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Physics’ Definitions 

Term Definition / Functions / Formulae  


Scalar A physical quantity which has only magnitude or size. 
Vector  A physical quantity which has both magnitude and direction. 
Newton’s First Law of Motion Every object continues in its state of rest or uniform speed in a straight line unless  
(Law of Inertia) acted upon by an external force. 
Inertia The tendency of an object to maintain its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight 
line. 
Momentum, p The product of mass and velocity. 
Principle of Conservation of  The total momentum of a system is constant, if no external force acts on the system. 
Momentum 
Closed System Sum of external forces = 0. 
Elastic Collisions Two objects collide and move apart after a collision. Momentum, total energy and 
kinetic energy are conserved. 
m1 u1 + m2 u2 = m1 v 1 + m2 v 2  
Inelastic Collisions Two objects combine and stop or move together with a common velocity after a 
collision. Momentum and total energy are conserved. Kinetic energy is not conserved. 
m1 u1 + m2 u2 = (m1 + m2 ) v  
Force A force is a push or a pull. 
Newton’s Second Law of Motion, F The net force of an object is proportional to the rate of change of momentum.  
F = ma  
Frictional Force, F f Frictional force refers to the force generated by two surfaces in contact and slides 
against each other. 
Newton’s Third Law of Motion To every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.  
Impulse, F t Impulse is defined as the product of a force and the time interval during which the  
force acts. 
F t = mv − mu  
Impulsive Force, F I Impulsive force is defined as the rate of change of momentum during a collision or 
explosion.  
F = mv−mu
t  
Free Fall A free-falling object is an object falling under the force of gravity only. 
Weight, W The weight of an object is defined as the force of gravity which is exerted on it by  
Earth.  
W = mg  
Gravitational Field A gravitational field is the region in which an object experiences a force due to  
gravitational attraction. 
Gravitational Field Strength, g A gravitational field strength is defined as the ratio of the weight to the mass 
or weight per unit mass. 
Resultant Force The resultant force is defined as a single force that will produce the same effect 
as the two or more combined forces that it replaces. 
Work Done, W Defined as the product of force and the displacement in the direction of force. 
W = Fs  
Energy Capacity to do work. 
Potential Energy, E p Potential energy of an object is defined as the energy stored in the object because 
Of its position or its state. 
E p = mgh  
 
Kinetic Energy, E k Kinetic energy is the energy possessed by an object due to its motion.  
E k = 21 mv 2  
 

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Physics’ Definitions 

Principle of Conservation of Energy Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can be transformed from one form to  
another, but the total energy in a system is constant. 
Power, P Power is the rate at which work is done or the rate at which energy is transformed. 
P = Wt = Et  
Efficiency Efficiency compares the useful energy output to the energy input. 
E f f iciency = E o (usef ul output)
E (input)  
i

Elasticity The property of an object that enables it to return to its original shape and dimensions 
when an applied external force is removed is called Elasticity. 
Hooke’s Law, F s Hooke’s Law states that the extension of a spring is directly proportional to the 
stretching force acting on it, provided the elastic limit of the spring is not exceeded. 
F s = kx  
Elastic Limit Defined as the maximum stretching force which can be applied to the spring before 
It ceases to be elastic. 
Elastic Potential Energy, E p Elastic potential energy is the energy stored in a spring when it is compressed or  
Extended. 
E p = 21 kx2  
Pressure, P Defined as a perpendicular force acting on one unit area of a surface. 
P = FA  
Pressure in a Liquid, P l P L = hρg  
Pascal’s Principle Pascal’s Principle states that pressure exerted on an enclosed liquid is transmitted 
equally throughout the liquid. 
F2 A2
F1 = A1  
Archimedes’ Principle Archimedes’ Principle states that an object, when it is completely or partially 
Immersed in a fluid, it is acted on by a buoyant force, which is equal to the weight 
Of fluid displaced. 
Buoyant Force, F b Reduction in weight of object = Weight of fluid displaced 
F b = V ρg  
Bernoulli’s Principle Bernoulli’s Principle states that in a steady flow of fluid, the pressure of the fluid 
Decreases when the velocity of the fluid decreases. The converse is also true. 
Thermal Equilibrium Rate of heat transfer = 0 / Temperature of 2 objects are equal. 
Heat Capacity, C Heat energy required to increase temperature of a substance by 1 ℃  
Q = Cθ  
Specific Heat Capacity, c Heat energy required to increase the temperature of 1 kg of the substance by 1 ℃  
Q = mcθ  
Latent Heat of Fusion Defined as the heat absorbed when a solid melts at constant temperature. 
Latent Heat of Vaporization Defined as the heat absorbed when a liquid changes into vapour at constant 
temperature. 
 
