Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Curious terminology

  1. Dec 4, 2011 #1
    Does anyone know why 19th Century scientists used

    the word "tension", meaning - etymologically- stretched,

    for the partial pressure of a gas?

    Likewise, the use of "tension" for potential [there is that root again] difference in

    electrical circuits?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    A lot of scientific terms have latin roots.
    When a gas expands it is "stretching" its volume, so that kinda makes a bit of sense.

    As for electricity, potential comes from the latin root,
    from Late Latin potentilis, powerful, from Latin potentia, power,

    Why tension - maybe , as the voltage increases the spark gap can increase also, and the one can see the spark stretching across the two terminals, or so they observed way back then.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook