luminaire

Einstein

Senior Member
UK, English
I'm checking a translation (from Italian) about street lighting. I see the translator has used the word "luminaire" (presumably of French origin) throughout to denominate lighting devices. Here's a sentence:

These technical specifications have the aim of describing the main construction characteristics of street luminaire with LED light sources.

To tell the truth I didn't even know this term, but a Google search confirms. What I'd like to know, though, is whether it's a normal term or there's something more natural.

My thanks to anyone who can advise.
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "Luminaire" is not a common term in AE and probably would not be understood by many. "Street lamp" or "street light" are the usual terms.
     
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    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Thanks, cyber, those are the terms I'd like to use, but in a specification it may be that "luminaire" is more technical-sounding. That's what puzzles me!
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    The word "luminary" exists, though it is now more often used metaphorically to describe people of high intellect. There's also "luminaria," a Spanish word denoting small informal lights (usually a candle inside a paper bag) which will be understood by people in hispanic communities.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Hmm... OK. Thanks, I think I'll stick to street lamps/lights. I just wondered if the translator was better informed than me, but I'm going to follow my instinct on this one! Thanks again.:)
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I regret to say that I have come across "luminaire" in the context of building specifications, for example. I suspect it has a more general sense than "light", referring to any kind of installation or device that provides illumination either for function or decoration.
    So, whereas a "street light" or "street lamp" strongly suggests a light at the top of a post, luminaires may well be devices at street level or perhaps within other structures.
    Where I came across it, it was used as an anglicised term - with standard plural, luminaires.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Luminaire is a technical term for the component that provides the light. That is, the whole assembly that sits at the top of the pole which includes a casing, a light source, a reflector and a protective transparent cover. I checked in Google to make sure that my memory is still functioning correctly and, of course, found the Wikipedia article on "Light fixture" which includes
    Light fixture is US usage; in British English it is called a light fitting. However, luminaire is the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) terminology for technical use.
     

    Salvage

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I agree with cyberpendant that luminaire is not heard in spoken AE.
    It also seems that Einstein's intuition about the technical nature of the word luminaire is correct.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_fixture

    "Light fixture is US usage; in British English it is called a light fitting. However, luminaire is the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) terminology for technical use."
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Just for further clarification:

    This is a relatively recent addition, as the term luminaire was only added to the 2002 edition of NEC.
    The definition includes the lamp and all components directly associated with the distribution, positioning, and protection of the light unit, so there is no confusion as to exactly what the term covers. It does not include the support components, such as an arm, tenon, or pole; the fasteners used to secure the luminaire; control or security devices; or power supply conductors.
    So it doesn't technically match light fixture in American English, which includes any support components of a lighting unit.

    From Spec Talk, The ARCOM Blog
     

    Winstanley808

    Banned
    English - U.S.
    Does the "International Electrotechnical Commission" require everything over whch it has jurisdiction to be written in French? If so, one wonders why it's name isn't in French and its initials aren't CIE.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Does the "International Electrotechnical Commission" require everything over whch it has jurisdiction to be written in French? If so, one wonders why it's name isn't in French and its initials aren't CIE.
    CIE is already taken - it is the initialism from the French ( :eek: ) name of the Internationl Commission on llumination. (wiki) I wonder why people have trouble with using an originally French word in English - there are a few precedents:D
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    James, there's two things, English and what the IEC dictates. Oxford Dictionaries online has
    Definition of luminaire in English:
    noun
    A complete electric light unit (used especially in technical contexts):
    the wide spread of light reduces the number of luminaires required per installation
    According to the OED it was introduced into English in America in 1921 and the Times was fighting a rearguard action on behalf of BE as late as 1973
    orig. U.S.
    An electric light and its fittings; such a lighting unit.
    1921 Trans. Illuminating Engin. Soc. (U.S.) 17 249 The matter of a generic term for ‘lighting unit’ was considered by the Committee... The suggested term ‘luminaire’ was deemed to be the most acceptable... It is not a coined word but is a term already in use in the French language.
    1973 Times 1 Feb. 22/8 It is preposterous for BSI to force luminaires upon us.
    PS. Surely the pole supporting a street light in the US is not considered part of a light fixture?
     
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    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I see nothing scandalous, or preposterous, about the international use of a French word for once, seeing that so many English words are used internationally. My only doubt is whether it really is used internationally; "luminaire" doesn't seem to be used in Italian, for example. It's like the International System of units, which the English-speaking world rigorously calls by its French name, while other countries tranquilly refer to it in their own language.
     
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