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A guide to Engineering terminology

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Building things is great, but constructing jargon isn’t always helpful - so we’re decoding the specialised terms in the engineering sector.

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Engineering terms explained

What is engineering?

So let’s start with the basics – ‘engineering’ is the design, production and maintenance of the fundamental processes and materials we enjoy in today’s society. It’s a scientific discipline, manipulating different forms of energy to sustain industrial and technological advancement. 

Without engineers, we wouldn’t have roads, bridges, telecoms systems, power plants, missiles, or juice cartons. Innumerable things rely on engineering teams to achieve some sort of tangible existence. Whether that’s a delicate framework of digital software, or the girders propping up an office complex, no feat of engineering is bereft of a purpose that feeds our everyday lives. All of it goes towards building a more capable world, and engineers make sure their work is informed by sums, figures, and human data that relates to this goal. 

What do engineers do?

An engineer can operate in various capacities, united by their usefulness to different sectors. Some key areas of the trade include civil defence, communications, biochemical, mechanics, and environmental sustainability, although these may overlap to a small degree. Typically, engineers work in groups to research, co-ordinate, and strategize their operational methods, working on-site to realise a project’s aims. 

It’s no surprise to learn that this abundance of professional fields results in a wide slew of industry phrases and terminology. Some are specific to one area of science, while others are incredibly general, drawing standards or methods of practice under a single definition. They are all shorthand for understanding how physical elements influence this work, or how a job can be seen through to a satisfactory conclusion.   

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Key engineering terms defined

Now that you have a handle on what an engineer is expected to accomplish, here are some important buzzwords to recognise:

Deflection: How a support structure responds to a load resting on it. Various beam designs, for example, flex and react differently to the loads they are carrying. 

Kinetic Energy: The energy of motion, separated into three categories. These are Vibrational, Rotational, and Transitional, which relate to how the movement is made. 

Scalar: A physical quantity that can be expressed as a single number e.g. 100km, or 30 ml. 

Machine Element: The components that make a machine work, such as buttons, gears, train belts, transistors, and lubricants. 

Band Width: The maximum amount of hours in any given day that any employee may work, if they so choose.

Object Code: Output from a machine’s assembler that can be converted into working machine code i.e. inherent operational capabilities.    

Amphoterism: A chemical molecule that can react equally as an acid or base compound. A lot of metals contain amphiprotic matter after they oxidise. 

Half-life: Describes the mid-point separating a known quantity to start degrading, or losing its value. Commonly used in nuclear physics to delineate radioactive decay.

Satisfaction Model: A form of decision-making that eschews the best, most rational choice for an impulsive alternative. 

Indicators: Devices that display information, like a screen, or flashing warning lights. 

Why engineering terminology is important

Essentially, it pays to be clued up on both sets of lingo before you apply for a position; it’ll make the training process easier to understand when some of these words inevitably come up. The interview stage, even, can filter great candidates from lesser ones by way of pinpointing who knows what about relevant terminology. It’s another sign that your passion has no bounds before you properly launch an engineering career.

When applying for a role, you can flag up these phrases when appropriate to strengthen your perceived knowledge of the industry. Sprinkling them throughout recollections of your own experiences, also, can add much to your suitability as a young engineer aware of codes and practises they’ve been preparing for. 

Defining lessons

By researching what specific terms proliferate your area of interest, you’ll gain a feel for the frame of conduct driving operations in that sector. Language is a tool that shouldn’t be undervalued – it symbolises our intelligence, our creativity, and our need to communicate. Engineering terminology is designed to accentuate all of these purposes, for a greater good that impacts millions of average citizens. 

Explore opportunities in the engineering sector

Since you may no longer think they’re speaking in tongues, try browsing graduate jobs in our application page for engineering jobs across the UK. Bright Network wants to get you noticed, no matter what.