desk lamp or floor lamp.

The term lamp is typically used as a synonym for various lighting terms. An LED lamp could pertain to a bulb, but it could also mean a light fixture with a bulb. It’s not always clear, so you should know the meaning of other lighting terminologies.

Light Fixture and Luminaire

Luminaire, or as many call light fixture, is the whole construction encapsulating the light source. It’s made up of different components, including a lamp holder, mounting, reflector, glass or shade cover. The real light source, the illuminant, is inside the luminaire. There are several applications of luminaires, such as wall luminaires, ceiling luminaires, etc.

kitchen and dining room with wood ceiling beams

In a normal conversation, luminaries are benched, and light fixtures are generally in play. Instead of saying floor luminaire, people say floor lamp. Light fixtures, lamps, and luminaire are mainly used as synonymous. Although, the term floor lamp is, in fact, correct. In the example above, the word lamp defines the total construction of the components.

Light sources, light bulbs, Illuminants

Before, most luminaries used incandescent lamps. However, when new light sources were discovered, the term illuminant became more recognised. Because of the new lighting innovations, the word lamp became too broad, and the term illuminant fizzed down to referring to the actual light source. Although, on the consumer side, the light bulb is used to describe the light source.

Generally, a light bulb is used in combination with lighting technology such as halogen light bulbs, fluorescent light bulbs, and LED light bulbs. If you put it together with the specific socket, you’re more likely to find the exact product that you need, like an E26 LED light bulb. Alternatively, if you just say an LED lamp, you may get an LED bulb or an LED luminaire.

Lamp vs Fixture: How are they different?

As mentioned above, a lamp is a general term that is synonymous with various lighting jargon. If you search for a lamp, the results you may get are either an illuminant or a fixture. On the other hand, a fixture is the entirety of the structure that carries the light source.

ceiling downlights with white light

If you want to ace your lighting terms, you need to use light fixture, illuminant and luminaire for the light source. Also, if you don’t want to get a headache trying to find a light fixture, type in your web browser luminaire instead of a lamp. Unless you attach something before the term, what you’ll get is unpredictable.

An LED lamp can either be a light source or a luminaire. However, if you say a desk lamp, that’s clearly a luminaire, and an E27 LED lamp is an LED light bulb with an E27 bottom. So, when you’re asking a sales clerk to help you, be specific. Knowing your lighting terminologies will help you a lot in that department!

Was learning this lighting jargon helpful, or are you more confused than ever? Maybe you’re both? Well, that’s okay! It is good to know all these since you’ll spend less time explaining, and the person assisting you will not have to keep going back and forth from the stock room.

If you have any lighting needs and don’t know a trusted supplier that can help you out, visit our website, Simple Lighting! We have a massive collection of both fixtures like downlights, pendant lights, under cabinet lights, and accessories like drivers, sensors, and controllers!


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