Fireworks Terms

The world of fireworks comes with various terms that help buyers make the best choices of products to purchase. This list of fireworks terminology will help you better understand and identify firework product types, effects and more. 

1.3G  – DOT classification for Professional Fireworks 

1.4G – DOT classification for Consumer Fireworks 

200g Cake – multi-shot firework consisting of several tubes all connected. The “g” stands for grams of powder in the firework. So, all of the tubes combined have 200 grams of powder. This is a medium sized effect cake firework. 

500g Cake – multi-shot firework consisting of several tubes all connected together. The “g” stands for grams of powder in the firework. So all the tubes combined have 500 grams of powder. This is the largest firework available to consumers in the US. 

Aerial Firework – Any firework that travels in the air. Can be a rocket, roman candle, or artillery shell. 

Aerial shell – typically called a mortar shell and come in various shapes from canister shape to ball shape. These items launch from the launch tube via a lift charge and then discharge in the air from a timed fuse. 

Alloy – means to combine two metals to form a new compound with new characteristics. Alloys are often used in fireworks to create new effects. 

American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) – fireworks industries leading association. Responsible for almost every aspect of the fireworks industry from safety to shipping issues for fireworks. 

Assortment – just a combination of various fireworks in one convenient package. Used to help make it easy for fireworks shoppers to quickly purchase fireworks in one package. 

Barrage – fast succession of firework explosions designed to awe the spectator. 

Battery – similar to a barrage. Quick succession of fireworks going off from one fuse. 

Black Cat – a fireworks brand that has been in the US since 1952. The most widely recognizable brand of fireworks. 

Black Match – This is a type of fuse that burns quickly(1’/second). Often it is a combination of string and black powder. 

Black Powder – potassium nitrate (KNO3), sulfur (S), and charcoalAlso known as gunpowder it is used for a variety of firework effects. 

Bottle Rocket – small stick rocket that looks like a firecracker attached to a stick. They travel 60 feet in the air and explode like a firecracker. 

Break – usually the upper portion of an artillery shell that contains the colorful effect. This usually sits above the lift charge in the shell and ignites via a timer fuse as the shell reaches its maximum altitude. 

Brick – associated with firecracker bundles taking on the shape and look of a brick. Often used as “a brick of firecrackers”, “Half Brick”, Full Brick”.  

Brocade – a round burst with dripping star effect in any color, but usually gold. This is one of the most common effects you see in aerial fireworks. 

Burst – when a shell goes off in the air. 

Cake – the name is derived from the fireworks appearance. Can come in any shape but many resemble a baked cake. These fireworks consist of many attached tubes that have only one fuse to light and each tube ignites in sequence releasing its ariel burst in the air. Each burst usually consists of many effects. 

Candle – another way of saying Roman Candle. 

Canister Shells – an artillery shell that is fired from a tube device and it’s rounded and oblong in shape. 

Cherry Bomb – an overloaded flash powder firecracker that is round in shape, red, and resembles a cherry.  Cherry Bombs have been illegal since 1966. 

Chrysanthemum – a rounded aerial break that maintains its round shape and slowly fades away. These breaks are often floral in color and design. Another very common break that you see in many fireworks shows. 

Class B – used to refer to professional display fireworks. Not available to the public and for professional use only. Also known as 1.3g fireworks. 

Class C – used to refer to Consumer Fireworks that are available for use by the general public. Also known as 1.4g fireworks.  

Comet – a firework break or effect that streaks across the sky leaving a trail of stars. 

Cone – a firework that is shaped like a cone and usually emits sparks and color. 

Consumer Fireworks – these fireworks are designed for the general public and are limited in how much flash powder or pyrotechnic powder they contain. These fireworks can’t contain over 500 grams of pyrotechnic powder. 

CPSC – Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Federal agency which regulates Consumer (1.4g) fireworks.   

Crossette – a fireworks break that resembles a cross that moves across the sky. 

Dahlia – floral shaped break with big stars. 

Deflagration – the rapid process that takes place when you ignite a firework. It essentially is a rapid gas expansion that causes sound wave that we regard as an explosion. 

Display Fireworks – professional grade fireworks also known as 1.3g fireworks 

Dragon Eggs – multiple spherical effects from an ariel device. 

Dud – firework that doesn’t go off after it’s ignited. 

