International Electrotechnical Vocabulary

The International Electrotechnical Vocabulary (IEV) serves to promote the global unification of terminology in the field of electrotechnology, electronics and telecommunications. It is developed by IEC Technical Committee 1 (Terminology), and published as both the IEC 60050 series of standards and online as the Electropedia. The Electropedia database contains English and French definitions for more than 20 000 concepts, and provides terms in up to 16 other languages.

International Electrotechnical Vocabulary
Legal statusactive
Official languages
English, French
Parent organization
International Electrotechnical Commission

International Electrotechnical Vocabulary – IEV – Electropedia

History of the IEV

At the first meeting of the Council of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in October 1908, Mr. A. J. Balfour (later Lord Balfour) referred to the great value of the work the IEC was going to undertake on the unification of electrotechnical terminology. By 1914, the IEC had issued a first list of terms and definitions covering electrical machinery and apparatus, a list of international letter symbols for quantities and signs for names of units, a list of definitions in connection with hydraulic turbines, and a number of definitions and recommendations relating to rotating machines and transformers. Four technical committees had been formed to deal with Nomenclature, Symbols, Rating of Electrical Machinery, and Prime Movers.[1]

First edition of the IEV

In 1927 agreement was reached on the system of classification into groups and sections, the system of numbering the terms and definitions, the approximate extent of the IEV and other important items. The first edition of the IEV was published in 1938 with 2000 terms and definitions in English and French, and terms in German, Italian, Spanish and Esperanto.[2] It was the outcome of patient work over 28 years.[1]

The IEV grows and goes online: Electropedia

Since 1938, although the aim of the IEV remains unchanged – to provide precise, brief and correct definitions of internationally accepted concepts in the field of electrotechnology, electronics and telecommunications – the scope of the IEV has expanded in line with the expansion of the electrotechnical industry.

The number of IEC technical committees is now more than 90, with almost as many subcommittees,[3] and there are more than 20000 entries in the IEV, covering more than 80 subject areas.[4] The terms and definitions are provided in English and French, and equivalent terms[5] are provided in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish (coverage varies by subject area). Traditionally the IEV was developed and published as a series of International Standards, initially under the reference number IEC 50 and later renumbered as IEC 60050, with each part of the standard covering a given subject, such as circuit theory, live working and electrobiology. The online version of the IEV, known as Electropedia,[6] was launched on 2 April 2007.

Electropedia becomes a database standard

As a collection of items managed in a database, the IEV is an ideal international standard to be managed under IEC’s database procedure.[7] Through the use of a web-accessible database and electronic communication a validation team comprising experts appointed by and acting as delegates on behalf of their National Committees evaluate and validate requests to change the database. The change can comprise an addition or deletion, a revision (editorial or technical revision) or a simple correction, and can apply to one or many items in the database. The database procedure encompasses the comment gathering and validation stages of the traditional standards development process and allows for both a rapid procedure as well as the traditional procedure.

Future evolution

The IEC Technical Committee 1, Terminology,[8] is currently considering whether there is interest in the IEC community to evolve the vocabulary towards an electrotechnology ontology covering electrical, electronic and related technologies.


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