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[thur-muh-kuhp-uh l] /ˈθɜr məˌkʌp əl/
noun, Physics.
a device that consists of the junction of two dissimilar metallic conductors, as copper and iron, in which an electromotive force is induced when the conductors are maintained at different temperatures, the force being related to the temperature difference: used to determine the temperature of a third substance by connecting it to the junction of the metals and measuring the electromotive force produced.
Also called thermoelectric couple, thermoelectric thermometer.
Origin of thermocouple
First recorded in 1885-90; thermo- + couple Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for thermocouple
Historical Examples
  • Coblentz first studied the problem of heat production in the firefly, using a thermocouple as the measuring instrument.

    The Nature of Animal Light E. Newton Harvey
  • The thermocouple glowed red, and electricity jumped in the copper veins, turning the metal bone into a magnet.

    The Jewels of Aptor Samuel R. Delany
  • She fastened two wires to two other wires, adjusted the lens, and the tips of the thermocouple glowed red.

    The Jewels of Aptor Samuel R. Delany
  • When Frank examined the sun-powered tractor, he found that tiny platinum plates had been taken from the thermocouple units.

    The Planet Strappers Raymond Zinke Gallun
  • This large, squat telescope catches and concentrates on the thermocouple and the galvanometer registers the temperature.

  • I've been suffering the attentions of the damnedest collection of amateur nurses who ever handled a thermocouple, for over a week.

    The Lost Kafoozalum Pauline Ashwell
British Dictionary definitions for thermocouple


a device for measuring temperature consisting of a pair of wires of different metals or semiconductors joined at both ends. One junction is at the temperature to be measured, the second at a fixed temperature. The electromotive force generated depends upon the temperature difference
a similar device with only one junction between two dissimilar metals or semiconductors
Word Origin
C19: from thermo- + couple
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for thermocouple

1890, from thermo- + couple.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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thermocouple in Medicine

thermocouple ther·mo·cou·ple (thûr'mə-kŭp'əl)
A thermoelectric device used to measure temperatures accurately, especially one consisting of two dissimilar metals joined so that a potential difference generated between the points of contact is a measure of the temperature difference between the points.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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thermocouple in Science
A thermoelectric device used to make accurate measurements of temperatures, especially high temperatures. It consists of a circuit having two wires of different metals or metal alloys welded together. A temperature gradient across the junction of the wires gives rise to an electric potential by the Seebeck effect. This potential varies with the strength of the temperature gradient and can be measured by a voltmeter. Thermocouples can also be used to generate small amounts of electricity for powering other devices.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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thermocouple in Culture

thermocouple definition

A device for accurate measurement of temperature. A thermocouple consists of two dissimilar metals joined at two joints in a loop so that the difference in voltage can be measured. Because voltage changes in proportion to temperature, the voltage difference indicates temperature differences.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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