# VOCAB - updated to 02/21 - Woodland Hills School District ```Page |1
PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS
STANDARD
Definition:
An object or prescription to which all others
are compared.
In context sentence:
Measurements must be carefully compared to
standards, or else they don’t make sense.
Examples:
The standard for mass is a block of metal,
whereas the time standard is the atomic clock.
Out-of-context sentence:
Luxury hotels keep raising the standard.
UNIT
Definition:
A label given to a standard.
In context sentence:
The student correctly placed units next to all
his measured quantities.
Examples:
Mph, Newtons, Joules, cm/s, inches, feet, yard,
meters.
Out-of-context sentence:
There were several units of each type.
DIMENSION
Definition:
What a standard measures.
In context sentence:
Speed and velocity both have dimensions of
length divided by time.
Examples:
Speed, volume, mass, temperature, time,
energy, and density.
Out-of-context sentence:
Three examples of dimensions are length,
height and width.
ERROR
Definition:
Imprecision in a scientific measurement, not
due to carelessness.
In context sentence:
An example of an error is recording
measurements with incorrect units.
Examples:
Zero offsets, parallax, switching digits, and
Out-of-context sentence:
An example of an error is plugging the wrong
numbers in the calculator.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
RATIO
Definition:
A ratio compares the magnitude (size) of two
quantities.
In context sentence:
The ratio of students to teachers at the school
is 28:1.
Examples:
The number of oranges to fruits in a basket,
and the number of daisies to roses in a vase.
Out-of-context sentence:
The volume of gasoline consumed per year is a
ratio.
RATE
Definition:
Ratios that compare different dimensions are
called rates.
Examples:
Density, field, velocity, speed, acceleration and
pressure.
In context sentence:
The volume of gasoline consumed per year is a
rate.
Out-of-context sentence:
How fast time passes by is a rate.
PROPORTION
Definition:
Equality between two ratios or rates.
In context sentence:
The proportion of weight of an object to its
mass is always equal to the gravitational field.
Examples:
Weight is to gravitational field, what force is
to acceleration
Out-of-context sentence:
He argued disproportionally to the gravity of
the situation.
Definition:
Physics ratios.
In context sentence:
Examples:
Mach numbers, magnification, trigonometric
functions and friction coefficients.
Out-of-context* sentence:
*wrong use.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
ACCURACY
Definition:
1) (Set of data) how close data points are to
the target.
2) (Instrument) how much the interval in the
instrument is worth.
Examples:
(N/A)
In context sentence:
1) To shoot with accuracy, all arrows must be
around “bull’s eye” on a target.
2) The accuracy of an instrument is
independent of which “gap” is evaluated.
Out-of-context* sentence:
The accuracy is the lowest reading in a
measuring instrument.
*wrong use
PRECISION
Definition:
(Set of data) how spread the data points are.
(Instrument) half of the accuracy.
In context sentence:
The precision in a set of data can be
represented by the spread in it.
The precision of a measuring instrument is half
of the accuracy.
Examples:
(N/A)
Out-of-context sentence:
I can pinpoint the location with precision.
MEASUREMENT
Definition:
A number reported with proper units.
In context sentence:
My measurements were all around 1.00 m.
Examples:
25 mph, 3.4 cm and 8.5 Joules.
Out-of-context* sentence:
My measurements were 3, 4 and 5.
*wrong use
RANDOM
Definition:
(errors) Without any pattern; affects data for
more and for less evenly.
In context sentence:
Fluctuations in room temperature are random.
Examples:
Small variations in temperature and humidity
Out-of-context* sentence:
I randomly selected all tall students.
*wrong use
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
GROSS
Definition:
(Errors) An error so big that it stands out.
In context sentence:
Writing “yards” when it was supposed to be
“inches” is a gross error.
Examples:
forgetting units; switching units
Out-of-context sentence:
The situation was so gross, I twisted my nose
in disgust.
SYSTEMATIC
Definition:
(Error) It has a pattern, affecting data either
for more or for less (always).
In context sentence:
The person forgot to take off the zero offset,
causing a systematic error.
Examples:
Zero offsets, parallax
Out-of-context sentence:
Accountants carry out their functions
systematically.
