Plumbing Dictionary | Common Plumbing Terms | A-L

Common plumbing terms

It is always helpful to know what your plumber is talking about. Plumbing terminology can seem strange at first, here is a short dictionary of common plumbing terms and what they mean. Knowing these can also be very helpful to your plumber when you are describing the plumbing problem you are having.

Plumbing Dictionary A-J

Plumbing access panel

Plumbing access panel

Access Panel – usually covered with a door of some sort, this is the access point for anyone wishing to inspect a plumbing or electrical system in your home

Back flow – means that water that is supposed to go into one system, backs into a part of the main distribution system

Backup – due to a drainage problem, water cannot flow out properly from a fixture, creating an overflow

Diagram of a toilet tank including ballcock and float ball

Toilet tank diagram

Ballcock – refers to the valve in a gravity-operated toilet tank that controls the inflow of water. The ballcock is connected to a floating ball via a metal arm, once the toilet refills that float rises high enough to shut off the valve

Ball joint – found at the base of a shower head. Allows it to pivot and rotate



Bidet – usually found close to the toilet, and used for personal hygiene. Consists of a floor mounted wash basin, faucet and a sprayer

Blackwater – waste water from the toilet, very hazardous material. If this is backing up, call a plumber immediately!

Bleed – draining a pipe of excess air by opening a valve at the end

Brackish water – classification of water. It means the water contains bacteria between 1000 and 15000 ppm of dissolved liquids

Clog – any debris blocking the flow of water in a pipe

Compression Fitting | Plumbing dictionary of terms

Compression Fitting

Compression fitting – an alternative to soldering, this technique involves placing a nut and a sleeve over a tube and compressing it tightly around the tube

Coupling –  short fitting used to join two pipes together

Dam – a barrier in the trap-way of the toilet that control the water level

Example of a diverter


Diverter – faucet valve that diverts water from the tub faucet to the shower head

Effluent – liquid waste of the septic system

Elbow – usually a fitting curved at 90 or 45 degrees to change the direction of a pipe run

Various plumbing fittings

Various brass and copper fittings

Fitting – come in many shapes, sizes, and styles, this basically refers to any part that joints two sections of pipes together



Plumbing fixture example

Plumbing fixture

Fixture – general term for anything that supplies or disposes of water or waste-water, including faucets, tubs, toilets, etc.

Flange – the edge of a pipe that aids in connecting it to another pipe or anchoring the pipe to a surface

Flow rate – the measurement of water flow through a plumbing system

Float ball – connected to the ballcock in the toilet, helps activate and shut off the flow of water to the toilet tank

Gray water – waster water from fixtures other than the toilet, such as sinks, showers and bathtubs


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