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Voltage is defined as the electrical potential between two points, that is, the potential energy difference between two points due to electrical charge[1] Its unit is the volt (V). 1 V = 1 W/A[2].

An important point to note is that only the difference in potential has any practical meaning, not the absolute value. Therefore, physicists often speak of ΔVAB, or the difference in voltage between point A and point B. This voltage can be measured in either direction:

ΔVAB = VA - VB = -(VB - VA) = -VBA

For practical purposes, people often choose an arbitrary ground in a circuit and define Vground as 0. This allows them to give every point on the circuit a single voltage, since they are actually talking about the difference in voltage between that point and the ground. For example, in a circuit with a ground:

ΔVC,ground = VC - Vground = VC - 0 = VC

See Also


  1. Schwarz, Stephen E. and William G. Oldham. Electrical Engineering: An Introduction, 2e. Oxford University Press: 1993.
  2. The International System of Units, 8th edition. Organisation Intergouvernementale de la Convention du Mètre, 2006.
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