Fireworks Glossary

A handy A-Z guide to the various firework related terms and what they mean.



FALL OUT: What comes down after a firework has finished. In most cases just card casing and paper, but other fireworks can pose more of a hazard. Large bore cakes may contain shells with a ceramic base, and display rockets (the most dangerous fall out) can come down complete with stick, motor and casing.

FALLING LEAVES: A professional effect where a cluster of persistent coloured stars hangs in the air and drifts slowly down.

FAN CAKE: A cake where the tubes are angled, sending shots left and right of the display area in a fan. Normally a whole bank fires at a time, mimicking a real candle fan but with better timing.

FINALE: The end of the display, traditionally the noisiest part. “Finale” effect fireworks specifically have more noise and effects than others.


FIREWORKS: If you don’t know this one, you have connected to the wrong website!!

FIREWORK CODE: Issued by the DTI, a “layman’s” guide to firework safety.

FIREWORKS BILL: Passed in 2003 and revoked in 2004, a new bill designed to improve or constrain UK fireworks depending on your point of view. Brought into being largely because of continued complaints about “nuisance fireworks” in the weeks before and after Guy Fawkes, and concern over illegal fireworks and illegal use of fireworks. A new bill in 2004 replaced this, and included additional measures such as an 11pm curfew for firework use.

FISH: A wriggling effect that “swims” away in the sky. Can be coloured and are a nice low noise effect.

FLAME PROJECTOR: A professional device shaped liked a mortar tube that is filled with flammable contents and activated electrically to create a fireball or flame effect. Short-lived but effective.

FLAMING BALLS: The American word for “star”. “SHOOTS FLAMING BALLS” (oo-er) is their way of saying “EJECTS STARS”.

FLAMMABLE: If something is flammable it means it will catch fire very very easily. Petrol, for example, is highly flammable, as are most ingredients used in fireworks.

FLARE: A firework that creates a bright light, normally for some time. These can vary from Bengal Flares which are ground based and create an intense flame (as opposed to a shower of sparks which is a fountain), to rocket launched effects. An “aerial” flare effect is just a star that burns brightly and for a long time. Distress flares, which are not fireworks, use a parachute to ensure the flare stays airborne for some time.

FLASH POWDER: A more potent form of gunpowder created by adding a metal powder to black powder. Widely used in fireworks especially noise and maroon effects, as it also creates a bright flash. Fireworks containing flash powder can be subject to greater restriction on storage and transportation.

FLOWER POT: Where an aerial shell explodes in its tube by mistake, it creates a mine effect often referred to as “flowerpotting”. These look spectacular but the rigid tubes and stringent safety employed by professionals mean that they rarely pose any safety concerns.

FLYING SAUCER: A device made from gerbs or motors mounted in a circular fashion which create lift and spin – a flying wheel in effect (professional device).

FOUNTAIN: A static firework that creates a vertical column of sparks in a fountain effect. These are normally placed at ground level but a greater effect can be achieved by mounting them at a height (e.g. on a post or plank). Some fountains also contain crackling effects which can be quite loud. More info.

FUSE: The part of a firework you light, which then burns slowly to allow you time to “retire” (get away!) before the firework starts. Internal fuses link various parts of the firework and can burn very quickly. All public fireworks normally only have ONE main fuse.

FUSE COVER: The protective safety cover on fuses, coming in a variety of types and sizes (most are normally orange or yellow coloured). They MUST be removed before trying to light the firework.



GARDEN FIREWORK: A firework usually requiring 5 metres distance to spectators. See CATEGORY 1/2/3/4.

GARDEN PACK: A pack or box of garden class fireworks. These are normally very small and are not suitable for larger displays.

GERB: A tube which creates a fountain (shower of sparks) effect. Gerbs can be used in firewriting or other specialist effects such as waterfalls.

GLOW BEADS / NECKLACES: These items of novelty jewellery are made of plastic filled with the luminous (nontoxic) liquid found in glow sticks. You “snap” open one chemical within the casing, mixing it with the other by shaking. The chemical reaction creates a pleasant light which can last many hours in some cases. These are not pyrotechnic devices.

GLOW STICK: A plastic tube containing two liquids that are mixed by “snapping” the inner container by bending the stick. The liquids mix to give off light, without any heat or flame. These are popular as fund raising items and an excellent – and safe – alternative to sparklers. Available in many colours with durations of up to eight hours. Can also be used for many other purposes such as emergency lights, safety lights, marking your firework area and so on.

GOGGLES: Essential eye protection for firers.

GOODBYE/GOODNIGHT: A set piece which displays the word “GOODBYE” (or “GOODNIGHT”) in flaming, bright letters, to be used at the end of your display.

GUNPOWDER: This is what makes it all possible! A black coloured powder comprising in its basic form three ingredients: sulphur, charcoal and potassium nitrate. Most powders used in pyrotechnics are more advanced and contain other ingredients or additives to create different effects or colours. The origins of gunpowder are uncertain but most historians credit (or blame) the Chinese.

GUY FAWKES: He tried to blow up the Houses Of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot (an act almost repeated in the Poll Tax rebellion) and is the UK’s excuse to let off fireworks on November 5th.



HEART: An effect that creates a heart shape. Typically created by professional shells, but mimicked with some success by consumer rockets.

HUMMER: A firework shell or projectile that makes a “humming” noise. The noise is created by the way it burns and the shape of the housing. High pitched hummers sound like screeches or whistles, low pitched ones like bees. Also someone who smells bad!

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Established in 1999, UKFR remains independent from the fireworks trade and does not sell fireworks.