Explosive – an item that has the ability to rapidly expand after ignition. 

Finale – the final item set off during a fireworks show. Usually the biggest and loudest item you have to shoot off. 

Fish – multitude of small aerial effects that seem to propel them themselves through the air. They move randomly in a tight pattern. 

Firecracker – flash powder fireworks where the powder is tightly rolled in a tube(usually paper) and sealed at both ends. A fuse is inserted. Causes an audible effect from the pressure created in the tube as the firecracker is ignited. To be considered a firecracker it must have 50g of flash powder or less.  

Flare – slow burning firework that is shaped like a tube. Often used as a warning device. 

Flash Powder – an explosive. Combination of an oxidizer and a finely powdered metal. Very hazardous to use and manufacture. 

Fountain – fireworks that expel a multitude of sparks as their effect. Usually associated with safe & sane fireworks. 

Fuse – any device that is used to transfer ignition to firework. Most commonly a string shaped device that is coated or made with pyrotechnic composition. 

Ground Firework – small fireworks that typically don’t leave the ground and don’t produce an effect that travels over 15 feet from the ground. Most common types are fountains, novelties, and smoke items. 

HDPE – High Density Polyethylene: strong plastic pipe commonly used for mortars 

Helicopter – a device that has set wings and flys into the air. 

Jumping Jacks – small tube devices that spin around on the ground and often change colors as they spin. 

Ladyfinger – very small forms of firecrackers. 

Lift Charge – part of an artillery shell that makes the shell shoot into the air. 

M-80 – a device that was created by the military to simulate a grenade. They have been banned since 1966 in the US and it is not a firework. 

Mine Shell- shell that explodes directly out of the launch tube. 

Missile – device that flys through  the air and is sleekly shaped and has fins for guidance. 

Mortar– the launching mechanism for shells and mines. Most commonly a tube shaped device. 

Mortar Rack – a device that holds multiple mortar tubes for rapid firing mortars. 

Multi-break – aerial shell that explodes multiple times with different effects in each explosion. 

NFPA Standard 1123 Code for Fireworks Display 

NFPA Standard 1124 Code for the Manufacture, Transportation, and Storage of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles 

NFPA Standard 1126 Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience 

Novelty – fireworks that are shaped like a toy, animal, or vehicle that are ground fireworks and they emit sparks & whistles. 

Parachute – a firework that shoots into the air and then releases a parachute and floats slowly back to earth. 

Palm tree – aerial effect that resembles the branches of a palm tree when it breaks. 

Pearl – an aerial effect that remains one color after being launched. 

Peony – rounded ariel break that shoots outward and then slowly arc and droops across the sky. 

PGI – Pyrotechnics Guild International- group of fireworks professionals and enthusiasts. 

Punk(s) – used to light fireworks. A slow burning stick that resembles incense. 

Pyro – used as a general term to describe fireworks or someone that enjoys fireworks. Pyro means fire in Greek. 

Pyrotechnician – a person that designs and fires fireworks. 

Repeater – means a firework that shoots several ariel fireworks repeatedly into the air. 

Report – an audible sound from a firework. 

Rocket – a firework that shoots into the air and has a large stick to help guide it. Most rockets also have an effect. 

Roman candle – firework that is round in shape and shoots repeating effects. 

Salute –firework that is known for its loud report. 

Safe and Sane – used to describe fireworks that are smaller in nature and mainly ground fireworks. Mainly fountains. 

Safety fuse – fuse that is slow burning and not easily lit.  

Saturn Missile Battery  Mutli-shot firework that rapidly ignites a series of small missiles that shoot into the air. Often come in 25 shot, 100 shot, 300 shot, and 750 shots. 

Smoke – a firework that emits white or colored smoke. 

Snake – small black carbon based firework that burns and creates a trail of black colored ash. 

Sparkler – a stick that is coated is pyrotechnic powder that emits sparks as it burns down the stick. Often on a wood or wire stick. They burn at over 2,000 degrees and can cause severe burns if mishandled. 

Strobe – bright stars that each flash repeatedly .. 

Wheel – a rounded firework that resembles a car wheel in shape. Uses fireworks to drive it in one direction while giving of sparks of color. 

Willow – ariel device that explodes in the air and resembles a willow trees branches.