VECTOR
Definition:
Physics quantity requiring a direction.
In context sentence:
Vectors are represented by arrows.
Examples:
Force, impulse and momentum.
Out-of-context sentence:
Vectors can be drawn in any direction.
SCALAR
Definition:
Physics quantity independent of direction.
In context sentence:
Scalars have magnitude.
Examples:
Mass, density, volume and time.
Out-of-context sentence:
Scalars are beautiful in an aquarium! (fish)
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
MAGNITUDE
Definition:
1) How much something is;
2) The numerical value of a Physics
quantity.
Examples:
20, 300 or 4; any number without the units.
In context sentence:
The magnitude of a 20 N force is 20.
Out-of-context sentence:
Royalty are people of such magnitude!
EQUILIBRIUM
Definition:
Self-sustaining state of permanent and
undisturbed balance.
In context sentence:
Bodies in equilibrium either move in uniform
motion or are at rest.
Examples:
Any object at rest; objects moving at constant
velocity.
Out-of-context sentence:
Our government is most effective when its
three branches are all working in equilibrium.
MASS
Definition:
1) Amount of inertia;
2) Amount of substance in an object.
In context sentence:
1) The mass of the book is 1 kg.
2) My mass is 120 lb.
Examples:
Kg, pounds (lb), ounces (oz), grams (g)
Out-of-context sentence:
I attended Mass today.
CENTER OF MASS
Definition:
Point at which all the mass of an object can be
assumed to be concentrated at.
In context sentence:
The average human’s center-of-mass is around
the belly button.
Examples:
For uniform spheres, shells and rings, the
C.O.M. is at their very centers.
Out-of-context sentence*:
The center-of-mass and center-of-gravity are
one and the same.*wrong usage.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
STATIC
Definition:
1) Category of equilibrium where the
object is at rest;
2) Physics Branch studying objects @ rest.
Examples:
Any stationary object, such as a cone on its tip,
base or side.
In context sentence:
Any object at rest is in static equilibrium.
Out-of-context sentence:
Molly was such a static character in the play!
STABLE/UNSTABLE
Definition:
Type of static equilibrium where the object’s
center of mass is lowest/highest.
In context sentence:
Objects in stable equilibrium tend to come
back to their position when disturbed.
Examples:
A cone on its tip (unstable) or base (stable).
Out-of-context sentence:
Molly went to see the horses at the stable.
NEUTRAL or INDIFFERENT
Definition:
Type of static equilibrium where the center of
mass’ height is unaffected by disturbances.
In context sentence:
Bodies in neutral (indifferent) equilibrium
don’t change even when disturbed.
Examples:
A sphere in any position or a cone on its side.
Out-of-context sentence:
Molly was completely neutral (indifferent)
DYNAMIC(S)
Definition:
1) Category of equilibrium when the object is
moving;
2) Part of Physics concerning with motion and
its causes.
Examples:
A bowling ball rolling on an even surface.
In context sentence:
Objects in dynamic equilibrium move in
uniform motion.
Out-of-context sentence:
There was such a dynamic in the group, it was
hard to resist.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
ROTATION(AL)
Definition:
1) Motion about an axis passing through
the object;
2) Primarily spinning.
Examples:
an axis passing through the N and S poles.
In context sentence:
The Earth completes one full rotation every 24
hours.
Out-of-context sentence:
We will complete our shift’s rotation
tomorrow morning.
TRANSLATION(AL)
Definition:
Motion on a line.
In context sentence:
Being in translational motion means moving
forward or backwards.
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
Rockets going into space, and cars speeding up The translation of “Gesundheit” to English is
or down.
“God bless you!”
INERTIA
Definition:
Ability to keep an object’s state of equilibrium
indefinitely.
In context sentence:
Inertia is responsible for the motion of
balanced objects.
Examples:
Mass, moment of inertia, and momentum
Out-of-context sentence:
He showed a lot of inertia in getting started.
AGENT (in Physics)
Definition:
Quantities in Physics that cause objects (or
systems) to transition between states of
equilibrium.
In context sentence:
Agents impart changes in momentum to
objects.
Examples:
Impulse, forces and torques.
