What is the difference between wires and cables?

When I go to the electrical market, how do I know if I have wire or cable?
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Richard Zi is the General Manager of ZW Cable and expert in cable industry for over 15 years. I would like to share my experience in cable field. ZW Cable is leading Chinese cable manufacturer. We can choose right size cable and solve all your cable problem. If you have any question, please feel free to contact me. I will try my best to give your cable solutions.

The terms “wire” and “cable” are often used interchangeably in everyday language; strictly speaking; however, they are not the same thing. The main difference between wires and cables lies in construction and application:


  • Electrical wire: Refers to a single conductor made of copper or aluminum without insulation (or may have a  thin layer of insulation for basic protection). Wire has a simpler structure and smaller size than cable; therefore, it is rated at a lower voltage but more flexible than cable.
  • Electrical cable: has multiple conductors, each individually insulated and wrapped within a protective outer sheath.


  • Wire: Commonly used for straightforward electrical connections, such as connecting components on a circuit board, making point-to-point connections, or wiring within a single device. Based on specific applications, common types of wire are house wire, speaker wire, hook-up wire, and THHN wire.
  • Cable: The multi-configuration allows it to be used for more complex electrical applications, such as transmitting electrical power, data, or signals over longer distances while protecting against various environmental factors and interference.  Common cable types can be divided into HV cable, MV cable, and LV cable according to the voltage rating. Armored cables are also available for enhanced protection.

More: Exploring 6 Electrical Wire Types For Your Electrical Wiring


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