A Guide to Popular Multimeter Symbols

Symbols Most Commonly Encountered

It is easy to get confused on seeing symbols on your multimeter without actually seeing words like Resistance, Voltage and Current spelled out anywhere. The three most commonly used symbols to be associated with are A, V and Ω each signifying Current in ampere, Voltage in volts and Resistance in Omega units respectively. Apart from these, there are a few other symbols which I have discussed below. Most multimeters also use metric prefixes that that could be used to convey units of measurement. The most commonly used metric prefixes are m(mili), M(micro) and M(mega). For example, what may be written as 150kΩ would stand to mean as when pronounced to be One hundred and fifty thousand ohms. 

 Other Multimeter Symbols

 ~ (S-shaped curved line) – There are two places the curved line will appear on your multimeter and each time accompanied by either V or A symbols along with their respective metric prefixes. The symbol stands for alternating current and so when placed with V would signify that you can measure the voltage in an AC circuit like your household current. When placed with V, the symbol would signify you can measure the amps in an AC circuit.

 -, — (solid continuous line or dotted lines ) – Similar to the previous symbol you might see this symbol on a multimeter in association with the symbols V or A. The straight lines stand for DC or Direct Current. These settings are thus to be used when operating with or measuring a Direct Current circuit. For example, Circuits which may have primary or secondary batteries as their sole source of power.

 DC and AC prefixed symbols – Sometimes, instead of the s-curved lines or the dotted lines you may even encounter some multimeters representing symbols in the following manner – DCA, ACA, DCV and ACV. They could also be written as VDC and VAC. In all these cases it is essential to remember that the basics remain the same. AC stands for alternating current and DC for direct current.

Continuity Check (series of horizontal parallel arcs) – Some of you may find this symbol to be very familiar to a horizontal Wi-Fi symbol, especially your tech-savvy kids who might confuse a multimeter with just another science toy. Settings under this symbol would be required to check if there exists an electrical connection between two objects. The multimeter produces a sound if there is a conductive connection between the probe tips, and won’t make a sound if no connection exists. Sometimes the continuity check can also be used in collaboration with some other features of the multimeter.

Diode Check (triangles with lines running through it) – This setting tests diodes, which is like a unidirectional channel for electricity. The function of this setting differs from multimeter to multimeter. It would, therefore be advisable to consult the manual to learn about the exact function the diode check performs for your chosen model.


There are a variety of multimeters available in the market today and there is now a trend towards auto-ranging multimeters. Auto-ranging multimeters are able to measure the range automatically and therefore saves you the hassle of estimating the desired range. This therefore results in a remarkable improvement of accuracy and ease of use too. All in all when it comes to symbols, keep your basics clear and that’s all folks.

  • December 20, 2016
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