Specific Latent Heat, l Amount of heat required to change the phase of 1 kg of the substance at constant 
Temperature. 
Q = ml  
Specific Latent Heat of Fusion Defined as the amount of energy required to change 1 kg of substance from solid phase 
to liquid phase without a change in temperature. 
Specific Latent Heat of Vaporization Defined as the amount of energy required to change 1 kg of substance from liquid 
phase to gaseous phase without a change in temperature at its boiling point. 
Boyle’s Law Boyle’s Law states that the pressure of a fixed mass of gas is inversely proportional 
To its volume, provided the temperature of the gas is kept constant. 
P 1V 1 = P 2V 2  
Pressure Law Pressure Law states that the pressure of a fixed mass of gas is directly proportional to 

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Physics’ Definitions 

Its ​absolute​ temperature ( in Kelvin ), provided the volume of the gas is kept c​ onstant​. 
P1 P2
T = T  
1 2

Charles’ Law Charles’ Law states that the volume of a fixed mass of gas is directly proportional to  
Its ​absolute​ temperature ( in Kelvin ), provided the pressure of the gas is kept ​constant. 
V1 V2
T = T  
1 2

Refractive Index, n Refractive Index of the medium is defined as the ratio of the speed of light in vacuum 
to the speed of light in the medium. 
n = cv (speed in vacuum)
(speed in medium)  
sin i (angle in air)
Snell’s Law sin r (angle in medium)  
 
D (Real depth)
Refractive Index, n n= d (Apparent depth)  
Dispersion Dispersion is the separation of white light into its component colours by a prism. 
Total Internal Reflection Total Internal Reflection is the total reflection of a beam of light at the boundary of 2 
Mediums when the angle of incidence in the optically-denser medium exceeds a 
Critical angle, c . 
Power of a lens, P Defined as the reciprocal of the focal length, in meters.  
P = f (in1 m)   
Unit : Dioptres, D  
Linear Magnification, m m = uv (object
(image height / distance)
height / distance)  
1 1 1
Lens Equation u + v = f  
Transverse Wave A wave in which the vibration of particles in the medium is perpendicular to the  
Direction of the propagation of the wave. 
Longitudinal Wave A wave in which the vibration of particles in the medium is parallel to the  
Direction of the propagation of the wave. 
Wavefront A wavefront is a line or plane in which the vibrations of every point on it are in phase. 
Amplitude, A Amplitude is the maximum displacement of the height of the wave crest or the depth of 
the wave trough. 
Period, T Time taken to complete an oscillation. 
Frequency, f The number of complete oscillations made in 1 second.  
f = T1 or T = 1f  
Wavelength, λ Distance between two successive points of the same phase in a wave. 
Velocity of a wave, v v = fλ  
Damping Decrease in amplitude of an oscillating system 
External Damping Loss of energy to overcome frictional forces or air resistance. 
Internal Damping Loss of energy due to the extension and compression of the molecules in the system. 
Natural Frequency Defined as the frequency of a system which oscillates freely without external force. 
Resonance Resonance occurs when a system is made to oscillate at a frequency equivalent to its 
Natural frequency by an external force.  
A = maximum  
Reflection of Waves Occurs when the waves undergo a change in the direction of propagation. 
Refraction of Waves Occurs when the speed of a wave changes, as it moves from a medium to another. 
Diffraction of Waves Occurs when waves are spread out as they pass through an aperture / obstacle. 
Interference of Waves Superposition of 2 waves originating from 2 coherent sources. 
Principle of Superposition States that at any instant, the wave displacement of the combined motion of any  
number of interacting waves at a point is the sum of the displacements of all the 
component waves at that point. 
 
Constructive Interference Occurs when crests or troughs of both waves coincide. 

