Fireworks Glossary

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



PALM OR PALM TREE EFFECT: A cascading, persistent effect normally created with gold or silver coloured sparks. Fireworks creating this effect in several directions cause a “palm tree” pattern.

PARACHUTE: Used in professional fireworks to keep an effect aloft for longer than normal, typically for hanging lantern or flare effects. A show-stopper when used well.

PARTY POPPER: Small indoor device that “pops” out streamers when you pull the string.

PEN LID CAKE: A term coined by UKFR to best describe the appearance of the multishot screech-pop cakes, whose projectiles resemble plastic pen lids.

PEONY: Well-used term to describe an effect which is essentially an expanding sphere of stars.

PERSISTENCE: How long an effect stays in the air before it disappears.

PIC: A type of fuse used by professional displayers, typically yellow in colour and waterproof.

PIGEON: Firework device mounted on a horizontal rope, motors causing it to move rapidly from end to end several times.

PIN WHEEL: A type of Catherine wheel. See WHEEL.

PISTIL: Where an effect such as a peony has a central part to it, this is referred to as a pistil.

PORTFIRE: As essential to any display as the fireworks themselves, this is a long, thin, hand-held item that burns with a very hot and steady flame for a few minutes. Used for hand lighting fireworks, its main advantages being an ability to withstand wind and rain, and to light fuses very quickly. More info.

PYROMESH: A wire mesh cage used to enclose powerful consumer fireworks and force them from 1.3G classification to the less hazardous (and therefore easier to store, transport and retail) 1.4G classification by virtue of them being less dangerous in the event of a fire thanks to their packaging.

PROFESSIONAL: Someone who displays fireworks as part of their business or profession.

PROFESSIONAL FIREWORK: A firework with an unclassified safety distance for use by professionals only. Usually classed as Category 4 . See also CATEGORY 1/2/3/4.

PYROMANIAC: Strictly speaking someone with an obsessive desire to set things on fire, but commonly used (in firework circles) to describe someone who loves fireworks.

PYROTECHNICIAN: A person who makes or displays fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices.

PYROTECHNICS: A general term meaning the art of making or displaying fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices; also the fireworks or items themselves.



QUICKMATCH: Fast burning fuse used by professionals. Present in some consumer fireworks such as candle fans to link the candles, and lancework, to link the gerbs.



RAINBOW: Sometimes used to describe a firework’s effect when it changes colour. Anything with a rainbow effect should display numerous colours such as red, green, yellow and orange.

REPORT: The technical word for “BANG”!

RETIRE IMMEDIATELY: Common warning on firework labels, it basically means “GET THE HELL AWAY FROM IT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE”.

RING EFFECT: A two dimensional, expanding ring (i.e. a circle) effect created with multiple stars. Commonly seen in professional displays. Some consumer fireworks and rockets now contain this effect.

ROCKET: A firework that takes off and displays its effect in the air. Normally comprises a head (with the effect in), a motor (for lift, that’s the bit the fuse goes into) and a stick (for stability and ease of launch). The backbone of amateur displays since aerial shells were banned. Care is needed with fall out. More info.

ROCKET POD/VOLLEY: A tube or box containing multiple small rockets fused together. You light the main fuse and the contents all fire together to create a big rocket salvo. Effective and safe, but pricey.


RUN VERY FAST: This is what you do if one goes wrong!



SAFETY AREA: The space between fireworks and spectators. Must be at least the minimum distance required by the fireworks (e.g. 5 or 25 metres) but more is recommended to protect the audience from fall out. Clear marking of this area at the spectator side is required for public displays and a marshal should ensure no-one enters it during the display. More info.

SALUTE: A loud report (bang) typically created by a salute shell, or a salute rocket. Basically the same as a MAROON.

SALVO: A rapid sequence of effects or fireworks.

SATURATION: How concentrated a firework’s effects are.

SCREECH ROCKET: A small rocket (normally classed as a garden firework) whose main effect is to screech loudly in flight then terminate in a report (bang).

SELECTION BOX: A box which comprises a number of fireworks intended normally to give you a good range of effects. These generally offer value for money although beware cheap ones containing a large number of very small (and therefore very poor) fireworks. More info.

SET PIECE: A firework that normally goes off on the ground and remains in one place. Example set pieces are wheels, firewriting, waterfalls and so on. More info.

SHELL: An effect ejected from a firework typically into the air where it “breaks” into an effect. Ranges in size from small cylindrical shells in cakes and candles to large ball-shaped aerial shells used by professionals. See also AERIAL SHELL.

SHOP GOOD FIREWORKS: Category two and three fireworks for sale to the general public are sometimes referred to as “shop good” fireworks.

SITE ASSESSMENT / SITE SURVEY: Professional display companies must check any proposed site for a firework display to ensure it is suitable for the fireworks, has adequate safety distances and satisfies relevant health and safety concerns. This is called a site assessment.

SPARKLER: A hand held firework that burns with bright sparks. A traditional firework on Guy Fawkes night, especially with children, it is essentially just a metal rod coated in the desired effect. Although hand held, this is still a potentially dangerous firework and a major cause of accidents. Another tradition on November 5th is adults swearing and cursing while they try to light them! More info.

SPARKS: Given off by burning materials, sparks form the basis of many firework effects.

SPINNER: Normally the name given to an aerial effect than spins rapidly. These are usually silver in colour, and some make a noise or give off coloured stars.

SPIRAL: A professional shell effect that creates a spiral shape in the air.

STAR: A firework effect which is normally a glowing star or flaming ball. It can be in any colour, and may terminate in a report, or break into other effects. The star itself is quiet, so any firework consisting only of “stars” shouldn’t make too much noise.

STROBE: An effect that flickers or flashes, or ground based firework that flashes on and off rapidly, creating an effect like strobe lighting. See also BENGAL BLINKER.

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