Gender Terminology for Electrical Connectors and Fasteners

In the electrical and electronic field, mating connectors are typically designated male or female in gender. Additionally, descriptions for connector style are included such as a plug, pin, socket, receptacle, jack, etc. With more varied construction types, defining the connector you need can seem obscure. This guide will explain common descriptions for connector gender and connector style to help make identifying and finding your parts easier.

Male/Female Terminology
The male or female characteristics on electrical connectors can be identified by the presence of either male pins or female sockets. An example of the male/female types can be seen in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2.

Fig. 1: 1003-2967-ND - 9 Position D-Sub Plug with Male Pins

Fig. 2: 1003-1868-ND - 9 Position D-Sub Receptacle with Female Sockets

Connector Styles
Confusion can often be found in “plug” and “jack” terminology. “Jack” can be used for both female or male connectors and most often designates the fixed or panel mount side of a connector pair. A “plug” is typically the moveable connector in the configuration. When instances where the relationship is equal where two flexible cables are connected, each is considered a plug. IEEE STD 100, IEEE-315-1975 and IEEE 200-1975 (replaced by ASME Y14.44-2008) define “Plug” and “Jack” by location or mobility, rather than gender. Examples can be found in Fig. 3 and Fig. 4.

Fig. 3: CP-2523MJCT-ND - Female Audio Jack

Fig. 4: 102-4769-ND - Male Audio Plug

Note: In the UK and some non-English-speaking countries, the word “jack” may refer to the plug on the end of a removable cable. This alternate usage directly contradicts common usage terminology in North America.

The term plug is often used for connectors with physical protrusions, and receptacle, socket, and slot are used with connectors with recessed features, but the male/female gender of the parts are defined by the pin/socket for the conductors. Fig. 5 includes examples of many different types of connector configurations.

Fig. 5: Assorted Connectors

Reverse Polarity on Coaxial Connectors
We’ve also had customers in the past require clarification on the difference between standard and reverse polarity coaxial connectors. Standard male coax connectors have a ferrule, outer body, and center pin with the threaded portion inside the connector. Standard female coax connectors have a ferrule, outer body, and a socket receptacle (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6: Standard Male/Female Coaxial Connectors

With reverse polarity male and female connectors, the body and threading remain the same as standard, the main exception is the center pin of the male connector is swapped with the socket receptacle of the female connector. See Fig. 7 for further details.

Fig. 7: Reverse Polarity Male/Female Coaxial Connectors

If you require any assistance with identifying or finding a connector or have any other technical inquiries, please feel free to contact our team of Technicians by posting here on the forum.