Fireworks Glossary

Firework terms explained part 2: N through to Z

Jump to part 1: A through to M.

November 5th

A significant date in the UK, the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot and the traditional day in England when everyone wheels out their fireworks! You can let fireworks off until midnight on the 5th.

Operator fired display

Fancy name for a professional display, i.e. one where the fireworks, equipment, crew and firers are all provided in return for a fee.

Palm / palm tree

An aerial effect, usually in gold, that spreads out like the shape of a palm tree, often with crackles.

Pen lid cake

A term coined by firework enthusiasts to best describe the appearance of the multishot screech-pop cakes, whose projectiles resemble plastic pen lids.

Peony

Well-used term to describe an effect which is essentially an expanding sphere of stars.

PIC fuse

A waterproof and bendable fuse mostly used by professionals. Currently hard to find.

Pigeon

Firework device mounted on a horizontal rope, its motors causing it to move rapidly from end to end several times. Seemingly unavailable under the current CE regulations.

Pin wheel

A small wheel where the thrust is caused by a long tube of powder wrapped in a sprial, instead of separate drivers.

Pistil

Where an aerial effect has a different effect in the centre as it expands, it is known as the pistil.

Portfire

Single-use fireworks igniter that burns with a bright and windproof flame, essential for safe hand lighting. Read more.

Pyromesh

Metal caging and straps used to reinforce the packaging of larger cakes and rockets so they can be reclassified from the more hazardous 1.3G to the less hazardous 1.4G with subsequent implications for storage and transport. Read more.

Professional

In firework terms, a professional is someone who provides a display service to clients whereby all the fireworks, show design, firing and clearing up is catered for, usually with a crew and also using professional Category F4 fireworks. Read more.

Professional firework

A firework from the Category F4 classification that is only for use by professional firers. Read more.

Quickmatch

A type of fuse widely used by professionals to link multiple items together for simultaneous firing.

Report

The technical term in firework circles for a bang.

Reserve fuse

On larger cakes and barrages a back-up fuse is often provided in case the main one fails. This will be marked as “Reserve” or “2” on the label.

Retire immediately

A common phrase on firework warning labels meaning to get away from the firework once you have lit the fuse.

Ring effect

A two-dimensional aerial effect in the shape of an expanding ring, usually made up of multiple coloured stars.

Rocket

A popular consumer firework which takes off and explodes high in the air, usually with a bang and coloured effect. Read more.

Rocket pod / volley

A once-popular type of consumer firework comprising of multiple small rockets in a box all fused to fire together in a big salvo. Not seen so much since the transition from BS to CE standards.

Roman candle

See candle.

Rothy

Abbreviated form of “Rothenberger” used by firework enthusiasts to describe their Rothenberger blow torches, used for lighting fireworks and considered the most durable and reliable on the market. Read more.

Salute

A technical term for a very loud bang (also known as a maroon).

Salvo

A rapid sequence of fireworks or firework effects.

Screech rocket

Now banned, formerly a popular small screeching rocket, usually sold in packs. Read more.

Selection box

Popular consumer firework consisting of a box with multiple smaller fireworks inside. Size and quality varies immensely. Typical contents include fountains and small bore candles. Read more.

Set piece

A firework designed to be mounted on posts or similar, for a ground effect, often words or symbols in pyrotechnic letters (see lancework), spinning devices or other unique effects. Now very limited in consumer fireworks. Read more.

Shell

Any effect that is launched from a tube by a lifting charge where it then explodes in the air. In professional fireworks a shell is usually a single bigger firework fired from a mortar tube. Read more.

Shop good fireworks

Consumer fireworks on sale to the public were once referred to in legislation as “shop good” fireworks. We’re not sure if this is still the case.

Silent firework

A term used to describe a virtually silent firework which has no bangs, whistles, crackles or other sounds. 

Site survey

If you book a professional display the fireworks company will usually conduct a site survey to ensure the venue is suitable for fireworks and has sufficient safety distances to spectators.

Sparkler

Just about the only hand-held firework on sale in the UK and extremely popular with adults and children alike. Usually available in gold or coloured versions. Read more.

Spinner

The term usually used to describe an aerial effect that spins in the air like a catherine wheel, giving off sparks as it does so.

Star

Broad term used to describe the coloured balls ejected from many aerial firework effects when they explode.

Strobe

An effect that blinks rapidly. Can be either a ground-based unit (such as a blinker) or an aerial effect that twinkles.

Tadpole

A bright, wriggling aerial effect, usually in silver.

Tail

The rear part of a moving firework effect, often made from embers, glittering sparks or crackles (as in “comet tail”).

Talon igniter

A single-use electrical igniter designed solely for consumer fireworks which clips on to the safety fuse of the firework and ignites it with a glowing wire. Read more.

Tape match

This is a fast burning fuse made from black powder and sticky tape which is often used to link the lances on lancework and in other situations where the quick ignition of multiple items is needed.

Taper

Cheap (i.e. often given away free) joss stick type of firework lighter that glows for some time, but is not as effective at lighting as portfires or a blow torch. Read more.

Thunderflash

A pyrotechnic device that, once activated, explodes with a loud bang and a flash. Used in theatrics, combat training or battle simulations.

Titanium salute

A very loud bang (salute) with a bright flash (titanium).

Touchpaper

Common in older fireworks and used in place of a fuse, this paper (normally blue) burns slowly but steadily.

UN carton

Fireworks must be stored and transported in cartons designed and marked for that purpose, and these are called UN cartons as each one has a unique UN classification depending on its contents. These cartons are also marked with a hazard diamond indicating the type of explosives inside (usually 1.4G or 1.3G).

V firing

This is where effects are ejected in two columns resembling a V shape, usually from two candles set up in that orientation but occasionally in fan cakes.

Visco fuse

Most safety fuse on consumer fireworks is visco (usually green in colour but occasionally pink). It burns at approximately 1cm/second. Available separately to link fireworks together. Read more.

Waterfall

Another ground-based effect that has become very hard to find in consumer orientation with the switch from British Standards to CE regulations. Strung between two posts, multiple gerbs burn to create a waterfall of sparks.

Wax torch

Essentially a giant wax candle that burns for a few hours and can either be used to line driveways and the likes for a ground-based ambient effect, or held in the hand and used as a procession torch.

Wire mesh cage

See pyromesh.

Wheel

A firework which rotates rapidly to create a spinning wall of sparks. Also known as a catherine wheel. More info.

Whistle

A common effect in many fireworks, a sound effect resembling a whistle.

Willow effect

A pretty aerial effect where glitter, sparks or embers expand out and then drift slowly down, resembling the shape of a willow tree.

Yo-yo

A type of sparkler that is dipped into two or more different effects so that one effect burns down and another then burns back up.

Jump to part 1: A through to M.