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Physics’ Definitions 

A = M aximum  
Destructive Interference Occurs when crest of one wave coincides with the trough of other wave. 
AR = 0  
Antinode Constructive Interference occurs. 
Node Destructive Interference occurs. 
Pitch The pitch of a sound is an indication of how high or low the sound is. 
Electromagnetic Waves Propagating waves in space with electric and magnetic components. 
Current, I Rate of charge flow. 
I = Qt  
Electric Field A region where a charge experiences electric force. 
Potential Difference, V Defined as work done in moving a unit charge between 2 points in an electric field. 
V =W Q  
Ohm’s Law Ohm’s Law states that the electric current flowing through a conductor is directly 
proportional to the potential difference across the conductor. 
Resistance, R The ratio of potential difference across the conductor to the current flowing through 
the conductor. 
R = VI  
Superconductors Materials that have their resistance decrease with temperature but the resistance 
suddenly becomes 0 when it is cooled below critical temperature. 
Internal Resistance, r Resistance within a cell, 
Electromotive Force, E Electromotive force is the work done by an electric source in driving 1 C of charge  
around a complete circuit. 
E = I (R + r)  
Terminal Potential Difference, V p Terminal potential difference is the work done by an electric source in driving 1 C of  
charge through external resistor. 
Magnetic Field A magnetic field is a region in which a magnetic material experiences a force. 
Maxwell’s Screw Rule / Used to determine the direction of the magnetic field. 
Right-hand Grip Rule 
Catapult Field Interaction between 2 magnetic fields produces a resultant field known as Catapult 
Field. 
Fleming’s Left-hand Rule Used to determine the direction of the force. 
(Motor Rule) 
Commutator Enables smooth change of direction of the current flow. 
Radial Field A magnetic field with the field lines pointing towards or away from the centre of a 
circle. 
Electromagnetic Induction The production of an electric current by a changing magnetic field. 
Faraday’s Law Faraday’s Law states that the magnitude of the induced electromotive force (e.m.f) 
Is directly proportional to the rate of change of magnetic flux. 
Lenz’s Law Lenz’s Law states that an induced electric current always flows in such a direction 
So as it oppose the change / motion causing it. 
Fleming’s Right-hand Rule Used to determine the direction of an induced current. 
(Dynamo Rule)  
Transformer An equipment used to raise / lower the potential difference of an a.c supply. 
Vs Ns
V p = Np  

V sI s = V pI p  
National Grid A network of electrical cables connecting electrical power stations to consumers of 
electricity. 
 
Thermionic Emission Thermionic Emission is a process involving the emission of electrons from a hot metal 

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Physics’ Definitions 

surface. 


2eV
Velocity of an Electron ve = me  
Cathode-Ray Oscilloscope (CRO) A measuring and testing instrument used in the studies of electricity and electronics. 
Doping A process of adding a small amount of impurities into the crystalline lattice of  
semiconductors to increase their conductivity. 
Rectification The process of converting a.c into d.c. 
Half-wave Rectification The process of rectification using a diode which allows current to flow in the half-cycle. 
Full-wave Rectification The process of rectification using 4 diodes which allow current to flow in a complete 
cycle and in the same direction. 
Emitter  Supplies charge carriers to Collector. 
Collector  Receives charge carriers from Emitter. 
Base Controls the flow of charge carriers from E to C or C to E. 
IB < IC < IE O ​ R​ I E = I B + I C  
Transistor Amplifies current. 
Potential Divider Divides the potential difference by using 2 resistors in series. 
R
V XY = R +XYR × V T  
XY YZ

Logic Gates Electronic switches with ≥ 1 inputs and 1 output only. 


Input The data that is fed into a processor. 
Output The result of operations by the processor. 
Truth Table Used to show the result of every possible output given every possible input. 
N = 2n  
Radioactivity Radioactivity is the spontaneous disintegration of an unstable nucleus into a more 
stable nucleus with the emission of energetic particles or photons. 
Radioactive Decay A process where an unstable nucleus becomes a more stable nucleus by emitting  
radiations. 
Activity The average number of disintegrations per unit time. 
Half Life, T 1   Time taken for the activity of atoms of a specific isotope to fall to half of its original 
2

value.  
OR 
Time taken for the number of radioactive atoms to decrease to half of its original 
numbers. 
N x = ( 21 )x N  
x = number of half lif es  
N = original number of atoms  
N x = number of atoms remaining af ter x half − lif es.  
Transmutation In radioactive decay, one element changes into another through a process called 
transmutation. 
Einstein’s Principle of Mass- E = mc2  
Energy Conservation  
Nuclear Fission A process involving the splitting of a heavy nucleus into 2 or more nuclei of roughly  
equal mass. 
Nuclear Fusion A process involving 2 or more small and light nuclei come together to form a heavier 
nucleus. 
Nuclear Reactor Produces tremendous amount of energy through nuclear fission. 
 
Spellings, Definitions and Formulae are accurately checked. Accidental errors have been minimized. 
End of Physics Definitions. 
Prepared by Trixinity, 2018. 
 

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Physics’ Definitions 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 

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