Out-of-context sentence:
The FBI agent didn’t believe the story.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
IMPULSE
Definition:
1) Change in momentum;
2) Physics agent responsible for changes
in equilibrium states.
Examples:
N/A
In context sentence:
To change between static and dynamic
equilibrium, impulse must be applied to the
object.
Out-of-context sentence:
My first impulse was to give him everything.
MOMENTUM
Definition:
Moving inertia.
In context sentence:
An object’s resistance to stop is proportional to
its momentum.
Examples:
Linear momentum and angular momentum
Out-of-context sentence:
He had so much momentum, he refused to
stop studying.
FORCE
Definition:
Push or pull in a direction.
In context sentence:
A force applied to the sled was enough to get
it unstuck.
Examples:
Push, pull.
Out-of-context sentence:
I’ll force my opinion on the committee.
TORQUE
Definition:
Force applied with leverage.
In context sentence:
The torque produced by the engine was so
powerful, the motorcycle jumped forward.
Examples:
N/A
Out-of-context sentence:
Torque is also a metal collar or neck chain
worn by the ancient Gauls, Germans, and
Britons.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
MOMENT OF INERTIA
Definition:
Object’s measure of rotational inertia.
Examples:
N/A
In context sentence:
A spherical shell has a higher moment of
inertia than a solid sphere of the same
diameter and mass.
Out-of-context sentence:
N/A
POSITION
Definition:
Location of something relative to a reference
point.
In context sentence:
Our position is 40&deg; 26' 26&quot; N / 79&deg; 59' 46&quot; W
Examples:
Latitudes, longitudes, cardinal points, names
of cities, etc.
Out-of-context sentence:
I couldn’t explain my position to the judge.
VELOCITY
Definition:
1) Rate of change of displacement.
2) Speed with a direction.
In context sentence:
Our velocity is 55 mph [N].
Examples:
35 mph [N], 70 km/h [W], + 3.5 m/s, - 8.0cm/s.
Out-of-context* sentence:
Our velocity is 55 mph.
* Wrong
use (missing direction)
SPEED
Definition:
1) Rate of change of distance;
2) Velocity, without direction.
In context sentence:
Our speed is 55 mph.
Examples:
35 mph, 70 km/h, 3.5 m/s, 8.0cm/s.
Out-of-context sentence:
He is just my speed!*
* someone
taste
or something that appeals to one's
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
LEVERAGE
Definition:
Applying a force away from a support point.
In context sentence:
Torque is force applied with leverage.
Examples:
Handles, crowbars, and bottle openers.
Out-of-context sentence:
He had absolutely no leverage in the
negotiation.
DISPLACEMENT
Definition:
1) (kinematics) Change in position.
2) (measurement) Increase in volume
due to the addition of a solid object.
Examples:
1) 20 m left; 30 cm up; and
2) 23 cm3.
In context sentence:
1) Sometimes, the displacement coincides
with the distance travelled.
2) He used volume displacement in lab.
Out-of-context sentence:
Her habit of resorting to a displacement of
feelings concerned the counselor.
DISTANCE
Definition:
Length travelled on a path between two
locations.
In context sentence:
The distance for the path I walked is 3 miles.
Examples:
Walking on a trail, 3 mi.
Out-of-context sentence:
There was such a (emotional) distance
between them.
ACCELERATION
Definition:
Rate of change of velocity
In context sentence:
A car accelerated through the tunnel.
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
Anything with units of length over units of time Many students take accelerated classes.
squared: m/s2; mi/h2
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
PRESSURE
Definition:
Force per unit of area.
In context sentence:
Pressure is not a force, even though it uses
force in the definition.
Examples:
Units: Pascal, barr, mmHg.
Out-of-context sentence:
Working under pressure is awful for some
people.
WORD: __RELATIVE_____________
Definition:
Dependent on point-of-view or reference.
In context sentence:
Contrary to common belief, time is relative.
Examples:
Velocity, distance and time are all relative.
Ships and planes rely on knowledge of relative
velocities to fly or navigate.
Out-of-context sentence:
1) My relatives live in California.
2) How well can he do? Well, it’s relative.
WORD: ___GRAVITY__________________
Definition:
Force experienced between pairs of masses.
