Difference between Cable and Wire

Although often confused to be two terms for the same thing, cable and wire are two different animals. They are both used in communication and electrical fields, and with a jacket on the confusion is understandable. But that’s about where their similarities end. So what is the difference between cable and wire, you ask?

The Difference between Cable and Wire

A wire is a signal conductor most commonly made of copper or aluminum. A cable, on the other hand, is made of two or more insulated wires all wrapped in one jacket. Multiple un-insulated conductors fall under signal conductor classification and are therefore considered to be a wire.

About Wires

Difference between Cable and WireA wire is the conductor that (along with other wires) makes up a cable. It is usually made of copper or aluminum to assure low resistance and cost. A wire is measured by diameter. According to the diameter, the wire will be group by a gauge number. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire. Typical gauges used in residential applications are 10 and 20. Keep in mind that larger wires curry more current and may damage household appliances by burning their fuses.
Other than material and diameter/gauge, wires also vary in their electrical capacity and insulation type.
Grounding wires (yellow coated) protect users by providing a low resistance path from the appliance to the ground/soil.

About Cables

Difference between Cable and Wire

A cable is made of two or more insulated wires wrapped in a jacket. A cable had a hot/positive wire carrying the current, a neutral wire to complete the loop and often also a grounding wire. A cable is classified by the number of wires it is made of and their gauge.
Cables are marked with letters and numbers indicating the cable’s wires and insulation type. Other information indicated on the jacket includes the wires’ resistance and number of conductors.
Wire and Cable Safety Rules
While there is a difference between cable and wire, here are some safety

Rules that apply to both:

1. Always refer to manufacturer’s instructions for use and application.
2. Damaged or torn cables or wires much be replaced.
3. Assure all your wires and cables are polarized and have safety closures.
4. Keep cables and wires out of reach of children.
5. Avoid placing cables and wires where they can be trip hazard.


Next time you refer to wires or cables, you’ll know the difference!