When Did Receptacles Become Outlets?

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Senior Member
Cleveland, Ohio
I guess that I haven't been paying attention! Because I just checked some old dual receptacle packages. The word "receptacle" was not to be found, the package was labeled "outlet". So how and why did this happen?

charlie b

Staff member
Seattle, WA
Electrical Engineer
This is a good example of the difference between the language of our profession, as used in the NEC, and what I like to call, "conversational English." In the first language, the terms "receptacle" and "outlet" are clearly defined, the one being a physical device and the other being essentially the location at which the first is installed. In the second language, the two terms are interchangeable, at least in the minds of your common citizen. If you try to explain to a homeowner that the box to which a ceiling light fixture or a smoke alarm is technically an "outlet," you may well get a blank stare.


Senior Member
..and this forum is 'an' outlet for our frustration with the NEC.:lol:

So, should we consider service entrance an inlet?
Nope, inlet receptacle requirements are defined in the NEC.

406.7 Attachment Plugs, Cord Connectors, and Flanged
Surface Devices. All attachment plugs, cord connectors, and
flanged surface devices (inlets and outlets) shall be listed and
marked with the manufacturer?s name or identification and
voltage and ampere ratings.

D) Flanged Surface Inlet. A flanged surface inlet shall be
installed such that the prongs, blades, or pins are not energized
unless an energized cord connector is inserted into it.
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