In context sentence:
The force of gravity is the weakest of all forces.
Examples:
Objects falling, being tossed up or dropped all
feel the effects of gravity.
Out-of-context sentence:
Don’t let the gravity of the situation
discourage you.
WORD: __AVERAGE_______________
Definition:
1) Being intermediate between extremes;
2) Arithmetic mean: sum of all values,
divided by the number of them.
Examples:
In context sentence:
1) The average force applied is usually the
net force.
2) The average of several measurements
is better than each individual one.
Out-of-context sentence:
The average US family in the 70’s consisted of
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
WORD: __MEAN__________________
Definition:
Measure of central tendency corresponding to
the average of a set of numbers.
In context sentence:
The mean was very close to the expected
value.
Examples:
The average of 2, 3, 5 and 6 is 4.
Out-of-context sentence:
That child is mean to adults and children alike.
WORD: __NET___________________
Definition:
Effective.
Examples:
Unbalanced, “extra” and resultant; sum of all
forces acting on a system.
In context sentence:
1) The net force between + 15 N and – 6 N is +
11 N. 2) Although Joe walked 2.5 mi yesterday,
his net displacement was still zero.
Out-of-context sentence:
He has a knack for putting the ball on the net.
WORD: __VOLUME________________
Definition:
Space contained within the boundaries of an
open or closed surface.
In context sentence:
The volume of geometric figures is always
given in cubic units.
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
Holding capacity of a cone (ice cream), bowl
1) This book comes in two volumes.
3
3
(punch or soup), or cylinder (silo). Units: m ; in 2) The volume of mail in response to the ad
and ft3 (cubic feet).
was overwhelming.
WORD: __AREA_________________
Definition:
Planar coverage within a boundary
(perimeter).
In context sentence:
Areas in Physics can be negative.
Examples:
Rectangle: base x height; triangle: one-half
base x height.
Out-of-context sentence:
What area of science is your degree in?
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
FIELD
Definition:
Force densities, i. e., force per unit of (property
of) matter.
In context sentence:
Field forces produce force fields.
Examples:
Gravitational field is weight divided by mass;
electric (magnetic) field is electric (magnetic)
force divided by electric (magnetic) charge.
Out-of-context sentence:
The movie “Field of Dreams” is about baseball.
UNIFORM
Definition:
1) Evenly distributed; 2) Constant.
Examples:
uniform motion (motion at constant velocity),
uniform acceleration (constant acceleration).
In context sentence:
In Physics, uniform motion refers to motion at
constant velocity.
Out-of-context sentence:
Students at Woodland Hills don’t have to wear
uniforms to school.
NORMAL
Definition:
1) Math word meaning “perpendicular”;
2) Force in Physics representing the push up
onto objects by surfaces.
Examples:
Objects on a table, or people sitting on chairs,
can do so due to the normal force on them.
In context sentence:
1) These two surfaces are normal to each
other.
2) Normal forces always prevent objects from
“sinking” through or merging onto each
other.
Out-of-context sentence:
His behavior is definitely not normal for that
age.
TENSION
Definition:
Pulling force exerted by a string, cable, chain,
or similar solid object on another object.
In context sentence:
Usually, cables and ropes simply transmit the
tension force to the system.
Examples:
Force present in taut chains, ropes and
elevator cables.
Out-of-context sentence:
The mood was so low, you could feel tension in
the air.
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
LAW
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
MOTION
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
WEIGHT
Definition:
1) Force of gravitational attraction between an
object and a celestial body; 2) Nickname for
the gravitational force when one of the objects
is a planet or asteroid.
Examples:
Weights have units of force, whereas masses
are measured in kilograms.
In context sentence:
What people normally refer to as their
“weight” is really their mass.
Out-of-context sentence:
The plaintiff’s arguments carried very little
weight on the judge’s decision.
DENSITY
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
BALANCE
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
EQUILIBRIUM
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
SCALE
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
FRICTION
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
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PHYSICS VOCABULARY WORDS (cont’d)
PLOT
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
PERIOD
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
OSCILLATION
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
FREQUENCY
Definition:
In context sentence:
Examples:
Out-of-context sentence:
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