A typical single-turn potentiometer
Electronic symbol
Potentiometer symbol Europe.svg (IEC Standard)
Potentiometer symbol.svg (ANSI Standard)

A potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider.[1] If only two terminals are used, one end and the wiper, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat.

The measuring instrument called a potentiometer is essentially a voltage divider used for measuring electric potential (voltage); the component is an implementation of the same principle, hence its name.

Potentiometers are commonly used to control electrical devices such as volume controls on audio equipment. Potentiometers operated by a mechanism can be used as position transducers, for example, in a joystick. Potentiometers are rarely used to directly control significant power (more than a watt), since the power dissipated in the potentiometer would be comparable to the power in the controlled load.

  1. ^ The Authoritative Dictionary of IEEE Standards Terms (IEEE 100) (seventh ed.). Piscataway, New Jersey: IEEE Press. 2000. ISBN 0-7381-2601-2.