2. Electric Current: Simple Definition (Simplest, Most Basic Meaning & Explanation of Electric Currents)

What Is an Electric Current in Simple Words?


Before you can understand what an electric current is, please make sure you read my very short, easy-to-read article: What Is an Electric Circuit?

Then, come back to EASILY understand the bare bone basics of what an electric current is.

Now that you understand what an electrical circuit is, here’s the simplest definition of an electric current:

Electric current is the flow of electricity. It is what powers our appliances and lights. For example, when you flip a switch, an electric current flows through the wires and turns on the light.

More specifically, when we talk about electric current in wires, we are talking about the movement of electrons*. Electrons are very small particles that flow through metal wires.

* For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick to electrons when talking about electric charge carriers.

Electric charge carriers are tiny particles that move electricity. They are kind of like people walking in a crowd, except instead of people, they are tiny particles that carry electricity.

Electric charge carriers can also be things like ions and holes. But, in wires, the electric charge carriers are electrons.

An electric current is measured in amps (A), which is short for amperes.

amps = amperes = A

More specifically, amp is a unit of measurement for the amount of electricity passing through a conductor, like a wire. A conductor is a material that easily allows electricity to flow through it. Metals are good conductors, while rubber and plastic are not.

To measure the amount of electricity in a circuit, you use something called an amp meter (Amazon). This device measures the number of electrons flowing through a wire at a specific point, per second. The more electrons that flow, the higher the current and the higher the reading on the amp meter.

Amps are the unit of how many charged particles (in this case, electrons) move past a given point per second through a conductor.
Flow of Electric Charge (Easy Explanation)

Let’s recap for a second…

Electricity is a form of energy that is generated by the flow of electrons* through a conductor, like a metal wire. The movement of these electrons is what creates an electric current.

However, here’s another way of thinking of an electric current

Electricity is a flow of electrons through a conductor, such as metal. When you blow into a drinking straw, you create a flow of air. The flow of air is similar to the flow of electrons because both create a movement of something from one place to another.

There are many examples of electric current in our everyday lives.

When you turn on a light switch, electricity flows through the light bulb filament, causing it to heat up and produce light. When you start your car engine, electricity flows through the spark plugs to ignite the fuel mixture. And when you watch TV, electricity flows through the wires in the back of the set to create the images on the screen.

Ampere vs Ampere Rating (Simplified)

As mentioned above, an amp or ampere is a unit of measurement for the amount of electricity passing through a conductor. But you might also come across the term amp rating or ampere rating.

The amp rating will determine how big the wire needs to be when attaching electrical parts to each other.

If we look at the drinking straw analogy, the bigger the straw, the more air can easily pass through it at once. The same goes for an electric current. The bigger the wire, the more electricity can easily flow through it.

So, if you have a large, energy-guzzling appliance like a washing machine, you’ll need a lot of electricity to go through a wire at once. That means you need a thicker wire to transmit electricity to a washer than you would if you were transmitting electricity to a light bulb.

When looking to purchase wires for a project, one of the most important specifications to consider is the wire’s amp rating. This number tells you how much current the wire can safely carry. If you choose a wire that has an amp rating lower than what your project requires, the wire could overheat and potentially cause a fire.

It’s important to select a wire that has an amp rating that is higher than the maximum current draw of your project.

Overview: Electric Current (Basic Definition)

Electricity is a basic necessity in the modern world. It powers our homes, businesses, and industries.

But what is electric current?

Simply put, electric current is the flow of electricity. It can be generated by a number of sources, including batteries, power plants, and solar panels.

An electric current can be thought of as a river of electrons flowing through a wire.

This flow can be measured in amperes (or amps for short). A typical LED light bulb uses about 0.3 amp of current while a washing machine uses about 10 amps.

It’s important to understand electric current because it drives so many aspects of our lives.

For example, if you’re installing a new electrical appliance, you need to know how many amps it requires in order to ensure that your circuit can handle the load.

And if you’re trying to save energy, knowing about amps can help you make informed decisions about which appliances to unplug when you’re not using them.

Next Up…

  1. What Is an Electric Circuit?
  2. What Is an Electric Current (Amps)?
  3. What Is Voltage (Volts)?
  4. What Is Electrical Resistance?
  5. What’s the Difference Between AC and DC?
  6. What Are Watts?
  7. What Is Watt-Hour & Amp-Hour?