# Convention for describing larger or smaller wire awg

With wire awg, a larger number means a smaller wire. What is the proper convention for making comparisons between wire awg? For example if you you say it a wire needs to be larger than 12awg, is that more or less copper? Should the word larger/smaller be avoided and lower/higher used and clarification be asked when they are used?

• Just say "bigger wire" instead of "bigger AWG". Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 22:12
• I always go "A larger gauge than 12AWG". Those familiar with AWG know this will be 11 or "smaller". Those that don't know it needs to have a larger diameter than 12AWG
– user16222
Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 22:18

I see the point of confusion but have never given it much thought. Lower/higher is a LOT more confusing than larger/smaller.

If someone said "larger/smaller than 12AWG", to me that would mean more/less copper, so a numerically lower/higher AWG. I probably think this way since "larger" and "smaller" have physicality to them; A wire can be physically larger or smaller. In short, "AWG" is synonymous with "size" or "diameter".

If they said a "higher/lower AWG", that would give me pause unless the context was clear. "The current is too high, you need a wire gauge." it really doesn't matter what the relative adjective is. You know what it is trying to say. But I don't think I've had anyone communicate AWG to me using this method.

But you probably should just say wire/conductor diameter.

I would use "heavier" or "lighter" instead.

According to Wikipedia:

The diameter of a № ''n'' AWG wire is determined, for gauges smaller than 00 (36 to 0), according to the following formula: $$d_n = 0.005~\mathrm{inch} \times 92^\frac{36 - n}{39} = 0.127~\mathrm{mm} \times 92^\frac{36 - n}{39}$$

It's hard to see where the difficulty lies if you can raise 92 to fractional powers in your head. :^)

• Not so easy, mostly. 36 gauge is easy though. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 22:17
• @SpehroPefhany "Hmmmmm. You haven't sized your wire properly. You need an easier AWG." Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 22:18
• "Thicker/thinner" would also work. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 23:05