They called it "static" because "it doesn’t go anywhere".

In order to create static electricity, you have to rub two different materials.

When you rub them, the electrons move.

So, why is it called "static"? What does "it" refer to, when they say "it" doesn’t go anywhere?


Static comes from the same root as stasis, meaning stop, immovable,

To create static electricity, you have to rub two different materials. At the moment you rub them, the electrons already moved

Note the word "create", creation is not static, and yes there are transient fields and currents during creation of a static field. The static describes the situation after the creation of the field. This will be static because it will not change unless energy is inputted in some form, motion or current. The description is geometrical for static electricity, and geometry is unchangeable, unless some energy input changes it and generates new geometrical patterns. Mathematically it means that in the formulas for static fields there is no functional dependence on time.


Its because the charge does not move - it is stationary -> static.

So it was given a name which is very descriptive: static electricity.

  • $\begingroup$ But then why is the charge in a capacitor or a battery not referred to as 'static electricity'? It also doesn't move... $\endgroup$ – brhans Jan 4 '15 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ Nobody said it's fair :) $\endgroup$ – iggy Jan 4 '15 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ @brhans: not everyone may agree here, but I'd say a capacitor is in the realm of static electricity. A battery is not, because it depends on electrochemical processes. Freeze a battery in liquid nitrogen, and the voltage will soon drop because the reactions largely cease – without them, the battery still keeps some static charge, but that's neglectable compared to the battery's operational charge. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout Apr 10 '15 at 13:42

The charges are called "static" because they remain very nearly fixed in one location on the surface of the object until they are given a path to escape.


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